ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Need a quick escape from your Downtown office? Café Laurel welcomes you.
Just looking for a Reuben? Well, Café Laurel is serving those up, too.
The latest addition to the changing stretch of Central between Old Town and Downtown, Café Laurel aspires to be that comfortable, local haunt with a little something for everyone – a “great place to have a great meal,” summarizes Debi Faber, who opened it this spring with husband Ken Faber.
The pair are first-time restaurant owners, though Ken comes to the job after a 28-year career in corporate chains. He says he always wanted to do something more intimate, a bit like his mother had in the 1970s and 1980s with her Old Town restaurant, Christopher’s.
“Just a friendly, casual, neighborhood place,” says Ken, who worked for his mother during college.
Café Laurel pays the occasional homage to Christopher’s on its menu. Fans of the latter will recognize the green-chile-chicken “Old Town Soup” (served on a rotating basis) and the triple-layer chocolate cake.
There’s even a “Christopher’s” sandwich, an $8.75 combination of roast beef, bacon, sour cream and avocado.
But Debi Faber says her husband’s own professional experience and influence play out on the menu, which she says was crafted to cater to a wide range of tastes.
Breakfast means crepes ($6-7.75) or even the San Francisco-inspired “New Joe’s Special,” a scrambled egg-spinach-ground beef mix with toast ($6.95).
The cafe makes a full slate of sandwiches – a popular Reuben, chicken salad and toasted turkey among them. They run $7.75-$9 and include a side.
There are salads (the housemade creamy herb dressing has already won fans) and an Angus beef burger, too.
The couple has intentionally blurred the lines between breakfast and lunch – any item is available at any time – and the Fabers say they work to accommodate special requests when possible.
“If it’s something we can make, we’ll make it,” Ken says.
Café Laurel is located at 1433 Central NW, near 14th Street. It’s open 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The phone number is 259-2331.
Richie B’s brings NY flavor
A slice of pizza in the deep South changed Preston Smith’s life.
Smith – who grew up in Albuquerque – happened to be working with the Air Force in Alabama when he wandered into a pizzeria that promised authentic New York flavor.
“My expectations were low,” he recalls.
But the pizza aficionado found himself thoroughly impressed with Riche B’s, the work of a transplanted New Yorker.
Smith was so enamored that when he happened upon another Richie B’s location in Colorado last year – one of just a handful around the U.S. – he approached the founder about opening one in Albuquerque. Smith and wife Jessica have since done just that, launching their independently owned Richie B’s earlier this spring at the Louisiana Plaza shopping center.
It’s the couple’s first restaurant, but Smith – who last worked for a local credit union – says “I just always wanted to take a risk and try something (new).”
Richie B’s uses house-made dough and a special sauce that Smith can’t explain out of fear he’ll reveal the ingredients of the secret blend.
“It’s all Richie’s grandmother’s recipes,” he says.
The flavor, though, has resonated with several customers already.
“One guy took a bite of pizza and then asked if he could hug me because it brought back memories of his childhood,” Smith says.
At Richie B’s, an 18-inch cheese pizza runs $16.50. Adorned versions include the Cattlemen’s Special featuring a sautéed top sirloin, mushrooms, onions, peppers and garlic ($26.95).
Individual slices start at $3.
Richie B’s also offers some sub sandwiches – including a 12-inch Philly cheesesteak ($8.95) – a handful of sides and desserts.
Customers can eat in the casual 35-seat restaurant or order carry-out.
It’s open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The address is 7200 Montgomery NE (at Louisiana) and the phone number is 312-8579.
Rugs find a new home
The Sacramento Mountain Weavers have transplanted their textiles.
Owners Kelly Stewart and Kenny Nix recently relocated their working studio/gallery to Albuquerque’s Hoffmantown area, ending a four-year stint in Old Town. Customers can now find the handwoven rugs, table runners, shawls and more – plus work from a handful of other artists – at 2231 Wyoming NE, near Menaul.
Stewart says they wanted to locate in an area with more local activity.
“It got a bit slow for us this past year (in Old Town). We’re not sure why, (but) the traffic dropped off and we wanted to be more of a local business, not as seasonal like we were used to,” he says.
Sacramento Mountain Weavers is open 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 933-1666.
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