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Cocina Azul adding second location

cocinaazulfromfileALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A popular Downtown-area New Mexican restaurant is expanding northward.

Cocina Azul will add a second location in the visible, if turnover-prone, Granada Square restaurant space on Montgomery near Jefferson NE.

Once an IHOP, the space has since seen a number of eateries come and go, including Amici, Cafe Bodega and Gruet Grill.

But Cocina Azul owner Frank Barela said he’s optimistic about his chances there.

“It’s a leap of faith, but I’m comfortable with our product and I think it’s a great location,” he said, citing the high traffic and residential density in the area.

The new Cocina Azul could open as early as September, Barela said. It will be much like the existing location at 12th and Mountain NW, though it will likely forgo breakfast hours to focus more on lunch and dinner service and a bar that will serve beer and wine.

The Barela family’s last expansion project — the quick-service Azul Burrito Co. concept in the heart of Downtown — never gained traction and lasted just a matter of months. But Barela has confidence in the sit-down Cocina Azul model, which he said has done better than he could ever have imagined in its five years on Mountain Road.

“I opened that up on a hope and a prayer and it just took off. It’s really done very well, beyond expectations and we think we can replicate it on Montgomery,” he said.

Calder Conrad of NAI Maestas & Ward represented the landlord in the lease of the space, while Mike Barker of Western States Retail & Investment worked on behalf of Cocina Azul.

While many restaurants have failed at Granada Square, Barker said Cocina Azul is different in that it already has a devoted clientele — and that’s despite operating in a somewhat out-of-the-way spot on Mountain.

“They’ve just got such a tremendous following,” he said. “I think they’ll take that same concept (to Montgomery) and make it a slam dunk.”