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A new taco in town — one you may know

There’s a new taco in town, but it may not be entirely unfamiliar.

bizO-Dyer_Jessica_BizOCulinary school graduate James Pecherski has opened an Albuquerque location of Casa Taco, a name many locals might recognize from down south. The original Casa Taco – which started in Elephant Butte as Paradise Grill – has been a lake-area staple since 2002.

“We are really well-known in the Albuquerque area – all the lake-goers, they know us,” Pecherski says. “And those people who all come to the lake have all told their friends.”

Casa Taco has opened at 5801 Academy NE. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Casa Taco has opened at 5801 Academy NE. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

And those who have eaten at Casa Taco in southern New Mexico probably know about the brisket tacos, featuring slow-cooked meat, green chile and cheese. A bestseller in Elephant Butte, the brisket taco has made its way onto the slightly different lineup at the Albuquerque shop.

But it’s just one of 14 different taco choices at the new place, which opened last month near Academy and San Mateo NE.

There are “signature tacos” that come three to a plate (with rice and beans) and run $7.95-$9.50. They can be stuffed with ground beef, carne asada, calabacitas and more.

The menu’s “specialty tacos” include flavor combinations like Caribbean jerk chicken with jicama-pineapple salsa and garlic/chile-marinated tilapia with serrano slaw. A two-taco specialty plate with rice and beans costs $7.95-$8.75.

In Albuquerque, Pecherski has also introduced “grande” tacos, featuring an extra-large corn tortilla “deep fried until crispy outside” and stuffed with pork adovada, chile verde beef or adobo chicken.

Pecherski, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu’s school in Scottsdale, Ariz., says he wanted to stretch his menu beyond the standard ground beef, chicken and steak options.

“I always tell people that we’re a Southwestern, contemporary restaurant with New Mexican and central Mexico influences, with a tropical twist,” he says. “That’s kind of the best way to describe it.”

Pecherski – a Detroit native who first ventured to the Southwest as a child on vacation and found himself enchanted – says he’s looking to expand the Casa Taco name with multiple Albuquerque restaurants. He hasn’t identified his next location, but says he’d like to have a spot figured out by year’s end.

For now, though, he’s focused on his first Albuquerque location, an old Filiberto’s that received a major makeover at the hands of Todd Stringer of neighboring Dana Stringer Interiors. Pecherski described the result as “elegant taco dive” – food may come in paper boats, but the space was designed to make guests feel comfortable.

Casa Taco – which is currently pursuing a license to serve beer – is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. It’s located at 5801 Academy NE and the phone number is 821-8226.

CuppyCakes duo opens restaurant

Cami Jones and Alexis Dowling are doing to breakfast and lunch what they’ve done to dessert – make it a little

Longtime friends Alexis Dowling and Cami Jones have opened a new restaurant, Rad(ish), in the Simms Building in Downtown Albuquerque.Rad(ish) serves breakfast and lunch and also sells the owners' CuppyCakes line. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Longtime friends Alexis Dowling and Cami Jones have opened a new restaurant, Rad(ish), in the Simms Building in Downtown Albuquerque.Rad(ish) serves breakfast and lunch and also sells the owners’ CuppyCakes line. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

bit healthier.

The duo behind CuppyCakes – a line of low-calorie, bite-size frosted treats – have expanded their repertoire with a new Downtown restaurant.

Rad(ish) – which uses the tag line “cuz being healthy is sorta cool” – opened last month on the ground level of the Simms building at Fourth and Gold SW.

The 10-seat eatery offers a series of build-your-own meals, including an egg-based breakfast bowl, a burger bowl and “pasta” dishes that forgo the traditional noodles for vegetable substitutes – squash in lieu of spaghetti and eggplant instead of lasagna noodles.

Friends since high school, the two are also competitive power-lifters with an interest in quality food. The Rad(ish) kitchen uses grass-fed beef, cage-free eggs, organic potatoes and other premium ingredients.

Everything on the menu is also gluten-free.

“We wanted to find foods that tasted amazing and used real ingredients,” says Dowling, who was the inspiration for the CuppyCakes.

She says she was following a diet designed by Jones – who has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, and is pursuing a master’s in food science – but struggled to overcome her dessert cravings. To placate her friend’s sweet tooth, Jones created some low-carb, no-sugar cupcakes by using ingredients like nut meal and xylitol, a sugar alcohol from birch trees. The CuppyCakes average 34 calories and are gluten-free.

The pair started selling CuppyCakes at area farmers’ markets last year. They soon decided they wanted to scale up with their own restaurant. They found the Downtown space with the help of friend and commercial real estate broker Nicosha Schedlbauer of NAI Maestas & Ward.

Most entrées at Rad(ish) are priced around $10, while the CuppyCakes cost $1.25 each, $14 per dozen.

They come in more than 20 flavors, though Rad(ish) will consistently stock a half-dozen core options – including the lemon-poppyseed, cinnamon roll, chocolate chip and vanilla versions – while rotating in more unusual varieties.

Rad(ish) is open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.

The address is 400 Gold SW and the phone number is 382-7268.

‘Closet’ is opening

The cash registers are ready to ring at the city’s newest Plato’s Closet.

The West Side location of the resale clothing chain – found at Corrales Road and NM 528 – has spent the past several weeks building its inventory, but is now ready to start selling the approximately 20,000 items it has amassed.

The shop will celebrate its grand opening on Thursday.

This is the second Albuquerque location for Plato’s Closet, which franchisees Jon and Amanda Searcy brought to the city about three years ago. The store targets teens and young adults with its mix of gently used clothing from mall brands like Forever 21 and American Eagle.

The store’s address is 10701 Corrales NW. The phone number is 717-2435.

3B Yoga expands

Albuquerque’s 3B Yoga is stretching out in bigger digs.

The yoga studio has relocated to 4545 Alameda NE, a move that means more room for an accompanying boutique.

The locally owned business carries yoga wear from brands like Spiritual Gangster, Teeki and Alo. It also offers some handmade jewelry.

3B Yoga is located on Alameda, just west of Jefferson.

In case you missed it …

As I reported online last week, El Norteño has closed its doors.

The restaurant had served traditional Mexican food in Albuquerque since the mid-1980s, most of that time on Zuni SE. It had undergone a series of moves in the past several years, most recently to 4410 Wyoming NE.

Owners have not returned a Journal message, but have given no indication on the restaurant’s Facebook page or website that El Norteño will reopen elsewhere.

It’s not clear yet what will replace El Norteño; Ben Perich of Colliers International, the commercial real estate broker representing the shopping center, says the space is going back on the market.

If you have retail news to share, contact me at or 823-3864. For more regular updates on Albuquerque shopping and restaurant news, visit my blog at or follow @abqdyer on Twitter.