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Lots of seafood and sports, served Cajun style

bizO-Dyer_Jessica_BizOALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Are you ready for some football … and some crawfish?

The city’s newest game day watering hole is also the city’s newest Cajun-style seafood restaurant.

Crab N’ Draft cracked open its doors earlier this month, offering a venue to celebrate touchdowns while scarfing down lobster, clams and oysters.

The new Crab N' Draft occupies the restaurant/nightclub venue once used by Miss Saigon.

The new Crab N’ Draft occupies the restaurant/nightclub venue once used by Miss Saigon.

It’s a fresh attempt to revive the restaurant operation inside the roomy and modern Central Cabana building in southeast Albuquerque. Tuan Huynh, who developed the property in 2004, previously ran it as Miss Saigon Vietnamese restaurant. But in a neighborhood full of similar food choices, it never really flourished or maximized the expansive environs, which can accommodate more than 300 people.

Huynh’s sons, Remi and Virzil, encouraged him to consider a seafood boil, having seen similar restaurants on trips to Houston and California.

Tuan Huynh, left, has partnered with sons Remi, right, and Virzil, not pictured, to open Crab N' Draft in the Central Cabana building at 7915 Central NE.

Tuan Huynh, left, has partnered with sons Remi, right, and Virzil, not pictured, to open Crab N’ Draft in the Central Cabana building at 7915 Central NE.

“It’s kind of becoming popular right now,” Huynh says.

Albuquerque has seen similar restaurants open in recent years, including Down N Dirty and Crackn’ Crab, but the concept is still somewhat novel in this particular corner of the city.

Crab N’ Draft offers boiled seafood by the pound – including live crawfish sourced from Louisiana, plus clams, snow crab, scallops, lobster tail and more. Sold at market price, it comes with a choice of sauce: the house garlic/butter blend, a Cajun option, or a cilantro-and-jalapeño version.

There’s also an assortment of fried fish, from tilapia, calamari and catfish ($9.99) to fried alligator ($14.99).

Sides will sate those just munching while watching the action on the restaurant’s 16 scattered flat-screen TVs. They include sausage ($2.99), corn ($1.50) and a host of fry options – Cajun-style, original, cheese and sweet potato.

Crab N’ Draft also has a full liquor license.

Huynh says he wants the restaurant to attract people from all over the city, including those who might otherwise overlook his property because of its location in the heart of the International District.

“I hope that people will appreciate (this),” he says. “When they come by, they will see what I do here and just help out the area.”

Crab N’ Draft is located at 7915 Central NE, near Pennsylvania. It’s open noon-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon-10 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The phone number is 266-1999.

Vernon’s spinoff debuts

Albuquerque has a new version of Vernon’s.

Vernon’s Open Door – the latest venture from the owners of Vernon’s Speakeasy – opened this month in the Cottonwood area on the West Side. It’s the first of several locations set for the casual-dining restaurant; owner Mike Baird has made plans for additional Open Doors near Coors/Montaño and in Bernalillo, and says he’s also working on sites in the Northeast Heights and Old Town areas.

The owner of Vernon's Speakeasy has launched a new casual-dining restaurant called Vernon's Open Door. It's located inside the former Stumbling Steer at 3700 Ellison NW.

The owner of Vernon’s Speakeasy has launched a new casual-dining restaurant called Vernon’s Open Door. It’s located inside the former Stumbling Steer at 3700 Ellison NW.

Despite the branding and the ownership, Vernon’s Open Door bears little resemblance to Vernon’s Speakeasy, the upscale Los Ranchos steakhouse that helped spawn it.

Diners can order steak at Open Door, but with nothing priced higher than $17, it’s mostly served atop salads or on ciabatta bread.

Sandwiches, in fact, dominate the lineup, from the club and the chicken salad to a gourmet grilled cheese featuring a melty mix of Gouda, Muenster and Boursin with sautéed mushrooms, artichoke and spinach. They run $9.95-$15.95.

The menu – which Baird classifies as “American contemporary” – has some non-sandwich entrées, including pasta, meatloaf and a fish-and-chips platter made with Marble beer-battered pollock.

There’s also a Sunday-only brunch menu with a breakfast burrito, eggs Benedict, candied walnut/banana pancakes and more.

“It’s kind of an all-around menu,” Baird says.

Vernon’s Open Door occupies a portion of what was once The Stumbling Steer, the oversized and short-lived gastropub at 3700 Ellison NW. Baird kept many of the venue’s modern-rustic fixtures, even salvaging (and relocating) its wood-paneled bar. He also will use the on-site beer-making equipment to launch his own Sugar House Brewery as early as this fall.

But Baird – who acquired the entire 25,000-square-foot Stumbling Steer site – continues to redevelop the building to accommodate multiple tenants. He says other suites will become available next month, and one of the first tenants moving in is WisePies Pizza & Salad, a company he co-owns.

Vernon’s Open Door is located at Ellison and N.M. 528. It’s open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is 890-8323.

Fill ‘er up … with local beer

Looking to get gas and a growler?

It’s now possible at Four Winds Travel Center.

The filling station and convenience store next to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center now has a new growler station pouring beer from the area’s craft breweries. Four Winds’ eight taps currently represent selections from Albuquerque’s Marble, La Cumbre and Tractor breweries as well as Santa Fe Brewing Co. Marketing director Lindsay Lancaster says the lineup will occasionally change but the focus will remain on small area breweries.

Customers can bring their own growler or buy a glass jug – either 32 or 64 ounces – on site.

The Four Winds Travel Center recently launched a growler station, allowing patrons to purchase their favorite local beers by the jug.

The Four Winds Travel Center recently launched a growler station, allowing patrons to purchase their favorite local beers by the jug. (Courtesy of Indian Pueblos Marketing, Inc.)

“Our local breweries are producing beer that is second to none,” Four Winds General Manager Randy Martinez said in a news release. “With our new growler station, we’ve made it easy to enjoy beer from multiple breweries by grouping them in one, convenient easy access location.”

The growler station is part of a recent renovation project at the center, a property co-owned by New Mexico’s 19 pueblos.

The updates also included the doubling of the facility’s humidor, which currently stocks more than 200 types of cigars. New additions even include some coffee-flavored smokes.

The new growler station and humidor expansion replaced the center’s burrito eatery.

Four Winds Travel Center is located at 2401 12th NW, north of Interstate 40.

Chick-fil-A beefing up presence

As we reported last year, Chick-fil-A plans to open four additional restaurants around the metro area.

Construction of the new restaurants has since begun, and developer Josh Skarsgard says all should be open by the end of the year.

The location at Gibson and University should debut in November, along with its neighboring Chili’s, Skarsgard reports.

The other three – Wyoming/Menaul, Eubank/Central and Southern/Unser in Rio Rancho – are expected to open in December.

In other news:

• Pet Sense has begun build-out of its first Albuquerque location in Louisiana Plaza at Montgomery/Louisiana. The chain – which has locations in other markets around New Mexico, including Rio Rancho – will take over the old Dot space in the center.

• As I reported recently on my blog, the Uptown Park retail center at Louisiana and Americas Parkway has signed new tenants. Restaurateur Sham Naik (Bistronomy B2B, Lobo Beast 101) will take over the old Satellite Coffee suite, according to David Silverman of the ownership group, Geltmore. Good Feet, meanwhile, has taken over a vacancy left by The Diamond Supplier.

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.




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