Philly's fulfills a cheesesteak yen - Albuquerque Journal

Philly’s fulfills a cheesesteak yen

The new Filling Philly's has seating for about 50 customers inside and about 50 more on its wraparound patio. Michael Lujan, front room manager, is shown cleaning the dining room on a recent morning.
The new Filling Philly’s has seating for about 50 customers inside and about 50 more on its wraparound patio. Michael Lujan, front room manager, is shown cleaning the dining room on a recent morning.

When she moved to Albuquerque two years ago, Renee Vallejos quickly started wondering where she was going to get her Philly cheesesteak fix.

bizO-Dyer_Jessica_BizOHaving grown up in Colorado – where she says options for a toasty, meat-stuffed hoagie abound – she was disappointed to discover that the Duke City didn’t have the same stock of mom-and-pop cheesesteak shops.

But, in that realization, she also saw an opportunity. She opened Filling Philly’s last week in the Uptown Court development.

To ensure her food passed muster, Vallejos – who has a background in retail as a server – went straight to the source, making a special trip out to Philadelphia before launching her own place.

Renee Vallejos has put her love of Philly cheesesteaks into action at her new restaurant, Filling Philly's. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
Renee Vallejos has put her love of Philly cheesesteaks into action at her new restaurant, Filling Philly’s. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

“We ate at every single Philly place you can imagine. (We) wanted to really get the concept down,” she says, adding that she sought advice and tips from the City of Brotherly Love’s resident sandwich pros. “They’re really open to helping you out and making sure you’re doing it right. But everybody does it a little different.”

Vallejos crafted a menu that includes what she says is the most authentic version possible – the “South Philly” with ribeye, sautéed onions and Cheese Whiz. Her “Classic” adds bell peppers to the mix, which many people already associate with a Philly. (The restaurant is also sourcing its rolls from Amoroso’s, a Philadelphia bakery.)

She put a New Mexico twist on the menu with a green chile Philly and turned to her own heritage – and her family’s time-tested marinara sauce – for the “Italian” version.

The menu has seven steak Philly options and seven chicken versions. They run $7-$9 apiece. Upgrading to a meal – with a drink and some house-seasoned French fries – will add a couple more dollars.

The restaurant also does meatball sandwiches, chicken wings, soft pretzels, a few salads and a few desserts, including bundt cake and ice cream, ($4.99) and a root beer float ($3.99).

Filling Philly's is the newest tenant at Uptown Court, a Coe & Peterson project on Menaul NE just east of Louisiana.
Filling Philly’s is the newest tenant at Uptown Court, a Coe & Peterson project on Menaul NE just east of Louisiana.

Vallejos serves it in what she calls a “contemporary sports bar” environment created by Albuquerque’s Modulus Design firm. The restaurant seats about 50 inside – mostly at community tables or bars – and can accommodate about another 50 on its wraparound patio.

The restaurant’s five TVs will broadcast the day’s big games, Vallejos says. Filling Philly’s is also getting a beer and wine license, and will have 16 local craft beers on tap and an assortment of New Mexico wine available.

Vallejos says she wants her setup to provide quick, efficient service for the weekday lunch crowd, but evolve into a comfortable, family-friendly restaurant/sports bar venue during nights and weekends.

“When it’s a mom-and-pop Philly place, the owners are so nice and caring, and want to make sure the experience for the customer is the best it could be,” she says. “I remember asking my dad to go back to these places and that’s what I want to be.”

Filling Philly’s is located at 6904 Menaul NE, part of a Coe & Peterson mixed-use development just east of Louisiana. It’s open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The phone number is 830-4444.

Sweet … and salty

Is it snack time yet?

If so, Diane Tindell might have something to offer.

Tindell and her business partner Bruce Decker recently launched Sweet Surprise at 5010 Cutler NE. The shop offers a rotating array of baked goods – from cookies and cupcakes to pies and cheesecakes – and also an assortment of specialty popcorn.

The popcorn, made on site, comes in dozens of flavors meant to suit nearly any craving. There’s caramel, of course, but also cherry-vanilla, salt and vinegar, and green chile cheddar. It starts at $4 for a small bag.

Tindell, who studied culinary arts at Central New Mexico Community College, says two current CNM students make the desserts in-house and have the freedom to experiment. Hence, she says, the “surprise” in the shop’s name.

“We give them that option of being creative and coming up with the recipe, and so far they’ve done a really good job,” she says, noting that the most popular item so far is what they call the “sticky pecan mini-cakes.”

The shop also does Italian cream sodas, coffee and is starting to branch out into soups for the lunch crowd.

Tindell says the business was born of her quest to find a commercial kitchen to produce her own salsa line. A fledgling food entrepreneur, Tindell says she struggled to find space to make her product. She and Decker ultimately landed an 1,800-square-foot restaurant space in the Pavilions at San Mateo, where Tindell plans to ramp up her salsa-making and also create a space that other small-scale food producers can use for their own ventures. She says Sweet Surprise will gradually build up a store within a store for various local products in addition to its desserts and popcorn.

Sweet Surprise is located on Cutler, just west of San Mateo. It’s open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but may offer extended hours during the holidays. The phone number is 884-0459.

Flying Star dishes up new app

Flying Star has revamped its customer rewards program for the second time in two years and the homegrown café chain will host a special event to promote the change – and acknowledge the company’s 28th anniversary – from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at its 4501 Juan Tabo NE location.

CEO Jean Bernstein says the company began rolling out its new smartphone-based rewards program, THANX, in September and has since phased out its card-based loyalty program. She says it offers the company more flexibility to offer rewards beyond the baseline $5 voucher for every $75 spent. It also provides a new feedback channel for customers.

“We’ve always been very technology-based over the years and we were probably one of the first in Albuquerque to have the sophistication of the card at that time,” she says. “Now that’s old technology and most of the major companies are going to apps. It just makes sense.”

The rewards app is available for both Android and Apple devices. Customers without smartphones can still participate, but they’ll need a computer so they can manually input receipt data and collect points. (Sister chain Satellite Coffee has a separate rewards app.)

Representatives from Teeniors – a local startup that uses tech-savvy teens to coach older adults – will be at Flying Star for Wednesday’s event. They will offer their one-on-one guidance to any adult with a smartphone who needs it.

Flying Star filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization earlier this year and has since closed three of its restaurants, but Bernstein says the new rewards program is just one way the company continues to plan for its future.

“I think we’re working on all the right things to make sure we’re strong,” she says.

Give shoes, get shoes

Here’s some good motivation to do a little closet cleanse: Schushop’s annual shoe drive.

In honor of its third anniversary, the Nob Hill women’s shoes and accessories boutique will collect gently worn shoes this Thursday through Sunday. The donations will benefit the Barrett Foundation in its efforts to lift women and children out of homelessness.

Customers who bring in an approved pair of shoes get a 20 percent discount on their entire store purchase.

Schushop is located at 109-B Carlisle SE in the Nob Hill Shopping Center. For more information, call 503-8594.

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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