Certain cities seem destined to play second fiddle. Minneapolis may be a jewel of the Midwest, but not many people give national credence to St. Paul. Miami has South Beach chic, but drive due north and Ft. Lauderdale fails to deliver the same sparkle. Such is the case with Albuquerque, which has long been Santa Fe’s less gifted little brother. However, as we learned on a recent trip to Santa Fe, Albuquerque deserves some culinary consideration. For example, The Grove is a winning cafe & market from Chef Jason Greene and wife Lauren that enlivens a bygone stretch of Route 66.
The Grove’s building blocks are mounted on a wall near the register. A signpost touts options like “all natural meats,” “local produce” and “housemade sweets.” The words “seasonal” and “organic” also factor into the mix.
The Grove’s menu isn’t especially daring or unusual, but the quality of their local, seasonal ingredients helps to differentiate them from similar concepts. My THREE CHEESE ($6.95) sandwich involved molten white cheddar, Havarti and aged provolone on fresh-pressed sourdough. The Grove gave us the option to add caramelized onions, green chilies or sweet pickles for just $0.75 more. We added tangy roasted green chilies, which spilled out the sides of the sandwich.
Matthew “Mattatouille” Kang opted for THE BEEF ($8.95), a cold but still hearty sandwich involving thin-sliced sirloin, caramelized onions, arugula, subtly spicy horseradish crème fraiche, whole grain mustard and havarti on more sourdough.
Fiona “Gourmet Pigs” Chandra wasn’t reach for lunch, so she opted for POACHED EGGS ($8.95) with silky sheets of La Quercia prosciutto, a pair of poached eggs and salty Parmesan shavings on supple toast. The accompaniments consisted of a fresh fruit salad, a fan of ripe avocado and a dish of local jam that didn’t seem to fit with an egg dish.
Since house=made English muffins are hard to come by, we ordered a single muffin, split, toasted and served with dishes of honey and red chile-raspberry jam that featured a hint of local spice. The muffin was fairly dry and didn’t feature much spring, but it was worth a try.
Since The Grove uses premium ingredients like Plugra butter and Valrhona chocolate in their baked goods, it was an easy decision to order their ginger chocolate cookie. The large, crispy cookie featured a ginger kick and big chunks of chocolate.
We still had a long travel day ahead of us, so we swung back by the counter for coffee. The Grove is one of the only establishments in New Mexico to source Intelligentsia coffee beans, and they have a La Marzocco three-group espresso machine, so hopes were high.
My espresso may not have displayed the textbook reddish inflection, but it did feature some consistent tan color and the crema held strong at the tilt. This was a solid finish to a meal that was a nice change of pace from our other chile-soaked experiences in New Mexico.