Saturday, November 28, 2009

Down to Earth at the Flying Star

A few days ago, while taking his walking tour of the Nob Hill section of Albuquerque, Chuck ventured forth into the Flying Star Café and Bakery and left with an apple crumb pie and two enormous, magnificent, buttery, and lemony sugar cookies. After sampling the baked goods, a visit for lunch was mandatory.

“Out here in the West, we (owners Jean and Mark Bernstein) kept dreaming of opening a restaurant which served really delicious foods. Absolutely no tablecloths, no reservations and no waiters, a place where anyone could come in at anytime during the day or night and get just what they want to eat - breakfast, a sandwich, dessert or just a great cup of coffee. We wanted magazines, newspapers and movable seating for groups or single people. So, in November of 1987, we opened our first location on old Route 66 in Albuquerque's Nob Hill District” (From the café’s web site).

The original Flying Star Café and Bakery has grown to nine locations and expanded the menu from mostly sandwiches, soups and salads to include pastas, rice dishes, a wide variety of blue plates and regional specialties.

In 2008, Alibi (the local entertainment newspaper) honored the Flying Star Café with first place “Best of Burque” Awards for the best cup of coffee, best toast, best desserts, best casual dining, best healthy breakfast, and best veggie burger.

It was difficult choosing from the fairly long menu. Hot sandwiches included the tuna on homemade grilled rye bread with melted Swiss cheese; the Californian--marinated, grilled crimini mushrooms, Swiss cheese, avocado, tomatoes, caramelized onions and ranch dressing on grilled sourdough; the turkey jack with green chile, tomatoes and jack cheese on grilled sourdough; or the grilled chicken breast smothered with melted jack cheese, tomatoes and Cajun dressing. Cold sandwiches were the egg salad, the chicken salad, the turkey Swiss, and the BLT. And the burger menu included a classic burger along with the New Mexico burger with chopped green chile and melted cheddar cheese; the ABC patty melt on grilled rye; the blue cheese burger with bacon and Swiss cheese; and a veggie burger. The café’s dinners, served all day, had New Mexican, Asian, and pasta dishes along with such diner classics as chicken pot pie, fish and chips, and mac and cheese.

It came as no surprise that Chuck chose the chicken pot pie, and a wise choice it was. This proved to be a large bowl full of tender chicken pieces along with carrots, potatoes, pearl onions, celery, broccoli, and Italian green beans. The savory gravy was peppery with just an undertone of sage. I was surprised that the strong flavor of the broccoli did not predominate. The top crust, which was more like a removable lid, was rich and flakey. He included an order of home fries which proved to be unnecessary and about eighty percent of the fries came home with us and were eaten with the next day’s lunch.

Since the A (for avocado) B(for apple smoked bacon) C(for melted jack cheese) patty melt is one of the café’s specialties, this was my choice and was less successful than Chuck’s lunch. First, I ordered the burger cooked medium and it came medium well and rather dry. Second, when I see a patty that is uniformly round and thick I suspect it has been formed in a burger press which compacts the meat. Third, the lettuce, tomato, and red onion garnish was barely enough for one half of the sandwich. And fourth, I ordered the homemade BBQ potato chips and got fries. (Although these were first-rate, hand-cut and crisp fries.)

I give the café more praise for its philosophy than its execution and would rate Chuck’s pot pie with 4.5 Addies and my burger with 3.0 Addies.

As we left the Flying Star, we headed out to the Central Avenue scene. Right across the street was Bumble Bee's Baja Grill, featuring a California-Mex menu, which some describe as an introductory menu to the spicier New Mexican food.

No comments: