Albuquerque, New Mexico is a unique mix of the modern and the traditional; the homogeneous and the eclectic. Steeped in traditions that date back well before the first Spanish settlers in the 1700s, Albuquerque is a city with many faces. From Native American dance to locally-grown produce to hot air ballooning to craft breweries and wineries to motion picture production, “Burque” — as the locals like to refer to it — stands apart from other places by virtue of its multifaceted personality.
Sixty-Six Acres — a modern bar & grill — is located in the Avanyu Plaza at the corner of 12th Street NW and Turquoise St., across from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Its spacious patio wraps around two sides of the restaurant, offering al fresco dining in full shade, full sun or trellised partial sun. Under both the awnings and the trellis are end-to-end heaters to accommodate those chilly high desert nights. In addition, there is an outdoor fireplace and lounging area. The patio is dog-friendly, with ample space for man’s best friend to stay close to your table without intruding into the personal space of others. With the charming views of Pueblo Revival architecture and bright blue skies in every direction, Sixty-Six Acres is a perfect place to satisfy your urge for outdoor dining, drinking and socializing.
Entering the interior of the establishment, one is impressed by the clean lines and angles of the architecture and decor. To one side, a large rack of locally produced wines and spirits is displayed, along with a collection of paraphernalia (coffee cups, tee shirts, jewelry, etc.) curated from local vendors, shops and museum stores. At the hosting station, you are met with a warm smile and a friendly greeting by one of the restaurant’s young associates. There is bar seating, as well as indoor tables and the aforementioned patio. Let your host know your preference. He or she will accommodate you. The experience is just beginning!
Sixty-Six Acres’ menu features appetizers, salads, sandwiches, bowls, cocktails, local craft beers, and a kids menu. It is open for lunch and dinner (but its sister restaurant, Slate Street Cafe, is open for breakfast as well). Servers are well-versed in all of the menu items and can describe each dish in detail. They can make suggestions based on your dietary requirements and preferences. This is particularly helpful when exploring New Mexico-style dishes, which can often pack quite a piquant punch. Don’t let that stop you from trying a typically hot dish. Your server can request that the chef tone down a particular dish to please a delicate palate. And, of course, there are several gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly menu items, as is naturally the case with many Native American-inspired, non-wheat-, non-dairy-based dishes.
A sample meal may consist of the following: For an appetizer, Crispy Brussels, a gluten-free preparation of Brussels sprouts in an apricot green chile glaze and white balsamic reduction, grilled to crispy caramelized perfection. (Didn’t like Brussels sprouts as a kid? You must try these!) An entree of New Mexico Shrimp & Grits (also gluten-free) featuring cheesy grits cooked with green chile, red chile shrimp and topped with tall “sprigs” of tortilla strips. This dish is cooked to perfection, considering how easy it is to overcook shrimp and undercook grits. The New Mexico-style seasoning is as distinctive as anything out of New Orleans. And a second entree (because who wants to eat alone?) of a Steak Frites Bowl (again, and coincidentally, gluten-free) consisting of tender, sliced steak and roasted portobello mushrooms with truffled parmesan fries. Wash it down with the beverage of your choice, which in this case is Boxing Bear Milk Stout, a product of Boxing Bear Brewing Company, Albuquerque, NM.
There are few things that are more complimentary to a restaurant than when a patron returns on the very next night to sample another meal. Asking for the same server rates right up there! So for night #2, consider trying the Blistered Shishitos for an appetizer. A shishito is a pepper. It is typically not very hot, making it a good (and healthy) appetizer. It is coated with sesame oil, cotija cheese (a hard, crumbly Mexican cheese) and sesame seeds. For an entree, Crispy Pork Belly & Tomato Jam Flatbread with caramelized onions, blue cheese and sunflower sprouts. Flatbread dishes are served on wooden pallets and presented in such an appealing way as to be truly selfie-worthy (if there is such a term). For a second entree, Farro & Fresh Spinach Salad, featuring toasted farro (a type of wheat grain), baby spinach, curried walnuts, avocado, cherry tomatoes and mint. An awesome combination of flavors and light enough to allow some room for dessert.
If there is still time before your show at the PopeJoy or your Tramway ride up Sandia Peak, try one of the delicious desserts on the menu. If you like to cap off your dinner with a steaming cup of hot coffee, a good companion to that would be the Banana Pudding Crunch — layers of house-made pudding, fresh bananas and shortbread, served in a Mason jar. It is a perfectly sweet end to a delicious meal.
Sixty-Six Acres is a local restaurant that supports other local vendors with extensive beer, wine, and spirits offering from several of the breweries in and around “the Duke City” (another nickname for Albuquerque). Many of the fresh produce are also sourced locally, including New Mexico’s own Hatch chile peppers. It is not uncommon to find local ingredients infused into popular drinks — such as chile into Tequila and piñon into beer — to give certain beverages a uniquely New Mexican character.
When Myra Ghattas opened Sixty-Six Acres, her second Albuquerque restaurant, she brought with her over a decade of experience at the Slate Street Cafe, which she also owns and operates. In addition, she spent many years prior, working in food services at Hyatt Regency Resorts. So it is safe to say that Ghattas was already well-versed in the hospitality business. An East Coast schooling at Boston University and stints at several Hyatt’s across the country did not deter her from returning to the town where her family has owned and operated the Duran Central Pharmacy since 1965. We look forward to returning to Albuquerque in the not-too-distant future and trying out the fare at Slate Street Cafe. We have a feeling we will not be disappointed!