Albuquerque Favorites: Relish

I LOVE Relish, a small sandwich/salad joint here in town. There are two locations: one on Menaul near Pennsylvania, and one downtown on Central between 4th and 5th.

Relish makes outstanding sandwiches. Their cubano is famous, and I'm a huge fan of the turkey sandwich with avocado, greens, and wasabi mayo. It's just outstanding. The salads are also fantastic- mm mm good. The hours are kinda strange- mostly lunch time- and there's no seating at the downtown location, but you CANNOT beat it for a fantastic lunch.

Here's a much better description of Relish, courtesty of Gil's Thrilling Web Site:

"Having lived in England in the mid-1980s and wanting to immerse ourselves in local culture, we spent many a lunch hour in English pubs, often consuming ploughman's lunches, a late 1970s invention of the United Kingdom's catering industry. Marketed as the "traditional" fare eaten by ploughman in days of yore, the ploughman's lunch generally consisted of a lump of cheese (usually Stilton or Cheddar), pickle (Branston's, of course) and salad accompanied by crusty bread and butter. As with most English cuisine, this simple meal has never received the type of respect seemingly reserved for the haughty haute cuisine of the French, but it's one of the many things we missed about our former home.

We were thrilled to discover in October, 2004 that an Albuquerque restaurant newcomer with the simple name "Relish Cheese Market & Sandwich Shop" offered this lunch, albeit with the spelling plowman. We were also impressed to discover that restaurant--although bearing no resemblance to an English pub--earned "best sandwich" accolades in the Alibi's readers choice poll for 2004. It also tied for "best new restaurant" in the city.

Relish's version of the plowman had us waxing nostalgic for the many family oriented English pubs we frequented in our three years abroad. Any cheese connoisseur would be challenged to select only two cheeses from among the 40 plus aged and new cheeses of the crumbly and solid variety. The cheeses we selected were an aged Cheddar (five years old) and a new Cheddar, but we also had an herb infused goat cheese that could only be classified as one fantastic fromage. Included with the plowman's lunch were sun dried tomatoes, the aforementioned and incomparable Branston's pickle, and nut encrusted dates. Not a substantial meal, it's one we'll remember and will repeat most because of its pairing of contrasting yet complementary tastes that bring out the best in one another and titillate your taste buds.

Enterprising proprietor Johnny Orr also makes his own mozzarella daily and has a strict no-refrigeration, eat that night policy. The homemade mozzarella sandwich showcases this rich cheese with roasted red pepper, arugula, aged balsamic and extra virgin olive oil on a crusty alpinette roll.

Relish has an enviable sandwich menu that includes both hot and cold sandwiches. The Cubano, loosely based on the Cuban sandwich, features chipotle rubbed roast pork, honey ham, Swiss cheese, sliced pickle and cilantro mayo served on a baguette. It is among the best of its genre we've had in the Duke City. Ditto for the Reuben which includes both pastrami and corned beef along with Thousand Island dressing, Swiss cheese and relish. Relish's muffaletta might be the closest you'll find to New Orleans with provolone, Genoa salami, maple ham, sweet and spicy coppacola, pepperoni, and artichoke tapinade served on muffaletta bread.

Unlike so many of the boring sandwich shops in town, Relish also dares to be different, offering such Duke City rarities as Dr. Brown's root beer and Miss Vickie's unique chips in such flavors as Texas mesquite and sea salt and vinegar. Sensational salads also dot the menu. Our early favorite is the endive salad which melds Belgian endive and field greens with candied pine nuts, Maytag blue cheese, grape tomatoes, green apples and buttermilk dressing. It is one of the best salads in town. The service at Relish is cordial and professional and you're made to feel like a welcome guest. Relish might not capture all that we fell in love with about English food, but after one visit we've already grown to love what is one of the best new concepts the Duke City has seen in years."

My note: I don't think they're doing the pick-your-cheese thing on the Ploghman's anymore- when I ordered it, it was sort of pre-selected cheeses... And really, really fantastic.

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