The long wait is finally over today (Tuesday) as Nexus Blue Smokehouse holds its grand opening at 1511 Broadway Blvd. SE. Located on the west side of the street, just three buildings south of Avenida Cesar Chavez (the first two are a gas station and an Albuquerque Police substation), Nexus Blue will be open from 4 to 9 p.m.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a sneak preview on Friday night, which granted me an advance tasting of the menu and a chance to take some photos of the finished space. Only the main dining area was open, so it was a bit crowded, but that is to be expected. As owner Ken Carson noted in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series article, the plan is for Nexus Blue to do mainly takeout orders at the outset. If you are planning to sit down at the taproom and enjoy a meal, please be patient.
The food, of course, is the star here. Nexus Blue has a barbecue-centric menu of smoked meats, with only a few of the more classic Nexus dishes (chicken and waffles, fish tacos) available. With the rest of the Crew unavailable, I was a good son and brought my parents to the sneak preview after they finished their stint as volunteers at the new Brain exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History (hint: you should also check that out).
Your barbecue options feature smoked meats by the half-pound, five sandwich/taco options, or mega meals like The Spread and The Big Feed. The Spread can feed four to five people, with one pound of brisket or burnt ends, plus one pound of pulled pork or two hot links, plus a half-chicken or half-rack of ribs, plus two sides (pints). The Big Feed is all of the above plus six pieces of fried chicken, with quart-sized sides.
Since there were only three of us, we each picked a different item off the menu, selecting a half-rack of ribs, a pulled pork sandwich, and a half-pound of brisket. For sides, we ordered french fries and smoked BBQ beans. The pulled pork and brisket were quite good. There is also a BBQ sauce station, so you can decide how much sauce, and what kind, you want on your meat(s). The other smoked meat options are hot links, burnt ends, and a half smoked chicken, plus of course a full rack of ribs. Additional sandwich options include a brisket, burnt ends, and hot links, plus there are brisket tacos. Other sides include mac n cheese, fried okra, coleslaw, potato salad, collard greens, and fried pickles. There are also a couple of dessert options in biscuit bread pudding and cherry/peach cobbler.
I am leaving out the prices, just in case anything has changed since Friday, but I found everything to be reasonably priced. Heck, my dad agreed, and if you can get a 75 year old to agree on the cost of food, that is a plus. Most of the main dishes were in the $8-to-$12 range.
As for the beer, they had the regular Nexus offerings on draft, including the Cream Ale, Red Ale, Scottish Ale, Chocolate Porter, and Imperial Cream. There are eight taps in total, so a seasonal or two might pop up from time to time.
Overall, we were impressed with Nexus Blue on its first night of operation. As we have said many times in the past, please be patient and courteous with the staff of any new taproom/restaurant/brewery. They are still learning how everything works, especially as things get busier and busier. The important thing is the food is delicious, the beer is what you have come to expect from Nexus, and the space is a warm and inviting one. Do take note that the parking lot on the north side of the building is not a big one, so please endeavor to carpool if you are traveling with a large group.
Whether you stop by today, later this week, or pregame the New Mexico United match on Saturday, have fun and try not to eat your body weight in smoked meats. We cannot promise that we will not attempt to do just that.