Nick’s Crossroads Café closing its doors
Posted at: 09/10/2013 6:40 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
What? No chicken kabob plate? No Nick’s burger? No breakfast burritos? It’s hard to believe but it’s true. Nick’s Crossroads Café, a landmark restaurant in Downtown Albuquerque, is closing its doors for good.
For thirty years the busy little café has specialized in the three basic food groups for hungry downtown workers: Greek, American, Mexican. Owner Nick Manole says business has been great, but his mom Niki, herself a veteran of Albuquerque’s restaurant trade, now needs constant help and attention. Nick and his wife Asimine will provide it, 24/7.
“After 30 years it’s bittersweet,” Manole said during a conversation in the quiet café, while would-be customers read the closing notice posted on the door and peered inside. “The restaurant business is a difficult business, but we have a loyal clientele. We spent 30 years of blood, sweat and tears down here, and it’s going to change.”
“It’s hard,” Asimine agreed. “The restaurant business is not easy. The last two days I didn’t have to get up before five, and it’s great! I did it for 28 years, I mean I did my time! It’s hard.”
Nick’s extended Greek family has run restaurants in Albuquerque for about a century. His own dad put on the apron back in 1957.
“My Dad started at the Elbow Room Bar downtown,” Manole said. “Then he owned the Liberty Bar and Café, and then he owned Bob’s Fish and Chips and then in 1965 he bought Magidson’s Restaurant and Deli.”
Other relatives have owned Mac’s La Sierra, the Yucca Lounge, the Court Café – and even wildly popular restaurants of the current scene like Yanni’s and Nick & Jimmy’s.
Friday was the last day at Nick’s. Meatloaf was the special, along with gyros and those chicken kabobs. The family would like to see an established local restaurant move in to their place at 4th and Central. They own the property.
One thing’s for sure. Whoever or whatever moves in will have a pretty good shot at success. Location, location, location, as the real estate people say. We are talking about ground zero in a downtown that seems to be on the verge of a boom. People are moving into downtown by the hundreds. Condos and townhouses and apartments are going up all over the place. Developer Rick Rennie, board president of the Downtown Action Team, stands near the corner of Silver and Second Street.
“Those are 120 units,” Rennie said, gesturing at completed projects and jobs still under construction. “There are 71 more coming there at the end of the year. There’s supposed to be 68 here on top of the grocery store. There’s 57 coming in at 517 Gold, and he’s building on a cash basis only. Then there’s the Anasazi coming back strong.”
Wait a minute? Did he say grocery store? Yep.
“There’s a grocer signed up for a ten year lease!”
So restaurant and retail owners take heed. The clock is ticking.
“Timing is going to be everything here,” said Downtown Action Team director Debbie Stover, who was a city planner for 26 years. “ Right now you can get reasonable rates for rents and for sale, but I believe in the next two or three years you’re going to have a hard time finding any vacancies and prices are going to go up – so it’s a good time right now!”
Stover points out that these new downtown residents aren’t going to just be there working from 8 to 5 – they’re going to be there after hours and around the clock, and they’re going to need all the things that people need.
So downtown will miss Nick’s, no doubt about it. But something will take Nick’s place – it’s got to. This is the corner of 4th Street, the old Spanish Camino Real, and Central Avenue, the legendary Route 66. Call it Ground Zero for the Big Boom in Downtown Albuquerque.