La Esquina restaurant closing

Created: 01/31/2014 5:35 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Time to roll up the last enchilada and call it a day.

A popular Downtown Albuquerque restaurant is closing its doors for keeps Friday night – and it could be a sign of trouble for the Downtown retail business scene.

For 35 years, La Esquina (The Corner) has been dishing up legendary New Mexico cuisine in the underground mall level of the First Plaza Galeria. Some say its salsa is the best in the universe.

So why close now? Blame it on a shortage of customers.

You'd never know it by the long lines at lunchtime Friday, but the crowds of Downtown diners just haven't been showing up at La Esquina the last few years. It's a complaint you hear at many other Downtown restaurants these days.

The customers just are not there the way they were in the 1980s and 90s and even 5 years ago. Still, Friday was a sad day for La Esquina's loyal customer base.

"I will definitely miss it," said Bobbie Jo Garcia, who especially likes the chile rellenos and papitas. "It's been a great place to come, not only to spend time with my friends. It's a great place to meet for a lunch meeting. It caters to the surrounding area."

"It's got a nice atmosphere," said Wilfred Gallegos, who favors the red chile enchiladas. "It's a great place to come have lunch when you're working Downtown. I think a lot of people are going to be sad to see this place close down."

The Galeria already has many vacant retail spaces. Later this year it will lose the 400 or so employees of the Gap Services Center, which is moving to new quarters in the north I-25 business corridor. La Esquina owner Roy Vinaglia could read the writing on the wall.  Longtime La Esquina employees told us they have hopes of convincing him to relocate – maybe someplace in the Northeast Heights.

Earlier this month the venerable Charlie’s Front Door and Back Door restaurants closed after more than 40 years in business at Hoffmantown Shopping Center.

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