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Surf’s up
Thursday, 16 June 2011
Photos by Wes Naman
Bailey’s on the Beach combines beach-shack vibe and affordable foodie fare for escapist fun in university area

By Mike English
A few months ago, when I was in danger of going postal at the sight of one more Kokopelli ornament — not to mention the bleak, barren New Mexico winterscape — I took a trip to Mission Beach, San Diego. For days I walked from the water’s edge, sand in my flip flops, straight into a beachside restaurant for fresh crab and cold beer. I returned to Albuquerque refreshed.

Sometimes you just need to get away from the desert. And while you can’t really duplicate the salt smells and surf sounds of the West Coast in Albuquerque, you can certainly catch the relaxed beach-dining vibe at Bailey’s on the Beach.

A beach restaurant in Albuquerque sounds gimmicky, and I was skeptical when Bailey’s opened more than a year ago in an old karate school location near UNM. Yet owner Roy Solomon (Sunset Grille, 505 Chile) has worked in the local restaurant business long enough to know what he’s doing. With its multi-room layout and killer rooftop patio, Bailey’s evokes a beach-shack feel. From the turquoise and white color scheme, to the surf movies playing on the flat screen TVs, to the dining room wall lit by colored LED lights and textured to look like waves, Bailey’s on the Beach is just fun. And we haven’t even talked about the quality of the food yet.

ImageOn a recent Friday night, while I whipped my neighbors in a gentleman’s poker game, we ordered out from Bailey’s. The Mahi Mahi Kabob ($8.75) — three delicious skewers of grilled fish and vegetables, served with a sake marinade dipping sauce and a papaya apple slaw side salad — was so startling-good for delivery food that I decided I needed to visit the restaurant soon.

My wife and I popped in for lunch the next day (Bailey’s also serves breakfast). Orders are made at a kitchen counter, where you can also choose from a nice selection of beer and wine, and delivered to your table. I’d scoped out the food offerings online ( and knew what I wanted: the Fish Tacos ($8.75) and Tsumami Queso Burger ($7.75), for a little surf and turf afternoon. My wife went with a cup of the Seafood Stew ($4) and Almond Salad ($6.25). We figured we would share a slice of the Tropical Key Lime Pie ($3.25).

Fish tacos at Bailey’s are some of the best you’ll eat in town, period. Soft corn tortillas are filled with grilled mahi mahi, sweet papaya apple slaw and a sliver of avocado. Pile on the sides of salsa and guacamole, and the two tacos are a substantial meal by themselves.

The seafood stew is a nice nod to the restaurant’s beach theme, with grilled veggies and seafood in a rich red wine bouillabaisse. My wife’s order was a little light on seafood, with just a solitary clam in her cup. But she ate it right up.

ImageThe queso burger. Holy smokes. I’m in love with the Tsunami Queso Burger. Sure, I like to make gestures toward healthy eating, but the beef featured a delicious smokey grilled flavor that was pushed to nirvana when smothered with the velvety, salty queso. I didn’t care that the menu-advertised caramelized onions had been replaced with a sprinkling of green onions. The ciabatta bun was also a pleasantly fresh highlight, obviously not long from the oven.

The almond salad wasn’t stellar. The toasted almond slivers, chunks of gouda cheese and cabernet vinaigrette dressing were all tasty enough, as were the toasted and buttered slivers of ciabatta bread, but the scale was weighted far too much toward the pile o’ greens.

The key lime pie was another story. Creamy and refreshing, with a buttery graham crust, Bailey’s key lime could be served in the Florida Keys and no one would bat an eye.
There’s a lot to be said for local food served in a traditional manner. But Bailey’s on the Beach makes a fun case for a little culinary escapism.

Seafood dishes are your best bet. The fish tacos use corn tortillas, and you can also ask to hold the breadcrumbs on the baked clams. The Seafood Stew is another delicious gluten-free dish.

The shell pasta dishes are all meet free, as are the four salads. Another veggie option is the breakfast Beach Sandwich.

You can’t get much more heart healthy than salad, and Bailey’s are substantial. The burgers and dogs are something to avoid, of course, but the Mahi Mahi Kabob is a heart-friendly alternative.

Bailey’s on the Beach
2929 Monte Vista NE, 505.717.2880
8a-9p, Mon.-Thu., Sun.; 8a-10p, Fri.-Sat.

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