Albuquerque Baths Mon. 4–8:30 p.m., Tues.–Sun. 10 a.m.–8:30 p.m. 1218 Broadway Blvd. NE; (505) 243-3721;

ArtBar Daily 4 p.m.–close.
119 Gold SW; (505) 200-0029;

B2B Bistronomy Mon.–Wed. 4–9 p.m., Thurs.–Sun. noon–
9 p.m. 3118 Central Ave. SE; (505) 262-2222;

Elaine’s Tues.–Sat 4–10:30 p.m. 3503 Central Ave. NE; (505) 433-4782;

Frank’s Famous Chicken & Waffles Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–
8 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m.
513 San Mateo Blvd. NE;
(505) 712-5109; on Facebook

Keshet Dance Company
4121 Cutler Ave. NE; (505) 244-9808;

Left Turn Distilling Tues.–Sat. 3–9 p.m. 2924 Girard Blvd. NE; (505) 363-4858; on Facebook

Market at The Yards Sun. 8 a.m.–1 p.m. 1100 2nd St. SW;; on Facebook

M’Tucci’s Kitchina Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. 6001 Winter Haven Rd.; (505) 503-7327;

Schushop Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m. 109-B Carlisle Blvd. SE; (505) 503-8594;

Albuquerque may be New Mexico’s largest city, but in some ways it’s still a small town at heart. Locals easily hurdle through games of six degrees of separation, finding connections with friends of friends. And, given the remarkable talents and local spirit of New Mexicans, that acquaintance is often a board member of a nonprofit on the move, a craft brewer, or someone who’s just opened a boutique that can’t be missed. Here’s the latest from the Duke City, from one friend to another.

In New Mexico, “soul food” evokes Frito pies, and enchiladas smothered in chile. But for Frank Willis, a Los Angeles native who came to Albuquerque to play Lobos basketball in the ’90s, the term means chicken and waffles. After spending 15 years perfecting his recipe—if only to sate his own cravings—he started Frank’s Famous Chicken & Waffles in January 2013, delivery only at first. The powers of Facebook really did make Frank’s toothsome duo famous, spurring him to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant last September. The expanded menu includes shrimp and grits, catfish, collard greens, and other Southern soul food favorites, but chicken and waffles remains the main attraction.

Set on the edge of the Río Grande bosque on the Westside, M’Tucci’s Kitchina serves savory Northern Italian dishes. Restaurateurs Katie Gardner and Jeff Spiegel and Chef John Hass opened the living-room-comfortable, highly convivial eatery last summer, and it has consistently earned rave reviews. This spring, the menu gets a reboot, retaining customer favorites such as the grilled Caesar salad and adding dozens of new menu items, such as arancini (fried rice balls) and four daily specials, including risotto, braised meats, seafood, and a rotisserie item. The sipping selection has also expanded, with 10 new wines on the list, to go with a creative cocktail menu anchored by an extraordinary cucumber-basil gimlet.

The glittering Elaine’s is the newest addition to Nob Hill’s restaurant cohort. The fine-dining establishment is the namesake of Elaine Blanco, former Scalo Northern Italian Grill manager. Blanco collaborated with Scalo owner Steve Paternoster to lure chef Andrew Gorski, student of culinary greats Thomas Keller and Alain Ducasse, to Albuquerque. The evolving menu reflects local, seasonal ingredients. Diners can expect elegant and inspired entrées such as spotted black pig with vegetable-ash ravioli, and scallops prepared in duck essence with brown-butter crème. Despite the establishment’s high-heels-and-lipstick ambience, Blanco insists that jeans-clad patrons should still feel comfortable dining there—particularly during happy hour, when the restaurant serves small plates and wine and beer specials.

Nothing goes better than burgers and beers, and B2B Bistronomy, in Nob Hill, is tops for both—and for its dedication to New Mexico ingredients. Take, for example, the New Mexico pecan patty that appears on a vegetarian burger menu boasting five options. Most burgers feature fresh, local Angus beef. The menu also counts more than 30 local beers on tap, including ales and ciders brewed on-site. Brewmaster Gary Long created the four fruit-forward B2B creations on tap (raspberry, cherry, apple, pear) to pair well with the restaurant’s burgers. Every Sunday, the restaurant donates 20 percent of that day’s food sales to a local charity or nonprofit.

Left Turn Distilling is the first distillery to splash onto the Albuquerque scene. Owner and chief spirit maker Brian Langwell has been tinkering for some time; he launched into the professional realm in April 2013 after closing his machine shop and building his still from scratch. The first two spirits off the steampunk-looking setup were Old Tom Gin, a style popular at the turn of the 19th century, and La Luz Vodka. Langwell developed both as cocktail liquors, not meant for sipping neat. Left Turn Distilling debuted piñon rum and blue-corn whiskey this spring. The spirits are available in the tasting room (at $37.50 and $24.95 a bottle, respectively) and in liquor stores throughout the state.

“When you drink, drink for good.” So goes the motto of the Catalyst Club, creator of the nonprofit ArtBar (yes, you read that right: a not-for-profit bar). Four members of Tricklock theater company’s board founded the Catalyst Club to oversee the membership-based club and full-service bar, which funnels its take to New Mexico arts nonprofits. Grants from the first funding cycle went to 516 Arts, Blackout Theatre Company, and Harwood Art Center, among others; the club was considering applications for the second round of funding this spring. Not only does the bar fund arts organizations; it is also a vibrant venue. On a given Saturday night, goers can sip a Moscow Mule beneath a fiber-optic chandelier while listening to local singer-songwriters, or watch an artist paint a portrait—his brush falling in time to the beats of spoken word performed by Hakim Bellamy, Albuquerque’s poet laureate. Local food trucks make appearances here, too, including, most frequently, the Southern-themed Supper Truck and Pancho’s Barbecue. Membership is $30.

Keshet Dance Company has come a long way since its first rehearsals in founder and current artistic director Shira Greenberg’s living room 18 years ago. In May 2013, the company, which presents repertory recitals and teaches community dance classes, moved into a behemoth 30,000-square-foot facility. The new Keshet Center for the Arts offers greater rehearsal space and, for the first time, a performance venue of the company’s own. Keshet also plans to rent its black-box theater to groups such as the Mother Road Theatre Company and the New Mexico Ballet Company—the first tenants in the Keshet Ideas and Innovation Center. The KIIC, housed in the same midtown building, is an arts incubator providing reduced-cost office, rehearsal, and performance space as well as business development, energizing performing arts throughout the state.

The healing waters of Ojo Caliente and Truth or Consequences may be enticing, but busy Burqueños looking for an in-town fix head to Albuquerque Baths, a spa with a communal (clothing mandatory) solar hot tub set in a peaceful outdoor courtyard, and a Finnish cedar sauna. Cast in earthy hues, the property seems a world apart, even though it’s adjacent to a downtown thoroughfare. The Baths also offers a focused menu of spa treatments. Owner Michelle Collins stays close to her beginnings as a masseuse, finding quality therapists who maintain her vision of the Baths as an urban oasis for healing.

Cities from Sacramento to Santa Fe have launched public markets at railyards; Albuquerque is getting on track with the trend this spring. Lawyers Chad Gruber and Eric Griego (a former state senator) conceived of the food-and-art market. They envisioned it sprawling through the blacksmith shop at the Yards and giving the Barelas neighborhood and southern downtown a Sunday morning jolt of activity. “We’ve been working on how to make the downtown core a more inviting, walkable, bikeable place,” says Gruber. “Getting that south Fourth Street corridor activated in a way that is community-based and grassroots is an important part of the evolution of the city.” Gruber describes the blacksmith shop as a clandestine site for street art. He hopes it will become a place for creating, displaying, and selling art. At press time, the market opening was slated for Sunday, April 27; the market is expected to run through November.

Nob Hill shop-and-strolls are taking on a more fashionable air, thanks to Schushop, a women’s accessory boutique. Shop owner Michele Schuch stocks accessories and, of course, shoes, from brands not available elsewhere in the Duke City. Shoppers will find multihued heels from Seychelles Shoes, wedges from Chelsea Crew, vegan purses from Urban Expressions, and asymmetrical hats from Grace, to name a few. “I want to give people a boutique experience with things that are special and unique, and personalized service, at an affordable price,” says Schuch. Shoppers will be hard-pressed to find items over $200. ✜