First visit: March 10, 2012
Urbanspoon lists 226 places in Albuquerque that serve sandwiches., from A Taste of Italy (90% like it) to Zombie Doughnut Café (79% like it). None, in my estimation, can compete with Prime.
Building on the wild success of Vernon’s Steakhouse, Michael Baird, Vernon’s owner launched PRIME in the Village Shops at Los Ranchos location of Calico Cantina & Café. With this expansion of the popular Vernon’s concept, came the end of another era, the Calico Cantina & Café.
PRIME serves a one-of-a-kind menu of gourmet sandwiches & sides made using prime meats & cheeses for dining in or carrying out. Local Food critic Gil Garduno states PRIME, “could be the best sandwich shop in the Duke City!”
PRIME features a butchery and is the place to locate Vernon’s prime beef cuts, lamb, deli meats, specialty cheese, spectacular wines by the bottle, as well as Vernon’s signature items.
With a fresh new remodel & expansion, Vernon’s takes visitors back into the Prohibition Era with secret hallways, new private dining room, cigar patio, and VIP Lounge. I was offered a tour during my first visit. No hokey secret password is needed for entrance to Prime. Thank goodness. The emphasis here is on the food and ingredients, which are among the best in the Duke City.
Some cuteness prevails — In keeping with the gangster/prohibition theme of Vernon’s. the menu lists such whimsical items as Angry Sicilian, Pesci, Tommy Gun, 38 Special, and Goomba (no, not the Super Mario character. Think The Sopranos.) . The salads and sides have more conventional names. So does the quche, which is nameless.
Angry Sicilian: Cappicola Ham, Pepperoni, Genoa Salami, Olive Tapenade, Tomatoes, Banana Peppers and Buffalo Mozzarella. This is constructed as a panini, served warm and crisp. The warmth helps blend all the ingredients together so that nothing overpowers anything else. A cold version called the Shylock is available as a hero. Our delightful server pointed me toward the warm version, and she was right: This is a fabulous sandwich. This was accompanied by a dish of Red Potato Salad. This is a creamy potato salad devoid of cream. It contains celery, onion, cornichons , and crispy prosciutto in a herb dijon aioli. The potatos are perfectly cooked. Neither hard nor mushy, they were just right. This is better than the potato salad that anybody’s grandmother makes.
Pesci: Tuna Salad, Capers, Onions, sun-dried tomato aioli, Muenster Cheese, Lettuce and Tomato all serer on a fresh-baked Croissant. This was accompanied by house-made kettle chips. Large thin slices of potato that are deftly fried, they are neither greasy nor salty. Imagine a potato chip that tastes like potatos. That’s what you get here. Simple and brilliantly executed. They are as fabulous as the sandwich itself —a rarity in these here parts. This sandwich and the chips set a high standard for the usually lowly soggy tuna salad sandwich that your mom packed in a paper bag for your Friday school lunch.
Forget the cost. The ingredients, sides, preparation, and fantastic taste make PRIME a prime place.
What others are saying
Gil Garduño — New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite
“Prime’s sandwiches earn the right to be called gourmet. They are the antithesis of the value meal variety sandwiches constructed on cardboard bread with paltry meats and razor-thin cheeses buried under a mound of lettuce and masked by sauces and condiments designed to cover up an inferior product. Gourmet doesn’t generally imply gargantuan, but Prime’s sandwiches will sate in every way. They are filling and they are fabulous! The bread is procured from Fano, an artisan bread company from Albuquerque.
“Though the price point may seem a bit steep for some, the uncompromising quality of the ingredients and the generosity and creativity with which they are applied means white people will make frequent return trips. For the cost of a two sandwich meal at Prime, you could visit Subway six times and fill your belly–or you can visit Prime and enjoy what couldbe the best sandwich shop in the Duke City. Consistency over time will tell.”
Lindsey Little for Local-iQ
“Sandwich shop experiences rarely begin with a clean-cut waiter in a tuxedo escorting guests to the table. At Prime, however, the concept of prestige is taken very seriously. High-end sandwiches are gaining in popularity in the Duke City, and at Prime, they are worth every penny.
“Don’t forget the dessert tray that offers a variety of ever-changing sweets.
“The butchery also offers prime beef cuts, lamb and deli meats. Also enjoy specialty cheese, wines, brews and spirits on their rustic and contemporary patio, or take them to go for a night at home.
“This exceptional delicatessen is one-of-a-kind and is now in the running as one of the best sandwich shops in Albuquerque. Prime’s unique and original combination of flavors are bound to please.”