"Kitchen, Cocktails, Sports" is the tagline being employed by Junction, the new effort from the owners of Catamount Bar & Grille and Amavi Restaurant and chef Megan Tucker, and the latest venture to hit the Railyard. That's a junction for sure: a trio of themes and circumstances that's a collision for some and a smooth cloverleaf interchange for others.
I happen to hate televisions. The only place I hate them more than in restaurants and bars is in my own living room, so I'm not much of a sports bar guy. However, I happen to adore Tucker's culinary intuition, growing skill and adherence to local and regional ingredients and products; I also like to drink. It's a quandary.
Fortunately, in the revamped interior that used to house the Railyard Restaurant & Saloon, it's easy enough to face away from the televisions, and they're often muted unless there's a big event. Better yet, one can take respite on the shady patio that feels like it cools much faster than the rest of the scorched earth that surrounds us these days.
The menu Tucker has developed to cover the "kitchen" portion of Junction is not disappointing. Steamed and salted edamame served with a generous garnish of pickled ginger ($6) is a simple, ingenious dish that may be hard to screw up, but is no less lusty for its simplicity. Sharing a "bites" menu with the edamame is a green chile and avocado salsa with fresh-made tortilla chips ($6). The chips are crisp, but not overly so, and perfectly salted. The salsa packs a chile wallop—just the right heat intensity, but it wouldn't suffer for the addition of more avocado.
There's a tempting burger in the sandwich section of the menu—made with grass-fed New Mexico beef, local cheddar and jalapeño rajas—but it's easier to share the bocadillos ($11), three small cheeseburgers made with the same local beef. While not exactly classic Spanish bocadillos, these tiny burgers—mercifully not called sliders—are luscious, with flavors distinct as flamenco notes.
Truffle fries ($6) are good companions for the bocadillos, and are seasoned with a perfect, well, junction of truffle oil, Parmesan and parsley. For the price, however, I want someone paying a little more attention to exactly when my fries are pulled from the fryer.
Nachos start at $8 and go up with the addition of New Mexico chicken or short ribs. The ribs are worth it. Not many people will expect nachos to be a showcase for fresh local ingredients, but Tucker pulls it off.
From pan pizzas and chiles rellenos to banh mi, tacos and tuna noodle salads, Junction hosts an ambitious menu, including several comprehensive entrées, which will take several visits to work all the way through. But if the opening weeks' food remains as good as it is—or even gains some consistency and finesse—Junction is going to have plenty of hungry fans.
The cocktail list is too small and timid for my taste, and the liquor selection at the bar needs bulwarking. But if staff would consider turning one of the televisions to Grand Prix motorcycle racing on the occasional Sunday, I might even come in and watch TV while sampling a plate of chile-dusted Amalfi mussels in tomato broth ($14).
Then again, I'm not the target audience or appetite. Let's hope Tucker can pull off feeding hungry hordes of sports fans on organic and local fare with a modest premium on price. With luck, they won't even notice.
530 S Guadalupe St.
Lunch and dinner daily
Late-night menu from 10 pm-midnight coming soon