This story was originally published at EatABQ, the city's food, restaurant and drinks guide. EatABQ is a publication of The Paper, ABQ's new alternative, independent weekly.
For such a young-looking fellow Dustin Darnell has a long history in the food and beverage industry, mostly as a consultant for luxury hotels. He was director of food and beverage at the Harpeth Hotel in Franklin, Tenn. He held the same job at El Monte Sagrado in Taos. Before that he worked at Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque and the Hyatt Regency Tamaya near Santa Ana Pueblo. COVID found him out of town and working a consulting gig in Nashville. It was there that he got a call from his friend Joe Anguiano. Anguiano is a Michelin star-trained chef, a native of Los Angeles who has worked in California, Spain, France and, most recently, the popular VOX Table restaurant in Austin, Texas. Right before the pandemic, Anguiano moved to Albuquerque with his New Mexican-born wife to be closer to family. He met Darnell when the two served as part of the opening team for the wildly successful Sawmill Market project. And when the chef saw a perfect, unused restaurant space sitting unused in Nob Hill, he got on the phone to his manager pal.
The two men (one serving as general manager, the other as executive chef) have now spent the last five months working on a dual restaurant concept: Gather and The 3128 Social House. The connected spaces at the corner of Central and Bryn Mawr were most recently occupied by the Nob Hill Bar & Grill and the Daydream Rum Bar, both of which shut down last year after a year and a half of operation under EMB Ventures LLC. Much of the time since Darnell and Anguiano took over and started renovating has been spent sampling “over 500 wines” and “learning where and where not to drill.”
Gather is expected to open first, the week of May 2, with the larger 3128 Social House space set to swing wide its doors by the end of the month. With ladders moving around the space and paint still going up on the walls, Darnell and Anguiano sat down to talk about their conjoined-twin food-and-drink concept.
Food, drink and wine for the two restaurants will all be different. Darnell sees Gather as a “cocktail-forward” space with smaller, sharable food plates. Anguiano envisions Gather as a “playful” bar/restaurant. But not just another “Hey, here’s your regular plate of nachos” kind of place. Anguiano’s menu is filled with “takes on childhood memories”—or as Darnell puts it, “nostalgic” food items. One of Gather’s signature dishes will be a crispy bun filled with braised beef cheek and leeks. Anguiano sees it as a fun, upscale take on a Hot Pocket. The owners promise that the Gather experience will be “friendly” for patrons and will involve plenty of “reaching across the table.”
3128 Social House, on the other hand, will be more of a straightforward sit-down gastropub—what Darnell calls “upscale” but “approachable. Not pretentious, not fine dining.” Here, diners will be able to tuck into salads, charcuterie plates, “a nice bowl of soup,” a steak or a fish dish. Executive Chef Anguiano hopes to have plenty of fresh seafood flown in regularly. Right now he has his mind set on grilled oysters and other “stuff that Albuquerque hasn’t been familiar with.”
Before that can happen, though, there are a lot of finishing touches to get done. The liquor license is in place, the fire inspector has been through and the menu has been prepped. “We’re ready to go,” promises Darnell. But paint is drying on the floor, shelves are waiting to be stocked and many staff positions still need to be filled. “Gather with us soon!” promises a sign on the front window.
Nob Hill habitués in search of a nice cocktail, a fine wine and a memorable bite of food can look for the soft opening of Gather in early May. The 3128 Social House will follow suit later in the month. In the meantime, you can follow the progress of both on Facebook and Twitter.