Are you a fan of ’80s horror movies? Are you hungry? A new restaurant in the Bricklight District on Harvard across from UNM has got you covered on both fronts. Blood Sausage is a newly opened upscale-casual eatery that takes its inspiration from the kind of slasher films that haunted the shelves of home video stores in the 1980s. While it seems like an unusual clash of ideas, restaurateurs Cameron Markham and Elizabeth Blankstein have come up with an attention-grabbing concept that’s attracting its fair share of fans.
Markham is from Albuquerque. He graduated from Cibola High but left for California about 20 years ago. There, he and his partner (in both business and romance) “started running restaurants for a bunch of Michelin [star] chefs.” Markham and Blankstein eventually formed a company and began developing their own restaurant concepts. Unfortunately, “When corona hit, we both had a couple of projects that we were doing out there, and they just pretty much went on complete hiatus,” recalls Markham. “We thought, ‘Well, what should we do?’ We had just saved up all of our money to get married, and we were, like, ‘We probably can’t have a wedding for who knows how long now.’ So I said, ‘Why don’t we take our wedding money and go out to Santa Fe and open some weird little 10-table fine-dining thing with it?’ And so kind of in the vein, out in Los Angeles, of [Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s] Trois Mec or something like that, we opened in a strip mall in Santa Fe.”
Initially Markham and Blankstein didn’t know if their white linens and punk rock eatery “would be well-received or if people would not dig that at all. And we kinda got half and half. I think the reason we survived was because we didn’t have a sign. It’s just a door by a barber shop in a strip mall. And part of the success was the mystique of all that. And part of why all the retired crowd got so angry at us.” The Santa Fe restaurant, dubbed Liu Liu Liu, opened in February of 2021 and quickly became a local fave. Markham describes it as “a fine-dining type thing with a little bit of a rock-and-roll vibe and a lot of Elizabeth’s Taiwanese background in it.”
The couple’s newly opened Albuquerque outlet, however, is “the polar opposite idea.” For Blood Sausage, Markham “wanted to do something super casual,” but “still chef-driven.” As crazy as it sounds (his words), Markham settled on a theme restaurant. “I’m really obsessed with ’80s horror, and so that became the theme. Kind of a haunted-house restaurant.” The space on Harvard, previously occupied by longtime University area stalwart Kai’s Kung Fu Cafe, is now decked out in black walls and blood-spattered tablecloths. Overhead lights are covered in red film. Framed movie posters for flicks like Chopping Mall and Fright Night and Nightmare on Elm Street decorate the walls. A life-sized Freddy Krueger statue hovers over diners as they eat. And yes, there are actual blood sausages on the menu—sweet or savory meats traditionally made from cooked blood and fillers like rice, bread, oatmeal, barley.
“We all make all of them in-house, all from different parts of the world,” says Markham. There’s a spicy morcilla with pickled fennel from Spain. There’s a traditional blutwurst from Germany and a black pudding from the UK. Finally, reflecting Blackstein’s background, there’s the Taiwanese-inspired sweet-and-sour black cake. And for those less adventurous diners, the restaurant offers a hot chicken sandwich and a “breakfast burger” with fried egg and a pork patty. Blood Sausage also features a 10-tap system with “all really cool, local artisanal beers.” But, says Markham still carefully balancing the highbrow and lowbrow, “I wanted an ’80s throwback cheap beer. So we’re gonna be the only place that has Miller High Life on tap in New Mexico.” In addition to the beers, Blood Sausage has “a really focused wine list. My partner and I are both soms [sommeliers], so we accidentally end up a little too nerdy on the wine stuff a lot of the time. But I think that juxtaposition is what makes the place kind of cool.” You go in expecting burgers and cheap beer and you get handmade blood sausages and a high-end wine list.
The restaurant has only been open for a couple of weeks, but is already eyeing an expansion. The parking lot behind the building will soon house a roomy outdoor patio. “We were super lucky in that lot that we got,” says Markham. “What we had hoped was that we could turn the back parking area into a beer garden. And we were somehow able to push it through both the city and the state.” As Albuquerque moves into the warmer months, Blood Sausage will continue building out and prepping its outdoor beer garden, complete with fake grass, “creepy lights” and maybe even an outdoor movie screen—the perfect place to show Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Blood Diner.
For now Markham is just happy that diners in the Bricklight District have taken to his Frankenstein mash-up of scary movies and adventurous food. “It’s funny,” says the busy restaurateur, “because I was telling all my friends that [Blood Sausage] will be perfect for all the college kids at UNM. They’re are gonna go crazy over it. But then, of course, the people who are really going crazy for it are my age, in their 40s now. And some of the younger crowd are like, ‘Oh, I’ve heard of Fright Night or Friday the 13th.’ Some of them have never even seen those. It’s more of a style thing right now. But hey, great. If we can be that person to give ’em some knowledge and show ’em some horror movies while they eat, all the better.”