If you go down most any alley in Albuquerque and look behind the dumpster, you are likely to get a surprise. It’s hard to say what that surprise will be, but odds are you won’t find smooth tunes, comfy chairs, and well-crafted cocktails. Unless of course you find your way to Teddy Roe’s speakeasy. You just have to pick the right alley, then look for the door behind the right dumpster.
A speakeasy is, by definition, nondescript from the outside, and Teddy Roe’s keeps with this tradition (hence the alley and the dumpster). Within the Nob Hill building that was built as a car dealership, served in recent memory as Kellys Brew Pub, and just this summer became M’tucci’s Bar Roma, exists the little backroom bar in what used to be the brewery room. There is no password, but there is a gatekeeper by the name of Xandra. Should you make it into the bakery that serves as a front for the place, she will likely toy with you, offering a selection of fresh pastries and feigning ignorance when you mention a bar. Stick with it and insist. Though tempting, the pies and cakes are not what you are there for.
Past Xandra and through a trick door, you enter into a dark and cozy place, outfitted in dark woods and deep greens. There is a central bar and several more intimate areas under pools of light. One with a fireplace, another with a cozy booth, and still one more with a couple of club chairs by the upright piano. Off to the side and through yet another trick door is the private champagne room, available for a fee for small, intimate events.
Welcome to Teddy Roe’s.
Once your eyes adjust to the dimly lit room, you will find a drink list full of classics and contemporary favorites, though expect a notch or two above standard fare. Jessica O’Brien, co-owner, bartender, and crafter of the vision that is Teddy Roe’s, explains there is also a wine list and a handful of bottled beers, but no Jack Daniels and “absolutely no appletinis.” Unsure where to start? “Trust me as your bartender and I will not lead you astray,” says O’Brien reassuringly.
Another welcome aspect is Teddy Roe’s table service. Here, there is no getting up from your table to order or fighting for bar-front space just to get another round. It is also worth noting that everyone who works at Teddy Roe’s is a bartender, though some rotate into table service just to mix things up. Feel free to ask detailed questions about the drinks, but be prepared to be schooled about the different characteristics of rums based on the Caribbean island they came from. These people know what they are talking about when it comes to cocktails.
Do yourself a favor and have a martini flight to start things off. Stirred, not shaken, the flight is a treat of three cocktails made the way they were intended, served with spiked olives on the side. Vintage glassware and the proper vermouth may be a challenge to find in some other Albuquerque bars, but as O’Brien says, “We deserve nice things.” They also serve a small selection of finger foods and one exceptional specialty they call Baller Steak Frites. This twenty-ounce bone-in rib eye served with fries cooked in pork fat should be rich enough for most anyone. I suggest pairing with a Bordeaux, but see how the evening suits you.
As for the music, O’Brien, the maker of the playlist, is quick to say, “I literally have a gigantic tattoo of Nina Simone on my thigh.” The ladies of jazz can be heard here often, though not exclusively nor to the exclusion of more contemporary sounds. Teddy Roe’s, perhaps like O’Brien’s tattoo itself, seeks to honor an earlier age, not replicate it. The music is just loud enough to have a conversation, but too loud for that conversation to be overheard—a sweet spot that is hard to find in any bar and a telltale sign that care and thought have gone into the customer experience at Teddy Roe’s. I was also told that at times Xandra will sing by the piano. I missed that on my visit, but I get the impression that the opportunity is worth a return trip.
Before you start roaming the alleys of Albuquerque looking for this speakeasy, there is one thing you need to know: Teddy Roe’s is a reservation-only establishment and you must book your two-hour slot in advance through their website. There is no charge for your reservation, but because this is a small-capacity place, holding about forty people tops, they have found a way to weed out the flaky people by charging fifteen dollars for no-shows. That may sound harsh, but really only to the ears of those who can’t commit to their evening plans. That said, make the commitment, make the reservation, and make your way down that particular alley. It is the best one you will find in town.
Clarke Condé is a veteran food photographer and writer based in Roswell with a strong preference for red chile, keto-friendly beverages, and natural lighting. Find him on Instagram @clarkehere.