When Albuquerque’s Sawmill Market opened its doors in March 2020, it claimed the title as New Mexico’s first food hall. This is not the kind of food court that’s overflowing with fast-food fare and chain restaurants. Instead, like the famed Chelsea Market in New York City and Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, Sawmill features local and artisanal restaurants that run the culinary gamut from Italian to Venezuelan. After closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the food hall reopened in July, welcoming diners to a place that its developers say is transforming the Duke City dining scene as well as the surrounding neighborhood.
A few years ago, most visitors would never have suspected that a former lumber warehouse would become Albuquerque’s next foodie hot spot. The Sawmill District had been known for lumber production since the early 1900s. Thanks to the neighborhood’s easy access to a railroad spur, business boomed for much of the 20th century. In 1958, Paxton Lumber opened in the district as the “Home of Beautiful Woods.” It shuttered in 1999, and the warehouse joined the ranks of the neighborhood’s vacancies. In 2018, boutique hotel and hospitality company Heritage Hotels and Resorts began reimagining the building as an artisanal food hall. Heritage saw it as another chapter in the neighborhood’s redevelopment, which already included projects such as its own Hotel Albuquerque and Hotel Chaco.
The market pays homage to its roots. Exposed wooden beams and grand historic photo murals of Paxton Lumber prevail in the 25-foot-high space. Metal I-beams framing vendor stalls maintain an industrial feel, while floor-to-ceiling windows flood the 34,000-square-foot space with light. The sprawling interior and outdoor seating in an all-season courtyard make social distancing relatively easy.
The market’s two dozen, mostly culinary merchants show the breadth and depth of Albuquerque’s cuisine, from bean-to-bar treats at Eldora Chocolate to croissants at Blue Door Patisserie. Heritage Hotels and Resorts recruited Lauren and Jason Greene, owners of the Grove Café and Market, to curate Sawmill’s lineup. “We think the market has raised the bar of the food scene in Albuquerque,” Lauren Greene says.
The food hall opened with a mix of celebrated New Mexico chefs and relative newcomers, like the creators of craft grilled cheese sandwiches at NM Melt Company, po’boy specialists at Salty Catch SW, and the pulled pork aficionados behind 135º BBQ.
Here’s a look at some of the restaurateurs making it happen.