ABQ c-hounds,, need your help picking one of the following restaurants for a dinner meeting
Indigo Crow Café
Which one is best and why? Setting up a meeting for a group of 20 in a couple of wks. Will not be conducting business, more social. Need not be formal. Thx in advance!
Are the guests mostly from NM or out of state? Indigo Crow easily has the most local color of the four. I've always liked, not quite loved the food, but it's unpretentious and sincere.
Zinc and Seasons are run by the same restaurant group, and both are casually upscale, the food is well executed, and everything feels a little plastic (ditto at Savoy, their other project). I haven't been to Antiquity but the food looks tired to the point of being almost retro, a 1970s take on an American French restaurant (of course it could be delicious all the same).
Of the four the only one I'd go to regularly is Indigo Crow. You might also check out Scalo or Artichoke Cafe, both are tried and true, although leaning more Italian than French.
If you are looking for a nice, upscale restaurant feeling and a menu with a few nods to local food but not particularly New Mexican, Savoy is probably your best bet. It's owned by the same people who own Seasons and Zinc, and the menu is very similar to Seasons'. They have a larger, brighter space and will be able to very comfortably accommodate a party of 20.
Wouldn't bother with Scalo. It's not that great.
I've had mixed experiences with Artichoke, but it could work. They have a private room for larger parties. One thing to consider there is that the only real parking option there is in a paid lot that's shared with another popular restaurant, Farina. I can't remember if it's valet parking or just a guy standing there and directing cars to spots, but if it's a weekend night they might have trouble dealing with a lot of cars at once. My sister used to host events for her non-profit there, and parking was always an issue.
I love Indigo Crow, but it's better at lunch than dinner, and I'm not sure how well it would work for such a large group. The restaurant is in an old adobe house that's divided into 3 smallish dining spaces inside, and I think even if they set up a long table for the 20 of you, you might feel a little hemmed in and unable to talk as freely or loudly as a group of 20 is likely to want to because the other diners will be so close by. We found this to be the case when we went in a party of just eight. Maybe they have a private room tucked in the back somewhere, though, so it's worth a call.
Have you looked at Slate Street Cafe? It's definitely more casual that Savoy or Seasons, but the menu's solid with more local touches (good red chile). What's really great is that they have an upstairs wine loft that would be perfect for a group that size. The owner, Myra Ghattas, is a certified sommelier, so if you wanted them to do something special with wine, they probably could. Parking is often an issue there, too, but I was told recently that they can make special arrangements with the law offices across the street for extra space.
Two other options, if you were interested in something completely not New Mexican, are Mas at the Hotel Andaluz and Torino's@Home.
Mas is the Albuquerque branch of the extremely well-regarded restaurant La Boca in Santa Fe. They serve tapas and other classic Spanish tavern food. I've only been to Mas for lunch, but maybe others can chime in about dinner. The one item we had from the dinner menu (the grilled quid from the tapas menu) was terrific. Parking is pretty much valet only, although it's right downtown so some city lots and street parking are available, too.
Torino's has wonderful food - real home-made-tasting Italian with some French influences - and a very nice space that can easily be reconfigured to hold a table of 20. Even though they're not at all a diner, a drive-in or a dive, you can see them on the episode of Diner's Drive-Ins & Dives called "Aces of Authenticity". They're in a shopping plaza devoted pretty much entirely to food-related businesses on Jefferson west of I-25, so there's a ton of parking.
Sorry for the long post. Hope you have a great time.
To ninrn's point about being unimpressed by Scalo, mixed on Artichoke, and conditional on Indigo Crow, I'd have to agree (although I've had a few nice pasta dishes at Scalo and they have a nice wine list). I've been to Mas for dinner (and I generally love La Boca in Santa Fe), but it was very soon after they opened, they were totally slammed, and everything was pretty lackluster; I do want to give them another chance.
This shines a light on a broader point: although I think Albuquerque is an unusually good city for excellent chow, I just don't think upscale is its forte. There is decent upscale dining to be found, but nearly every eatery has its peaks and valleys.
To that end, although I find the food at Savoy to be about on par with its siblings (competent, tasty, but ultimately a little soulless), it actually might be among your better bets in that if nothing else, you'd very likely get a good, well-executed product.