Sometimes you just want to be on the roof. When I was about 13 years old, I discovered that I could clamber up onto the roof of my childhood home and get a few moments of angst-ridden introspection before having to return to the ground-level realities of schoolwork and family strife. Even today, I secretly look forward to swamp cooler maintenance because it affords me the view and aloof isolation that my inner-surly teenager relishes.
A rooftop bar holds the same sort of appeal, I suppose. The elevated view, of course; perhaps the aloofness as you look down on the peons below. And you can get positively introspective if you lean out over the railing a bit and let the Albuquerque wind romantically tousle your hair. Ideally, the rooftop bar is an escape, a step away from and above the day-to-day realities of the city below. But you’ll pay for the privilege.
Ibiza, located on the second story of the historic Hotel Andaluz, offers a rooftop view. Its Second and Copper location isn’t ideal for people watching, however, nor is it a particularly beautiful landscape to look down on (unless you’re fond of the Convention Center parking lot). Still, you are up there, and on an early Summer evening with just enough of a chill in the air that the fire-topped fountain is lit, you can approach that feeling of solace.
On our visit, my wife and I took it all in: the heat from the aforementioned fountain, the potted plants and tastefully appointed furniture—couches for lounging, counters overlooking the ledge for those who fancy a view of the lower world, traditional dining tables for those who need more room for their tapas—and a handful of Albuquerque scenesters trying to pretend they were in L.A.
I ordered a classic mojito ($10), and Courtney had a cucumber-jalapeño margarita ($12), both of which are house specialties. The mojito was of the subdued variety, both in sweetness (good) and in alcohol content (bad), but it was refreshing enough if I didn’t think too much about the price tag. The cucumber-jalapeño margarita, on the other hand, was an outstanding cocktail and I say that as someone with a deep-seated suspicion of all “variant” ’ritas. It’s a peppery little number with only a minimal sweetness to counter the tequila’s bite, and the cucumber keeps it cool even as your tongue dances with the heat. For my second round, I skipped the mojito, and Courtney and I partook of our new favorite drink together.
Ibiza, located on the second story of the historic Hotel Andaluz, offers a rooftop view. Its Second and Copper location isn’t ideal for people watching, however, nor is it a particularly beautiful landscape to look down on (unless you’re fond of the Convention Center parking lot).
Ibiza is a tapas place, meaning that there’s little in the way of full meals on the menu. Other than a few artisan pizzas (none of which were available on my visit; they “come and go” the server told me), the kitchen is devoted to “small plates”—appetizer portions with a full meal price tag. This didn’t bother me when it came to the Andaluz dates ($8), which are stuffed with almond and then wrapped with bacon and drizzled with a cream sauce—they are a particularly flavorful morsel: salty, savory and sweet exploding in the mouth with each bite. I only wished there were more of them. The same can be said for the chimichurri shrimp ($14). The meaty shrimp have a golden finish and a touch of smoke that will make you feel a few hundred miles closer to the gulf. Dip them in mango salsa for a sweet contrast. Again, they just disappeared too quickly for the cost (the skewer holds only five).
The green chile strips ($7) on the other hand are a weak link. The chile is bland and heatless and the effect is more of an elongated and limp jalapeño popper than the southwestern delicacy I hoped to discover. The Kobe beef sliders ($10) join the strips on the “don’t bother” portion of the menu. An order nets you three mini-burgers—we’re talking smaller than White Castle’s famous (and cheap) variety that inspired the “slider” term. The beef is good, mind you, but the portion is only suited to the hobbit-sized among us (though not those with a hobbit’s appetite).
Am I harping about prices too much? Probably. But there’s a reason. I don’t mind a more expensive dining option, but for such a thing to work, I need to feel like I’m experiencing something special, that the cost of the food and cocktails are worthwhile because of the quality and artistry of the dish and the rarified atmosphere. A good pricey restaurant should take you out of your day-to-day life and put you in a fantasy of the finer things. At a rooftop bar, you should find yourself in an aloof bubble, happy to spend the extra money to literally feel “above it all.”
Ibiza, frankly, does not quite achieve this. From the view of the Convention Center parking lot to the “small plates” that more than live up to the name, the fantasy—like the dishes themselves—is gone too soon. I never felt as if I was transcending my mundane reality. Instead, I felt like I was paying too much for too little food.