The definition of a light lunch @ Hartford Square.

Great expectations. That is how I would describe the initial part of my visit to Hartford Square, a rather new eatery near downtown Albuquerque.

Now, I know everything is relative. If one compares my lunch at Hartford Square with, let’s say, the ubiquitous bean burrito or the average, greasy pizza, then we have a pretty good outcome. If, on the other hand, one expects comforting, homemade, fresh fare, you might be disappointed, as I was.

The venue is small but airy. It is decorated in a black & white palette, with a strange distribution of space: a large kitchen, a very narrow bar area and a small dining spot at the end. As you enter, behind a glass case, some of the menu items such as the frittata, pot pies, quiches and curried chicken salad are on display alongside the desserts. They are all precooked. That is the first hint that the emphasis is on the “quick” and “to go” parts of the menu. As convenient as this may be for the hurried downtown dweller, it makes for an unsatisfactory dine in experience.

While ordering, I was told the lunch frittata did not come with any side (?) Instead I was given the option of the “frittata+salad lunch combo”, which I chose. My fellow diner chose the lunch special: a grilled, grass-fed, local, organic sirloin on homemade oatmeal bun w/melted jack & roasted peppers. Great expectations indeed.

My frittata was reheated and quite chewy as a result. It lacked salt and spice as well. The salad turned out to be a handful of greens with a minuscule sprinkle of mediocre Parmesan cheese and a fittingly succinct amount of dressing on the side (no choice on the kind). All in all, quite a minimalistic salad, with no hint of any additional ingredient besides lettuce.

The sirloin was tender and neatly cut in small strips. The portion, as with the frittata, was quite small. A thin slice of melted cheese and two strips of red pepper inside a smallish bun completed the sandwich. Since it was ordered “as is”, the sandwich came alone atop a big white plate that only accentuated its petite appearance. Three tiny lettuce leaves garnished the side of the sandwich.

The experience could have stayed a neutral one (although we were not likely to return) until I made the mistake of rating Hartford Square online. Mind you that I gave them 3 out of 5 stars, but apparently my opinion was met with disapproval and I received a less than agreeable response. I was made to feel like I was an ignorant peasant with no understanding of what constitutes good food and confused about my own taste. The solution I was offered was simple: if you thought the portions were small, you should have ordered several of our items instead of “just” one lunch combo. That is why our menu is “a la carte”, they explained.

Well, I recommend that you think of Hartford Square as a place to grab a quick coffee and perhaps a sweet treat. If you are celiac, the choices are very limited indeed. None of the sandwiches or burritos are offered in gluten free varieties. Neither are the pot pies or the quiche with only a couple of desserts being gluten free (although no ingredient lists were available).