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ROUTE 66

Pig and Calf Lunch
Albuquerque, New Mexico

 

 

Albuquerque Pig and Calf Postcard

Albuquerque Pig and Calf Lunch
Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program

To the casual observer passing by on today’s Central Avenue in Albuquerque, the Pig and Calf Lunch could slip past without a second glance, branded as it is as a contemporary sandwich shop. But a closer look reveals more. Black and white ceramic tiles cover the surface, in stark contrast to the brick and stucco of neighboring businesses. The words “Pig and Calf,” partially obscured by age, adorn a black tile frieze; a stylized pig and calf sit silently to either side, a playful reminder of what was once offered inside. This is a building of times gone by.

A restaurant called The Pig Stand opened at 2106 E. Central Avenue in 1924. Whether or not it was affiliated with the Pig Stand chain out of Dallas is unclear. By 1926, it had a new owner, Charlie Ellis, and went by the name Pig and Calf Barbecue – “The Home of Barbecued Meats.” It seems still to have been known colloquially as the Pig Stand. Ellis opened what was alternately called Charlie’s Pig Stand #2 or the Pig and Calf Barbecue #2 on North 4th St. (which at the time was Route 66) in 1932, although this closed shortly before the construction of the current building in 1935 on the site of the original Pig Stand at 2106 E. Central, opposite the University of New Mexico on what would become, two years later, the new alignment of Route 66.

Ellis kept his restaurant open during construction, moving the older building to the back of the lot, no doubt keeping his customers happy and his income flowing. The new building opened for business on May 14, 1935, to some fanfare. Perhaps the opening-night free beer (for men – ladies received flowers, and children candy) helped foster enthusiasm. Local businesses took out a number of advertisements in the local paper congratulating Ellis on the opening of his new Pig Stand, suggesting both he and the café enjoyed significant local prominence and goodwill.

Albuquerque Pig and Calf, 2013
Albuquerque Pig and Calf Lunch, 2013
Jason Stuart

The new building was described as “attractively white-tiled inside and out,” with “private booths” and “horseshoe counter.” Ellis’s own ad in the Albuquerque Journal touted it as “new – larger – very elaborate.” While one contemporary source referred to it as the Pig and Calf Lunch, this name, if used at all, did not last long, and the Pig Stand Café remained a top draw for locals as well as for travelers along the Mother Road. Ellis, obviously, was well aware of his plum location; postcards from the late 1930s advertise the Pig Stand as “Opposite the University on Route 66.”

By the mid-50s, though, the Pig Stand was closed, replaced for the better part of a decade by the University Café, and then by Campus Laundry and Cleaners. It remained a laundromat until taken over by the Pita Pit in 2006.

Like its neighbor just to the west, the Cottage Bakery, the Pig and Calf is a story of survival despite the absence of the long-term success of a single establishment. It stands today as a telling reminder of the ways roadside businesses could combine eye-catching design, modern amenities, and whimsical imagery to lure customers. Although no longer “The Home of Barbecued Meats,” it remains an evocative piece of Route 66’s architectural history.

Plan your visit
Pig and Calf Lunch, now the Pita Pit, is located at at 2106 Central Ave. SE, in Albuquerque, NM. It is open from 10:00am to 3:00am Monday through Friday, from 11:00am to 3:00am on Saturdays, and from 11:00am to 12:00am on Sundays. For information, visit the Pita Pit website or call 505-242-7482. The building is wheelchair accessible.
 
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