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KRQE: New 3-business concept along Route 66 combines food, drinks, and pickleball

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A new three-business concept that combines food, drinks, and pickleball is in the works along historic Route 66 near Old Town in Albuquerque.

Erin Wade, the owner of Vinaigrette, has relocated the wellness-focused restaurant to the site where her other concept, Modern General Feed & Seed, was once located at 1720 Central Avenue SW. The change does not stop there, as Wade plans to open two more businesses next to Vinaigrette in the Country Club Plaza: The Pickle Baller and Tiny’s.

Wade said the goal of the new three-business collaborative is to create a space where the community can gather. “In the last four years, I think there’s been a lot more isolation that we just, that was kind of imposed, that we haven’t really broken out of that habit,” Wade explained. “So as a restaurant owner, I’m trying to come up with creative ways to get people back out together.”

To encourage engagement among guests and keep up with the company’s emphasis on wellness, The Pickle Baller will feature a full-sized pickleball court located in the middle of the three businesses. On the inside of The Pickle Baller, visitors will find a bar/lounge that will serve drinks and food. Wade described the menu as: “It’s kind of Mediterranean meets Southwest with a little bit of some, you know, great seafood options thrown in for a nod to the Northwest sort of origin of pickleball,” Wade added.

The Pickle Baller will be open to everyone, whether they play or not, and it will also offer a private membership option.

Across the pickleball court is where Tiny’s, a food truck concept, will operate out of a small Airstream trailer. People will be able to order their food at the trailer and then sit in a shaded outdoor seating area. “It’s super kid- and dog-friendly and oriented. So it’s going to serve tiny burgers, tiny breakfast tacos, great beverages, coffee drinks,” Wade said.

Wade explained that the Airstream trailer, and a new neon sign for The Pickle Baller, are a nod to Historic Route 66 and the previous Horn Motor Lodge and Horn Oil Co., which once operated at the same location in 1946.

According to the Country Club Plaza website, the Motor Lodge section was demolished in 2006, but the original Horn Oil buildings remain today and house several businesses, now including Vinaigrette and The Pickle Baller. “Albuquerque has historically been a Route 66 city, and so we really wanted to celebrate that,” Wade said.

The new neon sign is being funded by a $35,000 grant from the City of Albuquerque’s “Revamp Route 66: Sign Improvement Grant Program.” The sign will feature two pickleball paddles and a ball on top. Flashing neon lights will be used to make the ball appear as if it is moving back and forth between the paddles. Below that will be the slogan “dinks and drinks,” and on the bottom will be a marquee sign.

The Pickle Baller neon sign rendering. (Credit: Brink Creative)

The total cost for the three business concept is well over one million dollars, according to Wade. Property owner Jay Rembe helped with the extensive remodeling of the historic location, and Jeff Krolicki, the owner of Maker Architects and Wade’s fiancé, is the architect for the projects.

Both The Pickle Baller and Tiny’s are in the construction phase and should open in June and May, respectively. Meanwhile, Vinaigrette is open for business at the new location. Guests there have the option to sit inside or outside on one of the two new patios.