By Chris Mayo • Photos courtesy of Jessica Fox
If you’ve lived in the East Mountains for a while, you likely have a few “go to” places to show visitors from out of state:
Madrid, Santa Fe, and certainly the top of the Sandias, which is accessible either by driving up the Sandia Crest Byway and then walking two miles south to the Peak, or by heading to the front of the mountain and taking the tram.
For years, visitors who made the trek either way were rewarded not only with fresh mountain air and spectacular views but also the opportunity to enjoy lunch, dinner, and drinks at the High Finance restaurant. That is, until a few years ago, when the Abruzzo family, the principle owners for over 60 years of the tram, Sandia Peak Ski area, and all associated operations, shut it down.
“We knew the building was in dire need of rehab,” says Benny Abruzzo, president of Ten 3, “and that’s what we considered first. But when we started digging into what it would take to truly bring the building up to standard, it was obvious that tearing it down and replacing it with a state-of-the-art structure was the right way to go.”
About three years and $7.5 million after that decision, Ten 3, a nod to the Sandia Mountains’ nearly two-mile-high elevation (10,300 feet), opened for business in mid-August. The Abruzzos and their partners were looking to create more than just a place to get something to eat and drink—their goal was to wow visitors with high-quality food, magnificent 360-degree views, and an atmosphere unrivaled anywhere else in New Mexico.
The building is an angular modern structure of wood and glass that mimics the sharp angles of the craggy west face of the Sandia’s. Its west side, comprised of floor-to-ceiling windows, butts right up to the edge of the cliff, giving diners a sense that they are floating in space high above the city.
The restaurant is divided into three main spaces—a bar serving wine, craft beers, and specialty cocktails, a casual dining area, and a formal dining section, open evenings only for dinner by reservation. Unlike High Finance, one need not wait for a table next to a window to experience the majesty of the mountain—every seat is a seat with a view.
The menu offers an eclectic array of regional and national specialties, with the goal of making the food as unique and high quality as the surroundings. Lunch includes bar-food staples like burgers, sandwiches, and salads as well as unexpected items like Puget Sound oysters on the half shell with red-chile cocktail sauce. Dinner ranges from the classic (grilled rib eye, king salmon, lamb loin) to the creative (New Mexican-style paella) to several vegetarian options (crispy cauliflower steak with coconut curried lentils, Yukon Gold potato and tomato tart with spinach and wild mushrooms).
“From start to finish, our vision was to create something really special,” says Abruzzo. “Of course, we had great professionals working with us, but we also stayed completely involved throughout the project.”
Abruzzo’s wife, Sandra, chose all the art from Ventana art gallery in Santa Fe. She also chose the furniture with an eye toward simplicity and durability. The combination creates an artsy-but-casual vibe in the bar area and one of understated elegance in the formal dining space. Abruzzo sought to use the highest quality hardwoods and other finishes. He did most of the finish work himself.
Whether one rides the tram or drives to the top and hikes over to the restaurant, Ten 3 is a great place to hang out and relax—and, just like High Finance, it is also situated close to the main ski lift, so skiers can enjoy the atmosphere, too.
As the longest aerial tram in North America, the Sandia Peak Tramway takes visitors on a 2.7-mile ride through four different life zones, starting in the high desert and ending in an Alpine environment. Since 1966, when it first went into service, the tram has been a part of the Abruzzo family legacy of showcasing the best our state has to offer. Now Ten 3 can be added to that legacy, a destination for visitors and locals alike for years to come.
For menus and hours of operation, go to www.ten3tram.com.
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