The news broke last week: Jean Bernstein is closing a third Flying Star restaurant, this one the incredible space on Silver and 8th downtown. Whatever you think of Flying Star – and a lot of people love to hate it – the local chain is an Albuquerque institution that regularly wins “Best of” in almost a dozen categories in local food polls. And while most Flying Star restaurants boast gorgeous interior design, the Downtown location is a true showpiece, with a soaring two-story ceiling, a balcony level overlooking the main floor, and sweeping gold-accented murals. Besides these grand spaces, it also has quiet, tucked-away spots: diner-like booths next to the open kitchen, an outdoor second-story balcony, a circle of comfy couches and chairs at the back of the second floor.
Bernstein says the closing is due to reduced clientele in a faltering Downtown scene; those of us rooting for healthy, vibrant growth there hope she’s wrong. Rumors are swirling, but it’s known that the Flying Star brand has been in trouble lately, with those two previous store closings in Santa Fe and Bernalillo and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Incidentally, the Albuquerque Journal reports that the Downtown location was listed as “profitable” in that filing.
The beautiful building originally housed the Southern Gas Company, and was designed by famed New Mexico architect John Gaw Meem, known for such projects as UNM’s Zimmerman Library. The remodel was completed and the restaurant opened in 2005. We’ve enjoyed the fabulous building for 10 years, and it’s sad to see this incarnation end.
On the bright side, the lease will be available on November 1. Fingers crossed that a new tenant will bring a spectacular vision to the glorious space. And, of course, if you are a fan of Flying Star’s bounteous salads (I’m addicted to the Chinese Crunch with a soy chicken patty) and pricey but delicious desserts, a half dozen locations remain for you to get your fix.
If you want to get one last look at the place while it’s still Flying Star, the restaurant is open for the rest of the week. Its last day of operation is this Friday, October 23, and it will be a customer appreciation day.