Monday, April 19, 2010

San Marcos Feed Store and Cafe

Another stop on my solo tour of New Mexico "mom and pops."
I'd read a few reviews of the San Marcos Cafe. Everyone mentions the hearty breakfasts, the cinnamon rolls, the free ranging birds that greet you as you stroll to the front door . . . but not once had I read that the cafe is actually part of, and listed as, The San Marcos Feed Store. My kind of place.
If you are from out of town, or don't know what you are looking for, you could easily drive by the plain Jane adobe wall with a tiny "Cafe Open" sign. Once inside you find what I've come to expect in these seemingly rural (the decidedly not rural city of Santa Fe and it's nearly 150,000 residents is a mere 10 minutes away -- at most) cafes -- hearty food, red and green chili, and waitresses that greet customers by name. Although the city has changed quite a bit since I first drove through the Santa Fe Plaza some 25 years ago, Northern New Mexico has largely escaped the suburban sprawl and repeating collection of chain stores that makes one city in California (or the Eastern seaboard for that matter) indistinguishable from the next. There is open space to enjoy and in the openness, if you look hard enough, you'll find places like the San Marcos Cafe waiting for you -- waiting to know your name.I'm not really a fan of breakfast sweets. I generally pass by cinnamon rolls (although they are one of James' favorites). But when a roll, home made on the premises, gets as much press as the lofty version at the San Marcos Cafe it seems like a must try. These aren't the doughy tightly baked in a sheet pan and thickly iced versions most American restaurants label cinnamon rolls. There is something vaguely French about them -- the dough is flaky and delicate, the thin spread of cinnamon filling only barely sweet, and the outside, because they are baked in individual muffin tins (or popover pans or something close), are slightly dry and irresistibly crisp. The roll could very well set a new standard. If you look around the homey restaurant you'll see at least one on nearly every table.
Breakfast is a favorite meal in Santa Fe and its environs and there are a variety of restaurants dedicated to the first meal of the day -- serving lunch almost as a sideline (the San Marcos Cafe is open daily until 2 pm). The menus generally offer a choice of meats -- that might be pork carnitas, carne adovado (pork stewed in red chili sauce), braised or grilled beef or bacon, eggs, tortillas, potatoes, beans and sometimes cheese. Similar combinations of ingredients surface as burritos (usually without the eggs) or chili bowls for lunch. After you order the question is always the same in this part of New Mexico. "Red or Green?" Chili sauce that is. I opted for carnitas, eggs, and a side of their delicious, deeply flavored (not just hot) red chili sauce -- one of the better versions I've had on my informal chili eating tour.
There are daily specials which often seem to be a couple of soups, enchiladas, an egg salad sandwich (they do have a lot of birds around -- I didn't ask where the eggs were from) and -- though some might find it odd, the quiche (more eggs) of the day. Tempting offerings but I don't think I'll ever be able to resist their red chili sauce.
Now that I know my way, I'll go back to the San Marcos Cafe (well actually I've already been again). If you happen to be on Hwy 14 South of Santa Fe -- stop in for breakfast and maybe a bale of hay to go, they'll be happy to know you, and breakfast will be worth the trip.

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