Mom’s the word

Pasatiempo - - RESTAURANT REVIEW - Lau­rel Glad­den

Would it be weird to say that An­gel’s Bak­ery and Café is al­most too nice for Santa Fe? I don’t mean nice in a fancy, up­scale-dining sort of way. I mean that the sweet lit­tle restau­rant and pas­try shop — which re­lo­cated from St. Michael’s Drive to the street-level sec­tion of the for­mer Cata­mount Bar & Grille — is so clean, well-lit, com­pletely free of pre­tense or quirk, and peo­pled by cour­te­ous, con­sid­er­ate in­di­vid­u­als that it kind of feels like an anom­aly. With its creamy walls, bright but in­di­rect light­ing, white table­cloths, and sim­ple porce­lain plates, it’s a far cry from the dark-wood-pan­eled bar it re­placed, which was of­ten rowdy and usu­ally smelled faintly like stale beer and mop wa­ter. An­gel’s is the sort of place you’d take your mother and grand­mother for lunch.

The food isn’t mind-blow­ing, but it isn’t bad, ei­ther — just gen­er­ous por­tions of good, regular food with pre­sen­ta­tion that ranges from util­i­tar­ian to pretty (if such a thing can be said about a plate of huevos rancheros). Ev­ery­thing ar­rives at your ta­ble im­pres­sively quickly, and your wa­ter glass or cof­fee cup will never be empty.

Where lo­cals once bel­lied up at the bar, a glow­ing pas­try case chock-full of good­ies prac­ti­cally ra­di­ates temp­ta­tion with its over­size crois­sants, cin­na­mon rolls that are fluffy and airy and not too sweet, and var­i­ous cakes. There’s a gen­tly sweet, not overly sticky tres leches cake and an in­trigu­ing but mild rice cake, which is some­thing like rice pud­ding in solid form. Beer taps have been re­placed with an espresso ma­chine and big carafes of Aroma Cof­fee.

An­gel’s serves break­fast and lunch un­til 5 p.m. — that means clas­sic morn­ing items like eggs and pancakes but also tacos, en­chi­ladas, burg­ers, sal­ads, and sand­wiches. A dish that works morn­ing, noon, and night, my over­size plate of golden-yolked huevos rancheros was over­flow­ing with per­fectly tex­tured and sea­soned black beans, red and green chile, cheese, and hash browns, with a lovely, lively, col­or­ful bonus gar­nish of sautéed onion, tomato, and jalapeño.

The break­fast bur­rito is the smoth­ered sort, stuffed full of scram­bled egg and topped with cheese and chile, with hash browns, beans, and a tiny fresh green salad on the side. How­ever, ev­ery­one would ben­e­fit if the restau­rant of­fered an eas­ier-to-eat hand-held ver­sion with the chile, cheese, pota­toes, and maybe beans in­side to tem­per all that egg.

Both the Cae­sar and Greek sal­ads start with gi­ant chilled bowls of crisp, cool ro­maine. Our Cae­sar had just the right amount of salty, gar­licky, pi­quant house-made dress­ing but a few too many croutons. A tangy, herby dress­ing was also pre­cisely ap­plied to the Greek salad, with its mild and milky feta, briny black olives, some wedges of mod­er­ately ripe tomato, and crisp strips of green bell pep­per. The kitchen piles on more raw red onion than I care to eat mid­day, though.

Rather than the crispy beer-bat­tered sort you’d find at a board­walk stand in Cal­i­for­nia, the fish tacos here are the fancier, health­ier va­ri­ety. Nuggets of well-sea­soned fish are sautéed and wrapped in dou­ble corn tor­tillas along with fresh mixed greens and de­li­ciously saline pink pick­led onion. (The fish is very juicy, so you re­ally might need that ex­tra tor­tilla.) For ex­tra kick, salsa and more of those black beans are served on the side. There must be a gi­ant vat of those things bub­bling on a burner in the kitchen at all times.

The menu claims the house tuna salad is “made with mayo, peas, green beans, corn, and car­rots,” but I didn’t spy any of those crunchy ad­di­tions in our tuna wrap — and, frankly, that’s a good thing. What we had for lunch was a per­fectly ac­cept­able mayo-based tuna salad rolled up in a typ­i­cal white flat­bread. Tuna salad doesn’t need to be re­de­fined.

Also mild and unas­sum­ing but still sat­is­fy­ing is the turkey panini. It could stand a lit­tle more time get­ting toasty in the press, but the moz­zarella was mostly melted into an en­joy­able mess with meat, tomato slices, and let­tuce. The salad we or­dered on the side was an over­flow­ing bowl of fresh greens and col­or­ful veggies.

If your ap­petite is heartier, go for the pas­trami burger. Yep, that’s beef topped with beef — a half-pound patty crowned with sliced pep­pery-smoked meat, Swiss cheese, and caramelized red onions on a sweet soft-brioche-style bun (sadly, the kitchen had run out of the green chile ched­dar va­ri­ety). The tawny fries were ad­dic­tively salty, starchy, and crisp.

We were tempted by the na­chos and chile cheese fries ad­ver­tised in plas­tic table­top dis­plays, but those are foods that beg for a beer, and An­gel’s doesn’t have a liquor li­cense yet. Var­i­ous par­ties are talk­ing about turn­ing the up­per level back into a bar, in which case An­gel’s might pro­vide food for tipsy pa­trons. That sounds like a bar even my grand­mother would like.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.