Second Street Brewery at the Railyard
My loyalty to Second Street Brewery at the Railyard was cemented on a sunny but frigid day last winter. I was near the Plaza, marching around with some out-of-town visitors, when we all realized we were hungry. It was a busy day for tourists, and stops at various popular downtown places resulted in the grim spectacle of long lines. By then, “hungry” had morphed into “very hungry,” so I quickly reviewed our options and double-timed us over to the Railyard.
Things were bustling there, too, but we lucked out: We were seated after just a few minutes, and before long there were good draft beers on the table and decent brewpub food on the way. The waiters were stressed and overworked, but they did right by us at every turn. The experience was a reminder that, for years, Santa Feans have been fortunate to have this spacious and pleasant restaurant as an anchor in the Railyard area, through good economic times and bad.
Whether you go to Second Street day or night, this is a great place to socialize. The staff will gladly accommodate groups, and the outdoor seating area, which offers a good view of the Rail Runner’s comings and goings, is a fun spot on a summer afternoon or evening. There’s also a trivia night — Geeks Who Drink, held on Thursdays — and live music on weekends.
Which isn’t to say Second Street is perfect. Under normal circumstances, I tend to rate it as a dependable place to drink and a weaker choice for lunch or dinner, an impression that held up during two recent visits.
The flagship Second Street Brewery and restaurant — at 1814 Second St. — produces the many different craft beers that are sold here. At the Railyard restaurant, your table’s condiment caddy will feature a list of regular offerings — everything from a light kolsch to hoppy IPAs to a rich, dark Belgian stout — and a wall-mounted menu of the eight beers available that day. (The wall list is more accurate.) In addition to beer, there’s a short wine list, hard cider, and a range of soft drinks. If you can’t find something to drink among all that, you’d better signal for a glass of water.
During a dinner trip with two other people, I opted for the lavish Original Alien Burger, which won the Judge’s Choice Award at the 2014 Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. This tall-stack creation requires the use of two hands, because there’s a lot of stuff sliding around: a thick patty of Black Angus beef, smoked bacon, melted cheese, green chile, a blue corn chile relleno, fried onions, guacamole, and chipotle mayo. I liked it, but it’s definitely both a mess and a calorie bomb. It comes with fries, which makes for an even heavier payload. If that’s more food than you want, ask about getting a side salad in place of the fries.
Everything else we tried that night was heavy, too. We shared an appetizer of so-so potato skins that were striped with sour cream and sprinkled with scallion greens and salsa, and we tried two hearty sandwiches, one featuring the Railyard’s popular pulled pork and the other a patty melt with buffalo meat. Both were fine, but neither was outstanding. Like a lot of barbecue in Santa Fe, the pulled pork got its flavor primarily from the sauce.
During a second visit, for lunch, I tried items that featured more variety, starting with an appetizer for two called the New Mexico Farmer’s Plate. The centerpiece: two generous patties of good, spicy lamb sausage. Accompanying that was a sprout salad with carrots and a lemony dressing, cornichons, a couple of serviceable chutneys, bland sliced cheese, and a skimpy-sized piece of French bread. (For what it’s worth, the menu advertised “toast points.”)
My lunch entree was disappointing: pan-seared trout with a blue corn crust and a red sauce described as “chile beurre blanc.” This would be a white butter sauce with red chile added — an interesting concept, but it tasted dull compared with standard red chile sauce. The trout was leathery, and the vegetables on the side — green beans and cubes of sweet potato — tasted watery. I soothed myself with a brownie sundae, a guilty pleasure that consists of a warm chocolate brownie, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and caramel and chocolate sauces.
Second Street Brewery at the Railyard does good business, so there’s probably no particular urgency there about the food menu. Still, a little more attention to detail and ingredients would be nice, because it might transform this restaurant from a “maybe” to a “must.”