Res­tau­rant Re­view

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Alex Heard

Ram­blin’ Cafe

The Ram­blin’ Café — a pop­u­lar fam­ily res­tau­rant that marked its 11th an­niver­sary in April — is an easy place to miss, partly be­cause it’s on a side street off Cer­ril­los Road, tucked away at one end of a shop­ping cen­ter that doesn’t have a lot go­ing on these days. From north to south, there’s the café, some blank space, a nurse prac­ti­tion­ers’ of­fice promis­ing “Beau­ti­ful Skin,” and an old-fash­ioned birth­day-party-style bak­ery called A Cake Odyssey.

The café’s en­trance com­bines glar­ing pan­els of re­flec­tive glass with bold white letters, which sig­nal that this is a noth­ing-fancy, short-or­der kind of eatery: a Frito pie, fried taquitos, a chile bowl, and a stuffed sopaip­illa, among other high-calo­rie de­lights, are ad­ver­tised on the ex­te­rior. In­side you’ll find drip-stained drop ceil­ings; an or­der­ing counter with a wide, densely worded menu mounted above it; and some sur­pris­ingly good food. The no-snobs-need-ap­ply in­te­rior feels very wel­com­ing: There’s a flat-screen tele­vi­sion mounted in one cor­ner, a wall par­tially cov­ered in pho­to­graphs, and ca­sual seat­ing around a sprawl­ing ar­ray of square ta­bles. It’s the kind of res­tau­rant that breeds lo­cal reg­u­lars, and if you’re there dur­ing the work­week, you’ll see plenty of them.

The menu is big, and it’s heavy on rise-and-shine stuff — break­fast is served all day — in­clud­ing huevos rancheros, carne adovada and eggs, and a sig­na­ture item called “morn­ing pan fry” that con­sists of eggs, spinach, sautéed mush­rooms in bal­samic vinai­grette, toma­toes, onions, cheese, and pota­toes and is served with toast or a tor­tilla. For lunch, you can or­der from an ex­ten­sive list of New Mexico stan­dards (tamales, chile rel­lenos, tacos, In­dian tacos, bur­ri­tos, en­chi­ladas, and more) or from a burger-and-sand­wiches ros­ter that con­tains 21 dif­fer­ent of­fer­ings.

The kitchen’s mas­ter­minds make food on a hu­man scale, un­like many restau­rants to­day, whose over­sized por­tions seem like they should be served on hub­caps. Try the huevos rancheros and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a sim­ple, de­li­cious, tidy ar­range­ment that will fill you up but won’t leave you feel­ing cross-eyed. Mine con­sisted of two ex­pertly fried eggs on a tor­tilla bed, a ser­vice­able red chile sauce, beans, hash browns, and cheese, all of which came to­gether just right. I’ll go back and have that again.

Be aware, though, that some of the food here is spicier than you might ex­pect. And I don’t just mean the sauces: the green I had was pretty hot, but the red was fairly mild. The real is­sue is the food it­self, which oc­ca­sion­ally has a level of ground spice (ei­ther blended chili pow­der or dried red chile, I’m guess­ing) that steadily builds on your tongue as you work through your or­der. I no­ticed this with two meals in par­tic­u­lar: a break­fast que­sadilla with chorizo and an en­chi­lada combo, which in­cluded two rolled cheese en­chi­ladas, a chile rel­leno, a pork tamale, a beef taco, beans, and rice. Ev­ery­thing in both dishes was made well, us­ing good in­gre­di­ents, but in both cases I was un­able to fin­ish be­cause I couldn’t stand the heat. Maybe I’m just weak, but don’t be sur­prised if you feel the burn, too.

The spice-blast thing didn’t hap­pen ev­ery time, though. Dur­ing two vis­its, I sam­pled two dif­fer­ent dishes fea­tur­ing carne adovada, a New Mexico sta­ple that isn’t es­pe­cially spicy at the Ram­blin’ Café. The qual­ity of an adovada tends to vary depend­ing on how long the meat has been stew­ing. For lunch one day, I or­dered adovada tacos, and the meat was great: ten­der with­out be­ing over­cooked. But on a dif­fer­ent trip, for break­fast, my din­ing com­pan­ion tried it — in the adovada and eggs — and it was stringy and dry. The kitchen masked this by slather­ing the chunks of meat with red sauce, but that didn’t quite solve the prob­lem.

From the burger-and-sand­wich sec­tion, one of my com­pan­ions tried the dou­ble green chile cheese­burger, which was noth­ing spe­cial, and cer­tainly not on a par with the café’s best New Mex­i­can food: a generic sesame-seeded bun, two beef pat­ties slapped to­gether in the mid­dle, chopped green chile, a pale tomato slice, onion, ice­berg let­tuce, and a piece of par­tially melted Amer­i­can cheese. Santa Fe’s green chile cheese­burger scene is com­pet­i­tive, and this ver­sion wouldn’t win any prizes, but all in all, the Ram­blin’ Café is a good place to wan­der into.

Ram­blin’ Café

1420 Sec­ond St., 505-989-1272 Break­fast and lunch 7:00 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon­daysFri­days; 7:00 a.m.-2 p.m. Satur­days; closed

Sun­days

Take­out avail­able Veg­e­tar­ian op­tions Hand­i­capped ac­ces­si­ble Noise level: quiet

No al­co­hol Credit cards, lo­cal checks

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