Res­tau­rant Re­view Te­colote Café

Pasatiempo - - CONTENT -

If you’ve been around Santa Fe for long, you prob­a­bly know the ba­sics of the Te­colote Café saga. Founded in 1980 by the late Alice and Bill Jen­ni­son, Te­colote (which means “owl” in Nahu­atl and Span­ish, though the place was ac­tu­ally named for a small old vil­lage near Las Ve­gas, New Mexico) served com­fort food for 34 years be­fore clos­ing in the spring of 2014, af­ter los­ing its lease as part of a re­ported land­lord dis­pute. The dis­tinc­tive Cer­ril­los Road build­ing that once housed Te­colote — white stucco with bright-yel­low win­dow trim — has been razed, but the res­tau­rant re­opened this sum­mer in the Vil­lage West shop­ping cen­ter on St. Michael’s Drive. The menu isn’t ex­actly the same as be­fore, but it’s close enough, and Te­colote still goes by a dis­tinc­tive motto that hints at its pen­chant for real baked goods: “Great break­fast, no toast.”

The new Te­colote is in a much roomier and airier space than the old one. It sits just to the right of the de­funct Cinemacafé, in a re­fur­bished in­te­rior that con­tains two big din­ing rooms, a cou­ple of smaller ones, and a long din­ing bar along the south wall. The old Te­colote was a Santa Fe in­sti­tu­tion, and you could ex­pect to wait if you went there dur­ing prime-time break­fast hours on a week­end. The new edi­tion was a hit the mo­ment it opened — fans had been an­tic­i­pat­ing its re­turn for months and were ea­ger to go back — and waits are still likely, even with the larger serv­ing ar­eas fac­tored in.

As be­fore, Te­colote is a break­fast-and-lunch-only res­tau­rant with a lot to choose from: a large va­ri­ety of egg dishes, pan­cakes, burgers, soups, and North­ern New Mexico lunch en­trees like a tamale plate, Frito pie, and tostadas. Most or­ders come with a bak­ery bas­ket or tor­tilla. The bak­ery bas­ket is one of the nicer touches you’ll find in a res­tau­rant in this city.

On a re­cent trip for break­fast, we started with cof­fee, tea, or­ange and cran­berry juice, and the bak­ery bas­ket, which con­tained a blue­berry muf­fin, a green chile muf­fin, and a bis­cuit. Te­colote’s bis­cuits aren’t any­thing spe­cial; they’re heavy and on the bready side. But the muffins held their own, es­pe­cially the green chile one — a nice com­bi­na­tion that con­tains (among other things) corn­meal and diced green chile. None of the three bev­er­ages were mem­o­rable, de­spite the hype on the menu (“bot­tom­less fresh ground cof­fee,” “fresh squeezed or­ange juice”). In typ­i­cal diner fash­ion, the cof­fee I had was weak and warm; the or­ange juice was pulpy, but it didn’t have the taste of fresh-squeezed.

If this sounds like the start of a gripefest, it isn’t, re­ally. Te­colote has a pleas­ant, cheer­ful vibe. It’s a nice place to so­cial­ize, be­cause you can hear your­self talk, por­tions are gen­er­ous, and the servers are friendly and fast. But as of­ten hap­pens with a res­tau­rant that does this much vol­ume, the qual­ity of in­gre­di­ents and dishes can be un­even, which we no­ticed in both of our main break­fast or­ders that day. I had the eggs Bene­dict, which ar­rived warm, not hot, and fea­tured a bright-yel­low hol­landaise sauce. The poached eggs were all right, but they sat on a fla­vor­less split English muf­fin and very thin slices of Cana­dian ba­con. My din­ing com­pan­ion or­dered two pan­cakes: toll­house (cho­co­late chips and wal­nuts) and atole piñon (in this case, “atole” means the pan­cake con­tains corn­meal). Nei­ther was bad, nei­ther was great, and both were a lit­tle short on the more costly ad­ver­tised in­gre­di­ents: cho­co­late chips, wal­nuts, and pine nuts.

On a sec­ond visit — a lunch trip on a weekday — the brisk wait­ers’ pace mor­phed into some­thing else: We felt rushed, which was not nec­es­sary be­cause the res­tau­rant was busy but not packed. I or­dered a tor­tilla burger with green chile. Alas, the plate was awash in red chile sauce, which would have been a real prob­lem if, like some peo­ple, I sim­ply couldn’t tol­er­ate red. The tor­tilla burger it­self was a messy pro­duc­tion: a grill-seared burger patty wrapped in dense flour tor­tilla and then cov­ered with red and green chile sauce and melted cheese.

Many Santa Fe restau­rants love this sauce-and-melt tech­nique, but one un­for­tu­nate side ef­fect is that dishes can come out look­ing alike, which is what hap­pened with our other or­der that day: huevos rancheros. My friend gob­bled it down, but he was ba­si­cally bored and said he wouldn’t be com­ing back. For both of us, the owl didn’t quite take flight.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.