They don’t make ‘em like Madrid anymore. When you roll into that funky little former mining “company town” about 25 miles south of Santa Fe, the first street sign you see is for Old Goat Road. The Mine Shaft is farther down the road, right in the heart of town amid funky galleries and colorful shops. The original Mine Shaft Tavern was opened in the late 1800s; it burned down in 1944 but was rebuilt three years later, and much of the interior has remained the same.
The main dining room is almost cavernous, with dark floors and walls, a long bar running along one wall, a rugged stone fireplace anchoring one end, and a small stage at the other. Several local beers are available on tap, but you could also try the zingy Chimayó margarita, with cucumber and jalapeño and a red-chile-dusted rim. It’s a tiny bit sweet and simultaneously tongue-tingling, cooling, relaxing, and refreshing.
On fairer days, the partially covered deck can be crowded, diners and drinkers perching on tall padded chairs with rainbow-colored backs or wiry white patio furniture. This space has the casual feeling of your childhood friend’s partially finished basement rec room, with bare wood beams, exposed wires, and a few disco balls, but that sort of informality suits Madrid. On any given Saturday, a band might be performing, and you get the feeling that for locals, this is a place to see and be seen.
What’s on the rather extensive menu is typical bar fare — everything from wings and nachos to burgers, barbeque, New Mexico fare, and pizza, with a handful of salads in between. Rather than the slapdash out-of-a-Sysco-bag stuff you’d find in similar joints, the food here feels “made with love.” It may not be anything to write home about, but the ingredients are fresh, the portions are generous, and the flavors are satisfying. The employees are welcoming, attentive, and friendly verging on familial — I almost expected someone to call me “hon.”
The Hatch green chile basket is something similar to chile tempura or a bunch of unstuffed rellenos — big, beautiful whole chiles that have been crunchily battered and fried. We couldn’t summon the gumption, but if you dare, the menu also includes habañero poppers (stuffed with goat cheese and, mysteriously, banana). The house green chile stew was heavy on the herbs (a whole bay leaf was floating in my cup), but it held its own in the hearty and spicy departments.
There’s a giant salad of fresh, crisp, brightly colored greens topped with local Wagyu beef, and any of the house burgers can be made with Wagyu as well (our Shroom Burger was deliciously hearty and meaty and juicy). I enjoyed a plate of classic rolled enchiladas, thoroughly stuffed with cheese and ladled with a mild, only slightly bittersweet red chile. The chicken “tenders,” often processed meat pressed into nuggets, pre-battered, and frozen, looked like pieces of hand-pounded breast meat that had been lightly breaded and fried in-house. My plate of Baja-style fish tacos was loaded to the hilt: steaming-hot white fish in a crisp russet-gold batter was blanketed in a cooling slaw (albeit with too much creamy dressing for my taste) and served with perfectly salty, herby black beans and refreshing zucchini-heavy calabacitas.
There were a few hiccups. Heed the notice on your menu and opt for bottled water unless you like yours sulfurous. It sounds silly to say it, but the very smoky brisket sandwich was too juicy — the bun was thoroughly soggy and fell apart in a mushy mess. Though pizza makes up an entire section of the menu, it had been 86-ed for the night, as had, weirdly, nachos. (How do you run out of nachos?) Our buffalo wings were piping hot and meaty, but the sauce was predictable and unremarkable, and only a precious few sticks of celery were served on the side. You could order these almost anywhere else in the country, but even so, it felt more fun eating them at a long old bar in the one-of-a-kind town of Madrid.