Dig­ging in

Pasatiempo - - RESTAURANT REVIEW - Lau­rel Glad­den I For The New Mex­i­can

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.

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