Bode’s General Store: A New Mexico Classic
For the warmer months, Pasatiempo is sending its food writers on a few periodic road trips in Northern New Mexico to highlight the best possible traditional cuisine our region has to offer. Whether these restaurants have been around for 50 years or five, we’re calling them New Mexico Classics.
Bode’s is the center of the universe,” proclaims my friend John, an avid Chama River rafter. At least that’s true when you’re in the Abiquiú area: Whether you’re floating on the río, visiting Ghost Ranch or Georgia O’Keeffe’s home, or relaxing and recreating on the shores of an area lake, Bode’s General Store is your proverbial one-stop shop for pretty much anything you want or need — from water, ice, booze, coolers, produce, and candy to knives, fishing bait, t-shirts, sunglasses, cast-iron cookware, and prayer beads. And if you’re smart, you’ll pick up some good hot food, too. For roughly two decades, a small café tucked in the northwest corner of the store has been filling the bellies of rafters, hikers, fishing enthusiasts, sightseers, and everyone in between.
As you roll uphill, you’ll spy the Phillips 66 sign — and not long after, Bode’s black-and-red insignia emblazoned high on the earth-toned stucco wall, like a beacon to weary travelers and adventure sportspeople. On a particularly delightful Saturday afternoon, a cadre of local musicians might be plucking away at some toe-tapping bluegrass tunes by the entrance, steps from the bagged-ice freezers, birdseed, and chicken feed. Inside, people of all ages and persuasions mill about — tourists in leisurewear and sun visors, fatigued families who’ve just unfolded out of their minivan, sun-kissed bathing-suited teenagers whispering all-important
secrets, college dudes in Big Ten team jerseys, cyclists in clip-clopping bike cleats, and ranchers in their standard boot-and-hat regalia.
If you’re the early bird sort, you can pick up worms in a Styrofoam container for a mere $4.50 — or better yet (and probably more appetizing), a hot breakfast burrito. Bode’s stuffs flour tortillas with eggs, cheese, soft starchy potatoes, and red or respectably spicy green chile. Meaty and meat-free versions are available in the grab-and-go hot case near the kitchen window. This is exactly the sort of rib-sticker you’ll want before a day of hiking, navigating the rapids, or following your muse at a painting, pottery, or writing class at Ghost Ranch.
Order at the counter, take your number, and find a seat at a colorful oilcloth-covered table on the edge of the store or one in a cozy wing where you can watch people come and go through the parking lot. The menu runs a fair gamut from soups, salads, and sandwiches (design-your-own and deli standards like the Reuben and grilled cheese plus barbecued pork, grilled chicken, tilapia, and veggie and turkey burgers) to chile cheese fries and quesadillas. There’s even a pretty darn decent Frito pie, golden corn curls topped with mild red chile full of ground beef, grated cheese, and a sweet “salad” garnish of shredded lettuce and diced tomato and red onion. Bode’s offers a few local beers on tap to wash it down (or wine by the bottle, at shelf price plus a corking fee of $5). If you’re on the go, the hot and cold cases provide options that include warm rotisserie chickens.
The most notorious item on the menu, though, is the legendary green chile cheeseburger. Caramelized on the flattop first, a healthy dose of relatively mellow green chile is heaped on the half-pound beef patty and its generous blanket of fast-melting sliced cheese and then capped with a sesame-seed bun. You could opt for fries, but why would you, when you can bury the remainder of your festive floral paper plate in an avalanche of tater tots? (To see it all come together in living color, search the web for the Travel Channel’s “Burger Land” video from 2013, wherein my late friend and Pasatiempo colleague Rob DeWalt, chartreuse-chapeaued, introduces George Motz to the mouthwatering “two-fister” and giggles a bit when the host’s face flushes from the chile’s heat.)
Perhaps because word of mouth can be the best advertising, Bode’s took a modest approach to its slogan. Its understated appeal aside, “Here a long time” is a simple statement of fact. Bode’s can trace its history to the days of the Old Spanish Trail, when in 1890 it opened to serve as the Grants Mercantile, a general store, post office, stagecoach stop, and jail for the Abiquiú area. In the 1900s, the store passed to two prominent landholding families, the Gonzaleses and Sargents. In 1919, it was purchased by Martin Bode, who immigrated to the region in the early 20th century, worked for an uncle in the southern part of the state, and ultimately became a prominent community member. Dennis and Constance Liddy currently helm the ship.
A gift shop in the back of Bode’s offers books, stickers, pot holders, and other knickknacks, and of course you’ll spy the de rigueur postcard racks. Bring your coffee-obsessed uncle a ceramic mug bearing the Bode’s crest, or as the store’s website encourages, “Pick up a t-shirt so everyone knows you were here!” Hey, if you’d been to the center of the universe, wouldn’t you want to tell all your friends?
Bode’s stuffs flour tortillas with eggs, cheese, soft starchy potatoes, and red or respectably spicy green chile. This is exactly the sort of rib-sticker you’ll want before a day of hiking, navigating the rapids, or following your muse at Ghost Ranch.