Bode’s Gen­eral Store: A New Mex­ico Clas­sic

Pasatiempo - - ON THE COVER -

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.

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