Santa Fe takes breakfast seriously, with compelling options that include Cafe Pasqual’s and Guadalupe Cafe, both of which we enjoyed on the recent food blogger getaway. However, neither compared to the homestyle wonders of The Pantry.
The Taste of Santa Fe publicist invited us to “Santa Fe’s Meeting Place,” which has graced Cerrillos Road since 1948. The space now features counter seating and scattered tables up front, along with a large dining room in back. The dining room features a wall mural that depicts Spanish cobquistadors and map of New Mexico populated with “Old Forts,” caverns, wagon trains and the Rio Grande.
The mural is a fairly recent addition to The Pantry. After all, the restaurant was much smaller when Stan Singley took over a decade ago. He retired from Luby’s Cafeteria chain in 1993 and dabbled in real estate before returning to the industry in 2000. He expanded to the back room, which was originally housing, allowing The Pantry to more than triple volume.
Singley now has reinforcements. Son Michael graduated from Le Cordon Bleu-Scottsdale. He’s helping with operations and may eventually run The Pantry and the family’s Los Amigos taqueria.
The Pantry offers a sprawling menu featuring plenty of chile-spiked New Mexico classics, my choice was Fresh Corned Beef ($8.75). All too often, corned beef originates in a can, but not at The Pantry, which practices “fresh-from-scratch” cooking. The tender chunks of well-spiced corned beef appeared on a bed of crusty (but not dry) home fries that were scattered with onions and scallions and topped with two (fried) eggs. I’m pretty sure Eating LA founder Pat Saperstein was envious of my selection, and who could blame her? This is one of the best plates of corned beef hash possible. The hash came with a choice of grits, toast or biscuits n’ country gravy. I opted for the latter, sans gravy, and the biscuits were soft, buttery and pull apart.
The Pantry produced a superior Cinnamon Roll ($3.25), an oversized well-coiled specimen with fluffy rings, a generous helping of molten icing and a warm cinnamon and sugar-laced core, which my family refers to as the “tenderloin.”
My only other taste of New Mexico at breakfast consisted of Matthew “Mattatouille” Kang’s Breakfast Burrito ($7.99) a mammoth heap of food smothered in both red and green chilies. Kang, who easily would have warranted the name “Father Christmas” throughout the course of the weekend, always went for red AND green. Red was sweeter and the green, spicier. Both sides featured plenty of earthy pinto beans and molten cheese.
A light breakfast, this was not. Thankfully, the flavors were rewarding, and it wasn’t too hard to come up with a rationalization. [It never is.] Our next stop was the mountains above Santa Fe, where we hiked past timber (and a tiny horny toad) at 8000 feet elevation, which allowed us to build up our appetites once again.