The Owl Café, Albuquerque

The Owl Café

I like to think I’m a laid back, authentic person. For the most part, I’m not judgmental (unless you’re a Kardashian, and then bring it) and I don’t particularly care about status. But there is one thing that I’m a snob about. And that is my chile. And by chile, I mean chile, not chili. I know this is a New Mexico thing, and if you look at dictionaries or websites, they say that you can use chile and chili interchangeably. But not in New Mexico, I say (rather snobbishly). You can always tell a native by whether or not they know the difference between the two. Green or red chile is stuff from heaven (made from our state-grown chile peppers, either red or green depending on when you pick em). Chili is that brown Hormel-like substance served in other states.

So imagine how trepidatious I felt when I found myself at the Owl Café in Albuquerque looking at their menu and seeing the Owl Burger “with green chili.” As a child, I had been to the Owl Café in San Antonio, NM many times to enjoy the Owl Burger. In fact, I believe it serves one of the best green chile (I just can’t call it chili) cheeseburgers in the state.

The original Owl Café was established in the 1930s in San Antonio, NM, and in 1986, the Albuquerque location was opened. The Albuquerque Owl Café has a 1950s diner theme in honor of nearby Route 66. There’s a jukebox in the restaurant, a pie case filled with desserts, and plenty of barstools and tables to enjoy a step back in time.

The Owl Café, Eubank Blvd Albuquerque. It's an OWL, people!
The Owl Café, Eubank Blvd Albuquerque. It’s an OWL, people!

So had I been wrong about the burger? Had somehow the expansion to Albuquerque changed what the burger had become? Had the Owl Café forgotten its roots and started to make burgers that weren’t as good? Or worse, were smothered in some weird green Hormel-like chili with an I?

During lunch with some friends, I decided to momentarily put my snobbishness aside and order the green chile (won’t do it) cheeseburger. The cheeseburger runs about $5, and you can order regular fries, sweet potato fries or onion rings for an additional $2.

Instead of the staple chips and salsa as an appetizer, the Owl Café offers small bowls of beans and green chile. The green chile had a bite to it, and the beans were nicely flavored, so I began to become hopeful about the Owl burger.

Beans & Green Chile is the new Chips & Salsa at the Owl Café. If you know what that means, you might be from New Mexico.
Beans & Green Chile is the new Chips & Salsa at the Owl Café. If you know what that means, you might be from New Mexico.

And then the burger came out. The patty was hand-made and large. It was topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and lots of green chile. A nice sized portion of sweet potatoes covered the rest of the plate. This looked promising. Then I took a bite. The burger was juicy, the condiments fresh, and the green chile was hot.

Owl Café Green Chile Cheeseburger and Sweet Potato Fries.
Owl Café Green Chile Cheeseburger and Sweet Potato Fries.

It was delicious and just as good as I remembered from my childhood.

I wolfed the burger down in no time flat. Then I was overcome by a wave of shame. Here I was judging the Owl Café for their use of an I instead of an E, and they delivered a wonderful burger. Luckily, the sweet potato fries helped me push through that shame.

What’s the lesson in all of this? I don’t know, really. I mean, I still don’t like people to use the word chili when talking about green or red or when they’re offering to throw it on my cheeseburger. But the Owl Café still serves a fantastic, mouthwatering, Owl Burger with green chile. So I guess the lesson is…well, just go try the cheeseburger.

The Albuquerque location of the Owl Café is at 800 Eubank Blvd. You can’t miss it. The building is shaped like an owl. Their hours are 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday – Friday, and 7 a.m. –  11 p.m. on the weekends.


The High Road – Enchanted Weekend Part 3

The High Road

The High Road is a NM Scenic Byway that connects Santa Fe and Taos. A little over 50 miles of roadway winds along through the Sangre de Cristo mountains through small towns, land grants, pueblos, and villages. (The Low Road, by comparison, connects Santa Fe and Taos via the valleys along the Rio Grande.)

The High Road begins in Pojoaque, then passes through the towns of Nambe, Chimayó, Córdova, Truchas, Ojo Sarco, Las Trampas, Peñasco, Vadito, Sipapu, and finally Taos.

Along the way are no less than 50 small galleries and shops displaying the art of local artists. Our intention was to stop at several galleries along the way, but we found that many were closed (or just seemed empty) on the day we were driving through.

One place we did stop and browse was the High Road Marketplace in Truchas. This shop displays the art of many artists in a variety of media — paintings, ironwork, gourds, etc.

The High Road Marketplace in Truchas, NM
The High Road Marketplace in Truchas, NM

We then visited the gallery of painter Charlee Newman in Ojo Sarco. Her oil landscapes and pastels of wildlife were stunning and we all left there wishing we could afford to take a few home with us. Also, the gallery was on her private property, and we were shown around by Ms. Newman herself. In true EatingNewMexico style, we all noted that whatever she was cooking up for dinner smelled REALLY GOOD.

Charlee Newman's gallery property -- fall
Charlee Newman’s gallery property — fall

Smelling whatever was roasting on the Newman property got us all pretty hungry. So we checked our maps and decided to stop and eat in or near Peñasco. According to Yelp, a little place called Alicia’s Café was nearby and open at the right time and claimed to serve New Mexican food. So we aimed ourselves at it, in hopes of some Enchiladas with Red. You know how it is when you just NEED some red. That’s where we all were.

So, all the map apps LIE.

After being sent way out of the way by both Apple Maps and Google Maps about 4 times (with a loss of about 30 minutes), we were all starving and ready to get our grub on. We searched and searched. We were ready to give up. We pulled into a parking lot to make a final U-turn and just get the heck out of dodge and try our luck in another town.

HARK! An old building with a kind of skeezy sign out front reading: New Mexican Food. I honestly don’t remember the name of the restaurant or really much about it other than that we walked in and all said, “Nope.” Meaning, let’s just tend to our blood sugar then get out of here. There was something off about the feng shui or something, but we all knew immediately we didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time there. We ordered chips and salsa (very yummy) and chile-cheese fries to share around the table. The waitress informed us that the restaurant actually used to be Alicia’s, which we had been looking for all along. Ah, evil irony.

We didn’t take any pictures of anything to write a real review, which is unfortunate because the red chile on the fries was SUPER good.

We finished up quick and got back on the road. I think we all would have liked to have spent a little more time on The High Road, meandering along, walking through galleries. I think the best bet here would be to take one of the organized tours (offered here via High Road Artisans) to ensure the most galleries will be open, and that you won’t be the only person walking through someone’s home/gallery, looking through at their stuff.

Next stop: TAOS.

El Santuario de Chimayó — Enchanted Weekend Trip Part 2

On to Chimayo

This is part 2 in an 8 (or so) part series about our weekend trip from Albuquerque up to Red River and back. Find part 1 here.

We passed right on through Santa Fe with nary a foot stepped on the Plaza nor a breakfast burrito in our guts and headed north on Hwy 84 to state road 503.

FUN MAP FACT: When looking at a map, you can tell the difference between a US Highway and a State Road by the shape of their number designator. US numbered highways are marked with a shield shape with the number inside. State Roads are marked with a circle and the number inside. 

For some great New Mexico road maps (including a map of State Roads, one of Scenic Byways, and one of rest stops), visit the NM DoT:  NM Dept of Transportation Maps.

After turning east on road 503, we passed through the small town of Nambé. The town combined with Nambé Pueblo has a population of around 2,000 people. A nearby mill produces the eight-metal alloy used to create Nambé housewares such as THESE BEAUTIES. But they are actually made elsewhere. Like, China-elsewhere.

About 12 miles up the road (503), we came to Santuario de Chimayó.


Chimayo Courtyard entryway
The oft-photographed & painted entryway to the Santuario de Chimayo courtyard.

The church at Chimayó is known for many things. The original chapel on the site was built around 1810 and was then upgraded to the larger church (which stands today, and BTW is still pretty small) a few years later. So, it’s pretty old, is what I’m saying. During the Easter season, the roads from nearby towns to Chimayó are crowded with walkers. Not the Walking Dead kind of walkers, rather those devout souls making the pilgrimage (walking or even on hands and knees) to this holy place from locations all over northern NM. There is a ton of history here, which you can read about at their website: Santuario de Chimayo Website  (but be forewarned it autoplays music).

Toward the rear of the church, a tiny room with a slanting floor and low ceiling holds what tens of thousands of people come here for each year: El Pocito — the healing dirt of Chimayó. Believed to have healing powers, the dirt is dug from a small hole in the clay floor. Visitors either rub the dirt on a hurting or problem area (a bum knee, say), bag a teaspoon up to keep with them, or in some cases (I’ve read) ingest it. Team EatingNewMexico opted to save our stomach space for chips & salsa and just rubbed a small amount of the dirt on our hands.

Beyond El Pocito you pass through a prayer room, lined with photos, testimonials, and discarded crutches (by those allegedly healed by the soil).

PROS:  The church is beautiful and has major historical significance in New Mexico. The grounds are lovely. It is a spiritual place sure to have an impact on people of any faith.

The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo

CONS: Now, I remember visiting Chimayó maybe 15-18 years ago, and I remember there only being the church, kind of hard to find, with a small dirt parking lot in front and one across the road. Now, there is a gift shop, a café, and other things that just make it feel kind of commercial. It was pretty sad/annoying to walk up the hill to the church from the parking lot (which is now down the hill behind the church) and see a big plywood SLUSH PUPPIE sign in front of the café. Talk about tacky. It has just lost some of its mystery and charm, is all.

But it is still WELL WORTH the visit. We hung around the Santuario de Chimayo for about an hour total, then got back in our cars to continue on our journey up along The High Road to Taos.


Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery

Please don’t tell St. James that I’ve cheated on them. I love my tearoom. But look, I just can’t afford it every day. So when the opportunity came up to try another place that was a more reasonable option for every day tea cavorting, I took it. I went to Figments Tea Shoppe and Gallery and enjoyed tea and desserts.

I’m not going to lie. It was good. And I’m going to go back.

Figments Tea Shoppe is located at 8510 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Suite A7 and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The place sells loose leaf tea by the ounce  and tea products, as well as unique gifts. The Tea Shoppe also features a fragrance blending bar. Customers can get a personalized lotion, soap or massage oil made from a variety of fragrances.

Oh, but I’m sure you want to get to the details of my dalliance. Fine, I’ll share. Figments offers daily tea time specials. No reservations are required. For $8 I enjoyed a scone, dessert and tea. For my first time, I chose The Great Pumpkin selection (there are two selections every two weeks). I mean come on, it was too tempting, tea and a Charlie Brown reference??? This particular pairing included Linus’ Great Pumpkin Bread, Charlie’s Yogurt, Granola and Honey and Snoopy’s Caramel Delight. For each selection, Figments suggests a tea pairing. Teas come in a three or six pot serving or one specialty tea. I chose the Roobios peppermint bark latte for my tea of choice. I mean I was already cheating, might as well go decadent.

The Great Pumpkin selection at Figments
The Great Pumpkin selection at Figments
The Mad Hatter Selection at Figments
The Mad Hatter Selection at Figments
Peppermint Bark Latte at Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery
Peppermint Bark Latte at Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery

The portions were the perfect size for an afternoon bite, not too filling or even too sweet. The latte was huge and wonderful. Even more enjoyable was the ambience. Figments has a seating room towards the back of the store that is decorated like the Mad Hatter tea party from Alice in Wonderland. A decorative tree grows from a wall and blossoms glass flowers and glass tea cups. Hats hang from another tea branch, and the glass table and wicker chairs are decorated with bright flowers. It’s a great place to relax.

A little Koi Pond
A little Koi Pond

The staff is friendly and helpful. The owner explained that beginning soon, Figments will also feature a small bar with flavored vinaigrettes and olive oils. While Figments changes its tea menu every two weeks, after December this will change as well. The two selections will be available for a month, allowing more time for customers to enjoy their favorite sweet treats and tea. And yes, I’ll be back. But shhhh, it’ll be our secret okay?

The Turquoise Trail – Enchanted Weekend Part 1

Hello! This post is part 1 of a (so far) 8-part series dedicated to a weekend trip we recently took around northern NM. Check back soon for the following 7 (or so) parts.

In northern New Mexico, highways and byways have names, not numbers. Well, they have numbers too, but their names are much cooler. A few weeks ago, team EatingNewMexico took off on a whirlwind weekend jaunt around north-central New Mexico. Instead of using interstates and bigger roadways, we opted for back roads and scenic byways: The Turquoise Trail, The High Road, and The Enchanted Circle.

We hit a bunch of historic and special little towns along the way, and of course ate a lot, because that’s how we roll. We were extremely wise/lucky to plan our trip for mid-October, just as the trees along the rivers and on the mountainsides were their brightest yellow and orange.

The Turquoise Trail

The Turquoise Trail is where our journey began. It is a National Scenic Byway ( that spans about 50 miles along Highway 14 from Tijeras to Santa Fe. (Once it hits Santa Fe, it turns into Cerillos Road.) The Turquoise Trail runs through the towns of Tijeras, Cedar Crest, Sandia Park, Golden, Madrid, Cerillos, and San Marcos.

Worth a stop nearly every time we go through is the small town of Madrid. Madrid (pronounced like “MAD-rid” not “muh-DRID” like you might think) was an old mining town turned ghost town that was then revitalized in the 60s and is now a small but thriving artists’ community. There is a cool little dusty museum there, galleries and shops to walk through, and the Mine Shaft Tavern, where you can get a green chile cheeseburger (and probably some other stuff). Madrid is also where parts of the John Travolta movie Wild Hogs was filmed.

Alas, on this trip, we had much to do and not much time, so we didn’t stop in Madrid. Just blew right through (at the prescribed 20 mph).

Our first stop on this trip was San Marcos, at the San Marcos Café and Feed Store. (visit on Yelp)

San Marcos Café and Feed Store

This adorable little café is one of those places that you’ll miss if you aren’t looking for it. And you might miss it even if you are looking for it. It’s located just off the road along Hwy 14, about 7 miles south of the intersection of I-25 and Hwy 14 near Santa Fe. It is open daily for breakfast and lunch.

The grounds of the café are unique to say the least. Peacocks and turkeys and chickens roam free, and behind the building are several aviaries for turkeys, doves, and other birds. You might also catch a peek of what we call the “Lady GaGa Chicken” which is pretty much a chicken in a really fluffy feather suit.

San Marcos Café and Feed Store - San Marcos, New Mexico
San Marcos Café and Feed Store – San Marcos, New Mexico

The inside of the café is just as charming, with uniquely painted and crafted wooden tables and chairs, and a cozy fire in the fireplace (this day, at least).

San Marcos dining area
San Marcos dining area

The wait staff is friendly and welcoming, and somehow remembered that our group of 5 likes cinnamon rolls, even though this was only our second visit. Cups of coffee all around and cinnamon rolls for everyone. That’s how we wanted to start this trip.

The cinnamon rolls are flaky and sweet and delicious — everything a good cinnamon roll should be. The coffee is tasty. This is a great duo to start off a weekend getaway.

Overall, we have fully enjoyed our stops at San Marcos both times we’ve been so far. I’m sure we will be back soon and often!

Santa Fe

Next up, we headed into Santa Fe to drop our doggie off at the doggie hotel. The Z Pet Hotel, to be precise. This is a little doggie hotel right off of Cerillos where you can board your pets and even get them groomed on their last day there. We have been very happy with Z Pet Hotel. They have easy reservations, easy drop offs, easy pickups, and the dogs seem happy there. Prices are reasonable and the employees are nice! Check them out here: Z Pet Hotel


Check out Part 2 of our journey — Chimayo — here.