Restaurant Review: The Plaza Café
The return of a classic
By: Laurel Gladden
Published online: Friday, October 19, 2012
Appeared in: Pasateimpo
Overlooking the Plaza
The Plaza Café
3 Chiles chiles
54 Lincoln Ave. 505-982-1664
Breakfast 7-11 a.m. daily; lunch & dinner 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
Table service, Takeout available, Vegetarian options, Noise level: quiet to loud, depending on time of day
In short order:
Overlooking the Plaza from the spot it has
occupied for nearly a century, the cherished
, which closed two years ago after
a fire and reopened this summer, feels like
something out of The Andy Griffith Show.
It’s the classic diner on the town square, with red
vinyl booths; speedy, efficient service; and good,
old-fashioned food. Recommended: Huevos
rancheros, bowl of green chile, blue corn
pancakes with bacon, and cashew
*Ratings range from 0 to 4 chiles, including half chiles.
This reflects the reviewer's experience with regard
to food and drink, atmosphere, service, and value
from the spot it has occupied
for nearly a century, the cherished Plaza Café, which
closed two years ago after a fire and reopened this
summer, feels like something out of The Andy Griffith
Show. It’s the old-fashioned diner on the town square,
with classic detailing like red vinyl booths, tile floors,
and counter seating. Oversized maps of the American
Southwest color the walls, and gorgeous desserts —
carrot cake, red velvet cake, and the rightfully famous
caramel-apple-pecan pie — tempt you from inside a
lighted glass case.
You’ll see babies, parents, grandparents, and out-
of-towners. You might run into a neighbor, your old
grade-school teacher, or a former boss. A dude in a
cowboy hat and boots might amble in, and local police
officers just might pull up in their squad cars, stopping
by for a quick breakfast or lunch at the counter.
The Plaza Café serves good food morning and
night. Breakfast options include the traditional (fried
and scrambled eggs, omelets, French toast, and pan-
cakes) and regional favorites (huevos rancheros and
divorciados, breakfast burritos and enchiladas, papas
fritas, and what sounds like a real gut-buster: the chile
relleno omelet). The lunch and dinner menu inspires
indecision, from chips, salsa, and guacamole to a
variety of soups and salads, tacos, burritos, enchiladas,
sandwiches, and burgers. If you’re craving something
more mainstream, there’s steak, meatloaf, pasta, or fish
and chips. The heritage of the Razatos family, which has
owned the Plaza Café since 1947, surfaces in the Greek
salad, Greek omelet, and gyro, but you can order posole
or menudo, too. For the record, some of the desserts,
like the Key lime pie, look better than they taste.
When it comes to breakfast, I favor savory; I’ll take
huevos rancheros or a bowl of papas fritas nine
mornings out of 10. Some Saturday mornings, though,
nothing but pancakes will do. The Plaza Café’s blue-
corn-piñon flapjacks are a great Northern New Mexico
alternative to the average white-flour variety. The blue
corn adds a nutty, mineraly taste and an enjoyable
grainy texture. There were whole pine nuts in nearly
every bite of our single pancake, too. (Be realistic:
unless you’re a growing teenage boy, one pancake is
probably enough.) We were happy to pay a little extra
for a small pitcher of real, sweet-woodsy maple syrup.
Claiming you serve Santa Fe’s “best bacon” is a bold
statement, but the Plaza Café backs it up with hefty,
strapping strips that are meaty, slightly sweet, and not
overly salty. Several of my picky bacon-freak friends,
skeptical at first, admitted that the bacon was indeed
among the best they’d ever had. It’s even better dunked
in a little maple syrup.
The huevos rancheros and breakfast burrito are both
exemplary specimens of their genres. The kitchen
sometimes has trouble cooking things correctly (like
over-medium eggs), but the scrambled huevos in the
breakfast burrito were light, fluffy, and butter-hued. My
burrito was sitting in puddles of chile rather than being
smothered in a blanket of it, but that’s picking nits — the
good stuff makes its way into your mouth either way.
The green chile is smoky and stewy, with a bright,
warm heat. The red has a lovely pronounced bitterness
and packs a real wallop. I watched a couple of tourists
turn rosy-cheeked and wide-eyed after just one bite. If
you’re having a serious chile jones, the Plaza Café will
ladle some right into a bowl and make a meal out of it
by adding pinto beans, cheese, sour cream, and your
choice of calabacitas, chicken, carne asada, or carnitas.
The Frito pie — a generous, colorful heap of food
served in a wide bowl — offers a variety of flavors and
textures, from crunchy, corny Fritos to spicy, garlicky
ground beef, picante chile, cheese, and cooling lettuce
and tomatoes. You might want to steer clear of this hot,
highly seasoned dish on a first date — your breath will
be on the fiery side after eating it.
If you’re interested in good, no-fuss cooking in a
cheerful environment, the Plaza Café is the place. Just
keep in mind that this old-fashioned establishment has
some old-school rules when it comes to table manners.
“Sit up straight, don’t talk back, chew your food, elbows
off the table, don’t fidget, be nice, say thank you” is
the policy at the Plaza Café (as noted on the menu).
Most grown-ups don’t like being told what to do, but
when the food’s this good, you won’t mind being bossed
around a little.
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