Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hotel For Sale

The 26-mile trip from the ruins at Gran Quivira to Mountainair, NM, seemed longer--probably because we were long overdue for lunch.

We turned onto Main Street at the Tomahawk Service Station, looking just as it did when we first visited and wrote about Mountainair (blog entry February 5, 2009). But it was a sign right across the street that caught my eye: "Hotel For Sale."

Included in the sale were the Shaffer Hotel and Restaurant, Pop's Curio Shop, and a couple of other buildings, but "Hotel For Sale" was all I needed to read. (I get caught up in the romance of restoring an old diner or hotel, but that's another story.) The Hotel's restaurant, which had been closed on our first visit, now seemed more and more like the place to be.

On the edge of the dining area, the small sofa seemed to fit perfectly with the worn look on the restaurant's chairs.

Built in 1923, the Hotel is a registered National Historical site and one of the few Pueblo-Deco buildings still in existence.

The fireplace, with its unique color and texture differences required prolonged study.

Even though we were hungry, we spent several minutes staring at the ceiling.

"The Pueblo Deco should be an attraction that would draw people to the Hotel," I thought to myself.

Now usually it is Kate's practical side that jolts me into reality.

However, in this case, Kate did not even have to begin the reality check. The asking price for the Hotel package: $1,375,000.

The romance of ownership was no match for this much reality.

So, it was with a different eye that I studied the artistry of the counter and stools at the far end of the dining room.

Kate: It is a shame, given the beauty of the space, that the restaurant’s menu and food are so pedestrian. I don’t remember much of the menu other than that most of the items were sandwiches, with four or five New Mexico items, and three dinner entrees – steak, fried shrimp, and one other that might have been pork chops or ham. The blackboard special of the day was baked chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and peas. Yes. You read that right. Peas.

I decided to play it safe with the green chili cheeseburger and fries. The patty was thin and the chili mild. The fries were o.k.

Chuck ordered the Navajo Taco. Usually, a Navajo Taco comes served on Indian Fry Bread but this came in a flour tortilla that had been folded to resemble a bowl and then fried. The bowl was then filled with seasoned beef (which was tepid in both flavor and warmth) which in turn was topped with beans, tomato, lettuce, cheese, and red salsa. Neither of our meals were bad. They just weren’t all that good.

The room deserves more. The conundrum is defining the restaurant’s client base. To modify the menu and to make it more creative would probably result in a loss of the Shaffer’s “bread and butter” clientele, who probably like things just the way they are.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

I live in (and blog from) Mountainair and was delighted with your previous piece on the Gran Quivira ruins. Another post on the Shaffer is lagniappe (I may live here but grew up in south Louisiana). Great pictures and a welcome addition to rss reader and Mountainair bookmarks collection. The hotel is a community fixture/icon with a history ups and down. Your nailed it about the restaurant: when a master chef took over the lease, locals complained incessantly about the "weird" food not being what they expected or were used to.

The hotel and restaurant have only recently come under new management: still in shake down period, so I continue to hope for better days (and food).