you’d better pack a lunch.
The park ranger advised us that after 2:00 p.m. was the best time for photos of the Sandstone Bluffs at El Malpais. So we had time to kill and what better way to kill time than eating? We may need to rethink that.
Dining options in this small town of 8,800 are limited--very limited. We had passed a (New) Mexican place on our way through town, but neither of us was really in the mood for (New) Mexican food. Then we saw this small café just next to the road with a semi-full parking lot. Taking this as a good sign, we decided to stop at 1st Street Café (On Santa Fe). Yes, that’s the name, and no, I don’t get it.
This was your basic mom and pop diner kind of place. The menu consisted of hot and cold sandwiches, burgers, salads, quiches, plate lunches, and homemade pies and pastries. Décor was basic. Actually, the only real décor was the lace curtains and the display of NFL Teddy Bears in a sales case. Interesting juxtaposi-tion, isn’t it?
Entertain-ment was provided by one of the cooks, who could be seen carrying a waitress around the kitchen.
Both of us started with cups of the homemade soup. Chuck said “I’m going to live dangerously and order the clam chowder.” Clam chowder in Northwest New Mexico? Actually, it wasn’t bad and, in fact, was better than some we had two summers ago along the Oregon Coast. The thinnish cream base contained an ample amount of potatoes, celery, onions, and clams and, while it wouldn’t pass muster in New England, was better than expected.
I ordered the Buffalo Chicken Soup. This was an interesting mix of chicken, carrots, onion, celery, and potatoes in a cream base infused with Buffalo wing sauce. Given the uniform size of the carrots and other veggies, I do suspect that these came frozen from a bag. I also suspect that the nice even cubes of chicken were also from a commercial food source.
I decided to keep it simple and ordered the Southwest Ranch Club which contained a thin grilled chicken patty, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, and ranch dressing. This had real possibilities except the chicken patty was over cooked and dry and the roll…let me tell you about the roll. This was billed as a hoagie roll. Now where I come from, a hoagie is not soft and fluffy. It has a thin crisp crust with an airy soft interior. This was no hoagie roll.
Chuck finally settled on the meatloaf platter after flirting with the chicken fried steak. His plate contained two half-inch thick slices with a scoop of mashed potatoes, all covered by a relatively good brown gravy. The meatloaf had good flavor and was nice and moist, but had the most awful soft spongy texture that can only mean that there was an excess of filler.
Idle question. Why is it so hard to find a really good meatloaf in a restaurant? The only REALLY good one I can remember was at the 5 & Diner in Scottsdale, AZ. That was meatloaf.
The soups were the high point of the meal. We should have ordered bowls of soup instead of cups and stopped there. I hate to be negative (Chuck keeps telling me to keep it positive), but I can’t give 1st Street Café (On Santa Fe) more than a 2.0 Addie rating.