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Placitas Cafe – Placitas, New Mexico

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The Placitas Cafe in beautiful downtown Placitas, New Mexico

While it does have a nice ring to it, “beautiful downtown Placitas” probably won’t catch on the way “beautiful downtown Burbank” did when the catch phrase (and quite often, punch-line) was made famous first on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In then on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Located just a few miles northeast of Hollywood, beautiful downtown Burbank is 34-blocks of retail, office, residential and entertainment destinations that include more than 200 shops and 90 restaurants.

Beautiful downtown Placitas, on the other hand, is pretty much limited to the Homestead Village shopping center which is surrounded on all sides by capacious open space in a charming village back-dropped by the reddish Sandias.  Instead of the high-density urban sprawl of Burbank, beautiful downtown Placitas is graced by panoramic views of hills dotted with dessert flora, weather-worn mesas and verdured mountains.

View of the Sandias from the parking lot

View of the Sandias from the parking lot

The term “beautiful downtown Placitas” isn’t some sort of ironic inside joke among the village’s 3,000-plus citizens.  Nor will you find the term splayed on Placitas real estate brochures or touristy village literature.  Where you’ll most often read this term of endearment is on the Placitas Cafe’s blog.  The Placitas Cafe is one of two restaurant anchor tenants within the Homestead Village, the other being Blades’ Bistro.

While Blades Bistro has established a reputation as one of the very best restaurants in New Mexico, the Placitas Cafe hasn’t been as widely touted.  Could it be Placitas residents want it that way?  Might the fact that the Cafe’s exterior signage reads simply “Cafe” be indicative of the desire among locals to keep it a secret…to keep it to themselves?  It sure seemed that way during my inaugural visit for a late lunch when the restaurant was sardine-packed with locals.  With all the Placitas residents who read this blog, it sure made me wonder why they hadn’t been clamoring for me to visit.  Hmmm, Bruce, Dave, Joe?

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Triple Berry Scone

Upon entering, it became immediately apparent that the Placitas Cafe is a beloved local treasure, a “Cheers” type of establishment in which “everyone (or at least the wait staff) knows your name.”  During my inaugural visit, the front of the house was in the capable and ambassadorial hands of Mike Franklin, brother of the Cafe’s owner and chef John.  As gregarious and extroverted as they come, Mike does indeed seem to know everyone–and if he doesn’t, he will by meal’s end.  Mike flits from table-to-table, engaging in witty repartee with guests while taking care of their orders with a deft touch.  In a subsequent visit over lunch, we discovered that brother John is equally engaging, bringing mirth and laughter to every table.  John told us family reunions are a laugh-fest.

The one thought that never crossed my mind as to why my Placitas readers hadn’t raved to me about the Placitas Cafe is because maybe it wasn’t very good.  Considering the near overflow crowds, that notion just didn’t make any sense.  If the Cafe hadn’t been good, it would truly have been tragic because the menu is more than a cut above what you find in most cafes.  Some items, in fact, are heretofore unavailable elsewhere in the Land of Enchantment.  Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (8AM to 9PM every day but Monday. Saturday and Sunday, 8AM to 2PM), the Placitas Cafe offers American and New Mexican breakfast standards, organic spring mix salads, vegetarian dishes, New Mexican offerings, burgers, sandwiches and so much more.

Huevos Espiñaca Creama

Huevos Espiñaca Creama

When busy, you might be asked to seat yourself, the first invitation to make yourself at home.  Few things in life make me feel more welcome than helping myself to coffee–as much and as often as I want (for a non-morning person, there’s nothing as unnerving as an empty cup).  A self-serve coffee bar offers three coffee blends, including the eponymous Placitas Cafe blend tinged with New Mexican piñon.  As you luxuriate in your cup, you’ll want to take in the comfy, cozy ambiance.  Walls are adorned with a mishmash of cutesy, folksy wall hangings and landscape photographs showcasing the Land of Enchantment’s scenic vistas.

Breakfast is served from 8am-1:59pm with a menu including a Hawaiian favorite not often found in New Mexico cafes (ironic considering how popular it is in New Mexican homes).  That would be a plate called “Spam, Eggs, Bacon and Spam,” (BOTVOLR, this one’s for you) described on the menu as “a couple of Spam steaks, cooked to your preference, two eggs any style, bacon, sauteed potatoes and English muffin.”  How many of us even knew Spam could be cooked in different ways?  

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Special Green Beans with Ranch Dressing

8 February 2014: Less artery clogging dishes are available to start off your day.  Among them are made-from-scratch scones which are light yet dense, crumbly yet soft and absolutely delicious.  The triple berry scone (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) is terrific, the tanginess of berries punctuating each bite.  As with all good scones, these aren’t overly sweet.  They also pair wonderfully with the coffee, especially the aforementioned Placitas Cafe piñon blend.

8 February 2014: Among the heretofore “not found in New Mexico cafes” items is a unique take on Eggs Benedict.  Called Huevos Espiñaca Creama (sic), it’s a very rich dish with which to start off a morning.  This isn’t a bad thing because you’ll likely take about half of it home for breakfast the following day.  The canvas for this decadent dish is a crispy flour tortilla which is topped by two poached eggs surrounded by a creamed sauce, spinach and diced potatoes and topped with melted mozzarella and crumbly feta.  Though it should come standard with an angioplasty, it’s an excellent example of rich indulgence the type of which we should all treat ourselves on occasion.

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The Dubliner with French Fries

6 February 2014: The “snackies” portion of the menu includes a number of de rigueur appetizers such as salsa and chips, quesadilla, nachos con queso and something called “Special Green Beans,” described on the menu as “a tasty pile of organic green beans, deep sauteed and seasoned.”  The menu boasts “once you’ve tasted them, you’ll never look at a green bean the same!”  Served with Ranch dressing, these green beans are special indeed.  The  texture of these green beans is crispy, but not so much that the beans snap when you bite or cut into them.  The seasoning mix is a mix of mostly savory seasonings which lend a lot of personality to these beans.

6 February 2014: The “Burgers And….” menu lists some fourteen burgers ranging from the standard to the unconventional.  Among the latter is The Dubliner, which shares its name with the cheese featured on the burger.  The menu describes The Dubliner as “a hamburger stuck between spring mix, tomato and horseradish sauce on the lower, then topped with coleslaw and Dubliner cheese.”  As hinted at by the description, this is a moist burger, but also one redolent with deliciousness.  The nicely seasoned beef patty is hand-formed and about half an inch thick.  The horseradish has a bite, but won’t water your eyes.  If you’ve never had Dubliner cheese, you’re in for a treat.  Dubliner has a distinctive flavor, imparting a sweet, lingering aftertaste.  Its texture is firm and slightly dry.  Frankly it surprised me at how well it melts.  What didn’t surprise me is how enjoyable a burger The Dubliner is.  Would it go well with green chile?  Probably not, but no doubt someone will be willing to try.

Patty Melt

Patty Melt

8 February 2014: Surely I’m not the only person who’s ever engaged in a “patty melt: burger or sandwich” debate?  Persuasive arguments can be made for both points.  What is a patty melt anyway?  It’s grilled onions and hamburger patty served on toasted rye with melted cheese (the Placitas Cafe uses Cheddar and mozzarella).  Not all patty melts are created equally well.  Utilizing excellent ingredients is the key to a good patty melt.  You want the beef patty prepared at no more than medium for optimum juiciness.  You’ll want the  onions (red, if possible) to be floppy strands of caramelized deliciousness without being overly crunchy or flaccid.  You’ll want the cheese to be thick enough to complement, not dominate the flavor profile.  You’ll want the rye bread to be lightly toasted and soft, but still formidable enough to hold up against the moistness of all other ingredients.  The Placitas Cafe passes muster on all counts. 

29 November 2014: Though I pride myself in being open-minded, there is one thing about which I’m unabashedly stubborn. For me, it’s not breakfast without chile. My Chicago born-and-bred Kim, however, was raised with different traditions and honors them by ordering such breakfast plates as the Placitas Cafe’s American Classic: two eggs (any style), sauteed potatoes, a choice of ham, sausage, bacon or turkey bacon and toast (white, wheat, rye, sourdough). She certifies this plate as absolutely delicious, but I can’t vouch for that because my breakfast was a New Mexican proud buffalo enchiladas plate that blows any American Classic out of the water.

American Classic

29 November 2014:  When asked if the chile served at the Placitas Cafe includes cumin, John’s response was “we don’t serve tourist chile.”  That’s an understatement!  This is New Mexico chile the way it should be–even  if it is spelled tourist fashion: chili.  Both red and green chile are pleasantly piquant with a very nice roasted flavor.  It’s also served steaming hot, an endearing quality not all restaurants practice.  One of the best dishes in which that chile is showcased is the buffalo enchiladas, flat enchiladas made with lean, delicious buffalo ground beef, fresh corn tortillas and red and yellow Cheddar served with papitas and beans.  Compared to beef, buffalo has a lighter flavor, tastes slightly sweet and is deliciously tender and lean.  The papitas are cubed potato perfection with a right-sized amount of salt.  The buffalo enchiladas are also served with a single tortilla from which you can construct “New Mexican spoons” for scooping up and eating the deliciousness. 

Buffalo Meat Enchiladas with Red and Green Chile

6 February 2014: The Dubliner isn’t the only menu item paying tribute to the Emerald Isle.  On your first visit to the Placitas Cafe, you’ll be treated to a slice of Irish Buttermilk Pie, made from a recipe brought over from Ireland by the Franklin brothers’ grandfather.  It’s a scrumptious and rich wedge of pie imbued with more than a scintilla of Guinness (would it be Irish otherwise?).  The Franklin brothers are justifiably proud of this delicious dessert.

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Buttermilk Pie

I don’t know whether or not to be mad at my Placitas friends for not having invited me to this village gem sooner, but suspect they’ll be mad at me if this review drives up traffic to the Placitas Cafe.  Who can blame them for wanting to keep it to themselves, but it’s too good not to share.

Placitas Cafe
221 Highway 165
Placitas, New Mexico
(505) 771-1700
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 29 November 2014
1st VISIT: 6 February 2014
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: Special Green Beans, The Dubliner, French Fries, Buttermilk Pie, Huevos Spiñaca Creama, Triple Berry Scones, Patty Melt, Placitas Cafe Piñon Blend Coffee, Buffalo Enchiladas, American Classic

Placitas Cafe on Urbanspoon

Category: American, New Mexico
  • Bruce Schor says:

    The Placitas Cafe is one of two dining spots “where everybody knows your name”. Blades Bistro is the other,
    It is a very casual place where the food is very good.
    Ive told John that his clam chowder is excellent and even suggested he join the Road Runner Souper Bowl competition.
    He makes an excellent breakfast burrito and is the place i had my first taste of spam in the form of his aptly named “ham and eggs and spam” breakfast and enjoyed it even though my wife proclaimed while making that “yuck face” spam contains everything that falls on the slaughterhouse floor.
    My go to salad is the Placitas salad hold the ham. Good greens, blue cheese crumbles, sliced avocado and bacon bits, a meal all by itself.
    There is an excellent green chile cheeseburger on the menu too.
    If there is one hiccup, it’s the service which at times is just John and his brother Mike and can be on the slow side.
    Fortunately we are retirees so what’s the hurry?
    Now with Gil’s glowing review we might be able to lounge around for an entire morning or afternoon.

    February 9, 2014 at 9:39 AM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Wow…another place serving SPAM in addition to NMBeef Jerky! Me thinkest we be on a RetroRoll! While Gil only “noted” it, sorry I missed El Brute’s earlier great endorsement!!!
    ~ Alas, while I enjoy its Vecino, Blade’s Bistro, I’ve indeed missed The Cafe. Lest Y’all need an excuse to drive “that far”…consider you might do the same distance crossing ABQ!! If ya need a reason for what seems like a hearty breakfast etc., consider clambering up The Sandia Man Cave a ways up the road, to sit and contemplate the view 25,000 years ago. Google for images and articles, e.g. http://tinyurl.com/knw7kxw or get out your ’95 issue of the New Yorker. (Alas, it may be challenging depending on age or a tendency to acrophobia.) I’ll bet I wont see many hands raised of Folks even knowing of this close by, archeological treasure…LOL Say, into wine? http://www.anasazifieldswinery.com/ in between.

    Tired of paying 5 bucks just for parking at Expo for an Arts/Crafts Fair and then admission? Consider the annual http://www.placitasholidaysale.com/

    As an option to the Man Cave: west of I-25, how many have visited the inground Kiva of Coronado Monument? For Folks who watch there pennies: gas is typically cheaper on 550…e.g. currently $2.31 today. Oh!!! into vintage cars, about a mile or so south off 550 onto 528 (& just north of WallyMart) are 60 at J&R’s Vintage Autos (closed Sunday) http://tinyurl.com/pfsspbo.
    Lastly, never driven on the historically famous El Camino Real…or Pre-1937 Route 66? Take 313 (the road The Range is on) south from 550…observe/wonder about the timbers of the RR ‘trestles’ along the way…and you will eventually “cross” Rte 66 downtown!!!
    “Chow!”

    December 3, 2014 at 11:56 AM
  • Thomas Molitor says:

    Gil,

    This comment applies to The Placitas Cafe but also other eateries that serve local craft beer on tap. The Placitas Cafe has been one of my favorites, having discovered it on the occasions I would meet a Placitas resident friend of mine for a hike into the surrounding hills.

    The Placitas Cafe offers local craft beer on tap, such as Marble, and has a nice selection of other craft beers from kegs. Since craft beer is one of the fastest growing industries (and job creators) in New Mexico, I must chastise you Gil for your neglect to mention (by omission or commission?) the eateries that do offer local NM beers on tap.

    Regrettably, Gil, you will be tied to the whipping post and flogged at dawn in the event you do not change your ways. Prost!

    December 3, 2014 at 12:23 PM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Consider me flogged.

      From the onset of Gil’s Thrilling…I’ve resisted posting about wine and craft beer offerings in restaurants. At the risk of appearing priggish or egotistical, I would be devastated (to the point of shutting down this blog) if a DUI fatality or injury occurred because someone read about New Mexico’s terrific craft beers and fruit of the vin on my blog.

      According to the New Mexico Transportation Department, New Mexico’s death toll in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes fell to 134 in 2013, a record low and 13% below the 2012 level. One DUI fatality is one too many.

      December 4, 2014 at 1:53 PM
  • FGFABQ says:

    Thanks, Bobo, for the excellent endorsement of our Village.
    I would add the Mother’s Day weekend tour of many of our resident artist’s studios, indicated on the free maps available at La Puerta Real Estate just east of Exit 242 on SR 165, which are opened to the public for viewing and puchasing some of their fabulous works, and our weekly concert series put on at the First Presb. Church in the Village of Placitas.
    Both the Placitas Cafe and Blade’s Bistro offer music, Blade’s on their great patio on Saturday eves during the summer months and the Placitas Cafe throughout the year inside.
    Excellent food, great music, great artists and a wonderful concert series.
    Can’t beat it.

    December 3, 2014 at 4:59 PM

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