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Five & Dime General Store – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe’s famous Five & Dime General Store

The late Fray Angelico Chavez, New Mexico’s preeminent historian once wrote about Santa Fe’s growth, “The only threat to her own distinctive glory, and something to guard against these days, is the kind of hurried “progress” which has, not history or humanity, but only money as its sole aim and purpose.”  Perhaps nowhere in Santa Fe has that hurried progress been more in evidence than in the world-famous Santa Fe Plaza which has seen significant changes over the years. One of the bastions against progress had been the Woolworth’s department store, in place for several generations, but which finally gave up the ghost just before the turn of the 21st century.

In its place stands the Five & Dime General Store which retains much of the charm that made Woolworth’s a throwback to better times.  Best of all, the Five & Dime retained the lunch counter in which the Frito Pie was invented by Teresa Hernandez in the 1960s–nearly 60 years ago. Few, if any, do it better. The Frito Pie is served the old fashioned way, in an open bag of Fritos smothered with meaty red chile and shredded cheese.

The snack bar where dozens of Frito Pies are served

While filming “Parts Unknown” for CNN celebrity glitterati Anthony Bourdain rankled the feathers of proud New Mexicans who have loved the Five & Dime’s Frito pies for generations.  Bourdain claimed the dish was made with canned Hormel chili and a “DayGlo orange cheese-like substance.”   Worse, the acerbic one claimed the Frito pie is a Texas creation, adding that “New Mexico, you have many wonderful things.  I think, let Texas have this one.” Within days after the program’s airing, Bourdain issued a retraction. 

UPDATE:  In 2011, Kaleta Doolin wrote Fritos Pie, Stories, Recipes and More where she dismissed any claims about Santa Fe’s Woolworth’s having been the inventor of the Frito Pie. What gives Doolin credibility is the fact that she was the daughter of the founder of Frito Lays so she had access to company records. Her research found that the “Fritos chili pie” was first served in 1949, more than a decade before Teresa Hernandez “invented it” in the 1960s at the Santa Fe Woolworth’s.

The world-famous Frito Pie

In 1962, the recipe for “Frito pie” appeared on millions of bags of chips: “Heat can of chili, pour into bag of Fritos, and sprinkle with grated cheese, and chopped onions.” That could well have been from where Teresa Hernandez found the recipe…but she most assuredly used New Mexican “chile” and not some dreadful Texas “chili” in concocting her version. For that she should be canonized.

So, while Anthony Bourdain was right about Frito pie having been invented in Texas,  he was wrong in calling it a “warm crap in a bag” and “colostomy pie.”   It’s for his scatological description that New Mexicans have not forgiven him.  Despite his criticism, Bourdain claims to have enjoyed the Five And Dime’s Frito pie.

The Food Network’s popular “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” program gave New Mexico much more love. The premise of this show is that restaurateurs and chefs know where to eat. It answers the question “where do food stars and chefs eat in their free time–when they’re paying.”  Chef Rahm Fama returned to his hometown of Santa Fe for a “Best Thing…” episode entitled “Childhood Favorites.”  In the episode, he recalled the joys of noshing on Frito pie from the original Five & Dime General Store.

The menu includes several other items, but you rarely see anyone order anything but the Frito Pie which made Woolworth’s a Santa Fe institution. The lunch counter doesn’t have much counter space and there are very few tables, so you just might have to walk around the plaza with your Frito Pie in hand, but you might never have a better one. 

Five & Dime General Store
58 E. San Francisco
Santa Fe, New Mexico
(505) 992-1800
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 18 October 2014
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 18
COST: $$
BEST BET: Frito Pie

Five and Dime on Urbanspoon

  • BOTVLR says:

    Alas, IMHO, The Gil is being much too “tame”!!! For as long as this be on the internet, one can judge for oneself the crudy descriptor Bourdain chose as well around the 45th second:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpT16VxshHc
    (As an aside for historians: Whoa! right to the right of the Five & Dime is a Haagen Dazs ice cream parlor. Early on, it was Zook’s Pharmacy where reportedly, a Russian KGB dude, allegedly seduced the pharmacist’s daughter (pun intended)! More significantly however (well, depending on your point of view), it is reported that the assassination of Leon Trotsky was planned therein!!! Check this source http://tinyurl.com/ak8x7dp here or your library ala A Spy’s Guide to Santa Fe and Albuquerque http://tinyurl.com/ak8x7dp. A delightful read; make a tree of spy’s names and code names to facilitate your reading. E.g. What happened in/around Santa Fe’s Geronimo’s; what is the Spy House on High St. in ABQ all about? http://tinyurl.com/3sdgsuh click ‘Atom Bomb secrets…’ article.

    October 18, 2014 at 7:56 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    I hate to be the only Infidel in the crowd but I am fairly sure Anthony Bourdain was right about the “Texas creation” part of his statement about Frito pies. If you are right about the “nearly” fifty years ago part of the invention at Woolworth’s then I will guarantee that it was a preexisting invention as I had already had one or two in beautiful downtown Dallas where I was working. I can’t remember the name of the place which was across the street from our office in the Mercantile-Continental bldg on Commerce Street for two reasons:
    1. A Frito Pie isn’t good enough to give a damn who invented it.
    2. Several places around Dallas (not my favorite city) were selling them. It was considered “old hat.”

    I won’t say it was invented in Dallas but it was definitely being sold more than almost 50-years ago. Since a Frito Pie is so obvious I would bet heavily that it was “invented” many times. You’re broke and hungry so you take a 5-cent bag of Fritos, pour chile, chili, chillie or chilly over it and add melted cheese if you have it. You never consider it important enough to announce that you invented something. When I moved here and saw them being sold at Woolworth’s I was not sufficiently interested to ever buy one.

    October 19, 2014 at 3:06 AM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Jim

      In 2011, Kaleta Doolin wrote Fritos Pie, Stories, Recipes and More where she dismissed any claims about Santa Fe’s Woolworth’s having been the inventor of the Frito Pie. What gives Doolin credibility is the fact that she was the daughter of the founder of Frito Lays so she had access to company records. Her research found that the “Fritos chili pie” was first served in 1949, more than a decade before Teresa Hernandez “invented it” in the 1960s at the Santa Fe Woolworth’s.

      In 1962, the recipe for “Frito pie” appeared on millions of bags of chips: “Heat can of chili, pour into bag of Fritos, and sprinkle with grated cheese, and chopped onions.” That could well have been from where Teresa Hernandez found the recipe…and she most assuredly used New Mexican “chile” and not some dreadful Texas “chili” in concocting her version. For that she should be canonized.

      So, Anthony Bourdain was right about Frito pie having been invented in Texas, but he was wrong in calling it a “warm crap in a bag” and “colostomy pie.”

      Gil

      October 20, 2014 at 10:42 AM
  • BOTVLR says:

    Whoa, little did I imagine as a kid watchin The Men (an Irishman and German amongst a bunch of Polacks) “just” after WW II, in white shirts and ties, sitting at the kitchen table playing Whist at my Babci and Dziadzu’s awaiting platters of Pierogies/Golumpkies/Kielbasa, I’d be asking this question!!! I never noticed any animosity between my 2 Uncles who were travelling salesmen for Armour and Hormel cans of chili (let alone the latter’s Spam). Alas, never made it to Coney Island nor Texas to try their chili either.
    Bottom line Gil, if ya have recipes within easy reach, what’s the Diff between NM and “other” (brown) chili?

    October 20, 2014 at 11:58 AM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Ay, Roberto. At the risk of sounding xenophobic or starting a Civil War with Texas, I’ll try to be civil.

      New Mexican chile (always spelled with an “e”) needs absolutely no amelioration. It is absolutely perfect as is. Some cooks thicken it with corn starch or flour. Others, like the Arguello Brothers at Mary & Tito’s use only a bit of salt and garlic on red chile ground from pods, not made from powder. Mary & Tito’s red chile is the stuff of legend, the very best in New Mexico (ergo, the universe).

      Texas chili (with an “i” at the end) is usually a hodgepodge of miscellanea, typically including copious amounts of sobaco, eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing. Doesn’t that sound appetizing?

      Frankly, I don’t have any recipes for “chili” but you can probably find one on a packet of Lawry’s mix…or perhaps some former Texan (Jim? Kimber?) will indulge us.

      How’s that for being civil?

      October 20, 2014 at 2:46 PM
      • Jim Millington says:

        Here is the correct recipe for Texas Red Chili. Whatever tou do DO NOT GET A packet of Lawry’s. That is awful.

        By a box of Wick Fowlers 2 Alarm Chili Kit. Shred the instruction so that you will not be lead to chili hell by them.

        Additional ingredients not in the pack:
        2-Tbsp oil
        1-large yellow onion-cut into 8-wedges.
        6-cloves of garlic-chop fine
        1-1/2 lb stew meat. Cut into approximately 1/2″ cubes
        2-15-1/2 oz can diced tomatoes.
        1-tsp cayenne pepper if you like it very hot.
        1- cup water
        However much chopped green chile you are comfortable with
        1-Pressure cooker

        1. Heat oil in pressure cooker over medium heat.
        2. Add meat and cook uncover until brown stirring regularly.
        3. Add water, diced tomatoes and onion and bring to boil.
        4. Add all other ingredients except the Masa flower
        5. Close cover and bring to high pressure
        6. Reduce heat and pressure cook for 20-minutes
        7. Remove from heat and rapidly reduce pressure be running water over lid.
        8. mix 1/2 of the Masa flour with 1/4 cup warm water.
        9. Simmer for 15-minutes
        10. Top with shredded cheese and eat.

        October 20, 2014 at 4:09 PM
      • Jim Millington says:

        I should add that my recipe is extremely hot-the Child Bride won’t eat it. To be safe don’t add extra green chile or cayenne the first time and then inch the quantities up if you like it.

        October 20, 2014 at 5:59 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    Mr Village person, Woe unto you. You could die a slow and painful death for asking THAT question. Quick! Retract it! plead sudden onset Alzheimer’s attack.

    October 20, 2014 at 1:18 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    Again Bob! Armour and Hormel? Wolf Brand is the only acceptable canned “Dirty Word” except that even it is too salty.

    October 20, 2014 at 1:21 PM
  • BOTVLR says:

    Thank you Brother Jim for your chil i caution!
    ~ Salty? I was aghast last week when I noticed that just one little Beef Bouillon cube contains 880 mg of sodium! i.e. almost half the American Heart Assoc. RDA! Lo, a glass of “white” grape juice contains 7 teaspoons of sugar. Yes, these are choices for fasting during the cleansing prep for a colonoscopy….Thanks for not wishing me “Sure hope everything comes out OK! As such let me segue to encouraging Folks to “do” this simple, nonpainful, preventative exercise: http://tinyurl.com/buf8wvg
    (Alas, the biggest conundrum is: Do I choose a male or female GI doc?)

    October 20, 2014 at 2:23 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    Male or Female? Doesn’t matter because if you are getting a full colonoscopy you will be so doped up you won’t notice.
    You have introduced the best possible subject for a food blog where the aim is to divert attention from chile sins.

    October 20, 2014 at 2:34 PM
  • FGFABQ says:

    Speaking about colonoscopies, I completed my 5th or 6th this past Friday.
    I agree with JM that it is a subject for a different blog but if I was a betting man I’d give odds that Bobo would find a way to make it part of the discussion, any discussion.
    Bobo, are you that horny that it matters who performs the procedure? Are you secretly hoping that the Beav has gone to medical school between her commercial duties (no pun intended)? And upon looking deep into your “third eye” she remarks, “Bobo, we must stop meeting this way”.
    And you insist on using the term “polacks” once again………

    October 20, 2014 at 5:07 PM
  • BOTVLR says:

    1) Aaargh Geez Guyz, I’m just trying to learn!!! My Vieja’s “red chile” was red chile pods/water/garlic/etc mixed in a blender with some 1/4 diced beef added in after. Seriously!!!! Look at Ms Chavez’s herein!!! http://tinyurl.com/p42bvqf
    Lest I’m mistaken, there is brown, not red (let alone green), coloring there and a “smattering” of beans!!! much akin to what I’d get out of a can of Hormel/Armour. Lo, per exploring in the recent past per the Bourdain vid, I now keep a can of Jim M’s FAV, the Wolf Brand, albeit it sports 920 mgs of NaCl!!! in my cupboard I.e. it includes besides tidbits of beef/pork, our own ‘pinto’ beans and what they refer to as a “chili pepper”. In their Frito Pie instructions they bake it whereas I’d just fill a soup bowl and mike it to then top with lots of Fritos, lots of slivers of Velveeta, and lots of diced onions!!!! As per my variation, I add some diced, fried Spam or diced, fried balogna! Now that I think about it, gotta get me some Kielbasa!!! Otherwise, where am I going wrong in terms of it not being NM Frito Pie???
    2) FGFABQ: I have sent off an E-query to my 1st generation Uncle, my 2nd generation Cousin (who almost became a Nun, but married an Italian instead) and my Sistah as well as an elemetary school classmate who is a founder of a Polish Cultural Committee, i.e. as all Polonias, to affirm or chide me lest I were to wear a Tee-shirt emblazoned with “You betcha Dupa! I’m proud to be a Polack!”
    3) Re FGFABQ’s The “Beav” reference: I do not have גליק , (the good fortune; luck) as you do to be still blessed for so many years to not need to look where the grass is greener. So you squeeze what you are blessed to have and please allow me covet my fanatasies now that ya mention her, LOL!

    October 21, 2014 at 2:28 PM
    • Jim Millington says:

      If the Wolf Brand has beans it is not a proper Texas Red Chili. It would not be allowed entry into the Terlingua Chili contest. You must use the all meat version. Since it does have cumin it would be condemned by Mr Gil as being unfit for consumption in New Mexico. Make it per my personal recipe for a proper Texas Red. I buy my New Mexico Red Chile in jars from Cervantes (it has no cumin but is not home made). To make a NM Frito Pie topping you would have to add beef.My home made does not have nearly so much salt either. Mrs Beaver or not, you will not find the colonoscopy room to have the slightest hint of a romantic setting.

      October 21, 2014 at 4:23 PM

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