Lunch at Bobcat Bite (Santa Fe, NM)

I was on a quest for the great green chile cheeseburger in New Mexico. Blake’s Lotaburger is pretty good, even if it is a fast-food chain, but the patty was thin. 5 Star Burgers fell short, primarily because the beef was too lean and therefore pebbly in texture.  A great burger starts with ground beef that is around 85-percent lean so that the fat bastes the meat as it cooks. It also has to be seasoned well or the beef will lack dimension, and reasonably charred, not burned to the point of being bitter. New Mexicans add their unique twist by offering chopped green chiles (preferably Hatch). Bobcat Bite serves a fantastic cheeseburger (☆☆☆☆), using choice ground chuck and sirloin. It is all that a great burger should be. We wound up splitting an order because the sandwich is generously portioned.

The name derives from a time when the diner used to feed bobcats that came down from the hills. Bobcat Bite will be a destination diner anytime we’re in Santa Fe.

Bobcat Bite
418 Old Las Vegas Highway
Santa Fe, NM 87505

Breakfast at Tabla de los Santos (Santa Fe, NM)

Burritos with eggs and chorizo, red and green salsas

Having been disappointed by Café Pascual yesterday morning, we looked for somewhere else to have breakfast. Within a stone’s throw of Pascual was a restaurant that is part of the Hotel St. Francis—Tabla de los Santos. Chef Estevan Garcia has impressed quite a few people with his takes on New Mexican cooking. Our burrito with eggs and chorizo (☆☆☆½), topped with red and green salsas, and the homemade granola (☆☆☆½) with fruit bowl were spot on. Unfussy but carefully prepared grub.

Homemade granola with fruit bowl

The dining room was empty except for one other party. But for the formal atmosphere, we couldn’t see any reason why Tabla doesn’t draw more customers.

Tabla de los Santos (Hotel St. Francis)
210 Don Gaspar Avenue
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Menus: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

“Miraculous” Loretto Chapel Stairway (Santa Fe)

Most non-parishioners come to Loretto Chapel to marvel at the spiral staircase. A fascinating legend surrounds its construction. Originally, when the chapel was built in 1872, there was no stairway to the choir loft.  The nuns prayed to St. Joseph to intercede. At the end of nine days, a carpenter appeared at the church who volunteered to build a stairway, on the condition that he have total privacy during construction. After three months, with the chapel completely sealed off, the stairway was completed, but the stranger disappeared without having been compensated. A reward for his identity never was claimed. The mystery doesn’t end there, however. The spiral stairway is a miracle of carpentry: it has no central support to the loft and uses no nails, only wooden pegs. Legend has it that no one saw any wood being delivered to the sequestered carpenter. Who was he? We can only marvel at this handiwork.

Loretto Chapel
207 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Roque’s Carnitas (Santa Fe, NM)

Beef carnitas

One of the cult foods in Santa Fe is the beef carnitas from Roque’s wagon, parked at the edge of Santa Fe Plaza. A whole half pound of sliced marinated beef top round is grilled with onions and green chiles (I’m presuming Hatch), picking up a smoky flavor, then piled into a large flour tortilla, topped with salsa, all rolled up in aluminum foil.

My vision of carnitas is the Mexican kind made with roasted pork and corn tortillas, so I am the first to admit that it is probably this pre-conception that dulled appreciation of Roque’s version (☆☆). First of all, it’s messy, really messy. As soon as you peel back the foil and take your first bite, pieces fall out and juices run down your hand (and, if you’re not careful, your clothes). This by itself is not enough to downgrade it. I did find though that the salsa seemed more like stewed tomatoes (again, I’m expecting pico de gallo). The carnitas itself had a bitterness likely from the smoke from the briquettes and a vinegariness that didn’t seem like limes. Tons of fans seem to love Roque’s product, so I chalk up my indifference to regional preference.

Roque’s Carnitas
Southeast corner of Santa Fe Plaza
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Ramen at Shibumi Ramenya (Santa Fe, NM)—CLOSED

Tonkotsu ramen

Tonight, we were in the mood for Asian food, so I came across a Yelp review of Shibumi Ramenya in Santa Fe. There wasn’t anything revealing about the reviews, but we went anyway. As soon as we walked in, the interior exuded a minimalism that is classic Japanese. Although the name ramenya means a ramen restaurant, Shibumi also serves izakaya and has an impressive sake menu.

According to our waiter, the chef (Eric Stapleman) trained in kaiseki with Seiji Yamamoto and that he attempts to make genuine ramen. The chef, it turns out, owns an Italian restaurant next door (Trattoria Nostrani), but claims Japanese food is his first passion.

Both my wife and I ordered the tonkotsu ramen. It was very good (☆☆☆½), the tonkotsu broth gelatinous and milky as you would expect, though not as porky as some versions. The broth is cooked over two days, following a prescribed sequence of adding pork parts at strategic moments. There were thin coins of daikon, steamed spinach that had been previously squeezed dry, green onions and sliced fatty smoked pork that practically dissolved in the mouth, and the noodles were cooked just right. There was no option to add an egg. This was a welcome meal after a steady diet of Southwest food, not to mention a complete surprise in the middle of New Mexico.

On a special menu, there was a “special pork ramen” for $30!!! We had to ask the waiter what made it so special and so expensive. It turned out that it is the chef’s effort to reproduce the cult ramen in Tokyo (Fujimaki Gekijyo). Astonishingly, there is only one way you can eat this special ramen (which costs 100,000 yen, or about $115). Chef Shoichi Fujimaki has to invite you. Fujimaki claims there are 26 ingredients, and Stapleman, after watching videos countless times of the master making the special ramen, feels he’s nailed 23 of the 26 ingredients. We will never buy ramen for $30, but we have to admire the chef for his dedication to the craft.

Update: (11-27-13) I have learned that Stapleman has moved to my neck of the woods, Seattle, Washington, to try out his ramenya-izakaya concept there. This is good for Seattle for it will up the ante on who makes the best ramen in the Evergreen City.

Shibumi Ramenya *** CLOSED ***
26 Chapelle St
Santa Fe, NM 87501