The patio at Celebrations' new location at 1620 St. Michael's Drive provides a great view of the mountains and plenty of parking, a luxury missing at its former address on crowded Canyon Road.
The striking turquoise door at Cafe Pasqual's welcomes hundreds of visitors each day. On this trip, the line was out the door every time we passed by, no matter the time of day.

Santa Fe Stories: Breakfast on a Budget

Hearty morning menus provide variety, best deals in the city

By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor

August 22, 2008 - You can stay in "The City Different" for weeks before exhausting all your dining options, but eating out can zip through your travel budget in under 24 hours if you're not careful.

In the 26 years that I've been making an annual trek west for art and the opera, I've hit most every bistro, brasserie and buffet in town. Some experiences were happier than others, for both me and my wallet.

Dining out in Santa Fe can really be a budget buster, especially at night. For the price-conscious traveler, however, there is hope - and it comes in the form of breakfast, the most important meal of the day.

No matter the time of day, one of the busiest places in Santa Fe is Pasqual's Cafe. The menu might overwhelm the first-time visitor, but the place offers a little something for everyone. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., and the menu is varied enough to hold the interest of even the most jaded traveler.

Located at 121 Don Gaspar, a side street just off the plaza, it's easy to find Pasqual's. First, there's the bright turquoise door. Then, there's the ever-present line of people waiting to be seated.

The people outside are waiting on dishes like Maga's cheese blintzes with strawberry jam and sour cream or quesadillas, chorizo burritos, trout hash or a variety of specialty omelettes. Huevos rancheros is available, with your choice of whole wheat or corn tortillas. According to the menu, the favorite dish is two whole-wheat pancakes with maple syrup, two eggs, two strips of apple-smoked bacon or house-made link sausage.

La Casa Sena's patio in the beautiful old Spanish Colonial home just off the city's historic plaza is a great place to enjoy a fabulous Santa Fe Sunday brunch.
During the high season, tourists usually have to wait for a table at the Plaza, Santa Fe's oldest restaurant. Once inside, diners enjoy a wide array of good food, including their fabulous breakfast and signature Greek dishes that are sensibly priced and served up by some pretty funny characters.

Prices range from $7 to $14. Portions are generous. They also offer a lovely Sunday brunch. What you have to decide is whether to spend your time in a queue or wandering around the beautiful city.

Celebrations, another popular place for breakfast, used to be located on busy Canyon Road. Imagine my disappointment as we made our way through the arts district only to discover a gallery where the restaurant used to be. Thank goodness for the Internet.

I Googled "Celebrations + Santa Fe" and found that they have moved out to St. Michael's Drive, not very far from the heart of the city and certainly worth the quick trip.

Celebrations opens for breakfast at 8 a.m. and stays open for lunch through 2:30 p.m.

Their menu includes everything from pancakes and French toast to eggs Benedict and breakfast burritos. Prices are modest, with the most expensive items, the Mexican corn tamale cakes and the chile relleno omelette, running about $9.

Celebration's new location offers plenty of parking, which is at a premium on crowded Canyon Road. While you can't watch the tourists browse through art galleries, you do have a lovely view of the mountains to enjoy while you dine.

While they don't serve breakfast on a daily basis, La Casa Sena, located just steps from the plaza, offers an elegant Sunday brunch. The menu is replete with items like La Casa Sena eggs Benedict topped with a red chile hollandaise sauce and my favorite, the grilled ruby trout. Brunch is not cheap, but it's certainly tasty.

My favorite place for breakfast is, and probably always will be, the Plaza cafe . Opened in 1918, the family-owned diner, complete with counter service, black and white tile floors and a neon map of New Mexico on the wall, is the city's oldest restaurant. In 1947, Dionysi Razatos, a Greek immigrant, took over the place, and the Razatos have been running the show ever since.

Located on a corner of the city's historic plaza, the cafe has no parking, which is a drawback, but the food makes up for the hassle.

My first trip to the Plaza cafe was in 1982, so I've had a chance to sample most everything on the menu, including the incredibly good Greek dishes.

Breakfast begins at 7 a.m. and is served all day. Tortilla chips come with most orders. If you want to sample the local flavors, order chorizo sausage and green or red chile with your eggs. If you're more traditional, pancakes are available. This being New Mexico, the Plaza's hotcakes are made of blue corn mixed with crunchy pinon nuts. Of course, huevos rancheros are on the menu. The eggs are served on blue corn tortillas, smothered with red chile and topped with Monterrey jack cheese. Come hungry, because the Plaza provides generous servings. The Plaza's moderate prices are one of the city's best values. Come early, because the locals haunt the place and the tourists flock there in droves. Evidently, the word is out - this is great comfort food, Santa Fe style.

The people who serve you are pretty interesting, too. Since most of them are related or have worked there for years, you can imagine the lively debates that sometime erupt. Pasqual's, Celebrations, La Casa Sena and the Plaza cafe also offer bountiful and creative lunch menus, but I seem to gravitate to the Plaza - for a lot of reasons.

Their Northern New Mexico dishes are superb. Their sopapillas are as light and fluffy as you'll find anywhere in the city. Their pies are made on the premises and rival anything I've ever tasted. And their Greek dishes are authentic and delicious.

They have a souvlaki to die for. Their lamb meat loaf is hearty and filling. The Greek salad is bountiful and full of fresh feta cheese and kalamata olives and topped with a light and savory vinaigrette dressing.

Dining out in Santa Fe need not leave you busted. Have a hearty breakfast, a late lunch and then make your supper choices carefully. You and your pocketbook will come home happy.

Editor's note: Terry Mathews has just returned from a few days in Santa Fe. This is the second in a series on the city, its art and the world-famous Santa Fe Opera.

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