James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Celebrating the Resurrection of a Santa Fe Breakfast Institution (that doesn’t serve toast)

Celebrating the Resurrection of a Santa Fe Breakfast Institution (that doesn’t serve toast)

Huevos Rancheros in Santa Fe

Saturday morning in the Fe. The sun, a constant presence in the high desert, already beats down. Last night’s margaritas are still sloshing around in our stomachs, the smell of alcohol secreting from our pores. We touch our heads, tenderly. We need something restorative, something homey.

“Wanna go to Tecolote?”

It’s a scene that’s played out untold times. We pile into our cars, sunglasses over bloodshot eyes, and weave our way through the city streets before finally converging in the sunbaked parking lot of a strip mall on St. Michael’s. We get out of our cars and move to the restaurant entrance, which is already crowded by groups of friends and families leaning against walls or sitting on the curb. There’s always a wait at Tecolote.

We put in our name and go back outside, leaning against the warm adobe wall.

For as long as I can remember, Tecolote has been synonymous with breakfast in Santa Fe. It originally opened in 1980, in a different location over on Cerrillos Road. Then, in April 2014, its devoted patrons were shocked to see a message splashed across its windows: “Last Day of Business Sunday April 20th”. Thirty-four years.

Apparently there was a rent disagreement. The owners said they’d reopen, but wisely made no promises. Santa Fe is a town that does not take kindly to our food being messed with, and we mourned.

But it happened. The owners found a place over on St. Michaels, close to the university. It was like the return of an old friend.

Finally, we’re called and we follow our waiter to the table. The new location is bigger; there’s more light and the decor has been modernized, but the smiles and smells are all the same. It still feels the same.

We fold our menus open, cracking the plastic. What to have? A carne adovada burrito—tender pork, marinated in red chile, mixed with cheese and more chile? A regular breakfast burrito—eggs, your choice of meat, mixed with cheese and heapings of red or green chile (or both: Christmas, we call it)? The atole pinon pancakes?

For me, there’s always only one choice. Huevos rancheros, sunny side up.

A few minutes later, the waiter returns with chunky diner mugs of coffee and the famous starter bread basket, heaped with freshly baked mini sweet rolls, muffins baked with green chile, and biscuits. The only thing you won’t find is toast. “Great Breakfast…No toast!” That’s Tecolote’s motto. They have the T-shirts to prove it.

And then it arrives. Fresh flour tortillas covered with two sunny-side up eggs. Everything covered in a river of perfectly roasted, first-rate Hatch green chile. And a side of beans and posole.

There is a sigh of satisfaction from around the table as everyone digs in. I slice into the egg yolk and it runs into the beans and green chile. I mix it all together and take that first, perfect bite. Around me, there are smiles, laughter, and the smell of chile.

Tecolote Cafe
1616 St Michaels Drive
Santa Fe, New Mexico

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