Chama, New Mexico
There wasn't much going on in the town of Chama, when we passed through in July.
We were lucky to find this cute log restaurant, painted barn red! It was time for lunch!
I love the nostalgia of knotty pine! There was a lot of it, on the walls and ceiling.
The metal chairs looked cute in the little cafe, but after driving half a day, I would have preferred comfier seats.
The air felt wonderful though! The windows were open and the lacy-fringed curtains moved with the breeze. I felt at home.
There was some interesting decor. A ceiling fan with horns and lots of heavenly metal art, on the walls.
Under the Clock
We took a seat next to the partition, beneath a large clock. We were near the counter, where we could witness lots of playful banter. A waitress chatted with some local diners as they checked out. She had some humorous complaints about achy feet.
I expected a paper menu at this casual restaurant, but Natasha greeted us with a smile and a big hefty menu. It was decorated with elk horns!
The options looked good and the prices were reasonable. We ordered right away.
Don's impressive chicken quesadilla plate, was only $10. There was a generous amount of meat packed into each quarter and lots of extra goodie on the side, for adding more flavor!
We like to support small town cafes, when we travel. But, my road trip clothes were getting tight. I reminded myself there was no need to apologize for my choice, but I still felt guilty ordering the 5-dollar salad.
Ordering small salads in small town cafes, often means iceberg and bottled dressing. But I lucked out! Fresh mixed greens, red onion, mushrooms, crispy and colorful peppers, cheese & tomatoes! All served on a sleek, modern plate. What an unexpected and filling surprise!
Don and Barbara
After finishing our quick feast, Don checked out with Barbara at the counter. Barbara's mask did not hide her warmth and enthusiasm. She and Don talked a long while about Barbara's memories of Elk Horn. She talked about growing up in Chama, a town of around 1,000. She hinted about "wilder" days, when snowmobiles were more popular. I'm not sure what that meant exactly.
Barbara told Don that the restaurant had originally been a house and then it became a tackle shop. At some point, (I'm guessing 1950's) the property was owned along with nearby cabins, lodge and gift shop.
Growing up in the Restaurant
Barbara said it was 28 years ago, when the property owner leased the building to her mom. Their restaurant opened up 5 days before Barbara's 10th birthday.
Barbara grew up around the restaurant and now her own daughter is old enough to work on weekends. She said it was a good town for raising her 2 kids.
It turns out that we had been seated at the very table where the previous owner Don, dined daily for years.
Barbara said that Don used to come into the restaurant once a day for breakfast. He would order one pancake and a small milk.
"Don't you dare try to give him a large milk!" Barbara added with a laugh. "You don't want to do that!"
Barbara said her mother eventually bought the restaurant, but not the cabins or lodge.
She said the lodge was recently purchased and was being fixed up. We took a peek after we departed. Who knows? Maybe we'll be back for an overnight, someday. I can include a Notable Night write up as well!
What a perfectly satisfying stop on our travels. Good food and equally good conversation.
If we return in a couple years, I'll have more questions for Barbara. "What foods are as popular today, as 30 years ago?" "What was the best thing about Elk Horn that you remember, from when you were 10 year?" I could go on and on.
A sweet place!
One Hour in Santa Fe
In June, (2022) Don and I spent about an hour in Santa Fe.
We spent it, dining in The Pantry Restaurant on Cerrillos Road.
We were headed to Colorado and had hoped to stop for a leisurely lunch in the beautiful town of Santa Fe.
But there were fires and those fires changed our route. This photo was taken before we were in the midst of a huge traffic jam.
Views From the Car
We were rerouted on a strange drive, that seemed sort of curious and entertaining.
But our snaking route ate up time. There wasn't time for a proper visit to Santa Fe.
On Route 66
But we still needed lunch. I Googled and found a place that was actually in Santa Fe, but far from Old Town. This little stucco building was once on the outskirts of town, on the old Mother Road.
That was intriguing enough. But the restaurant had great reviews and they offered easy free parking in the lot.
We entered through a door that looked like it could have been original. George Myers opened The Pantry in 1948.
The stools looked like they could have been original also. I love dining at a counter!
In the Corner
But we took a corner table in the front room, where we had a good view of the guests coming and going. There was lots of activity.
We were seated by friendly staff and given menus right away.
I tired to study the menu, but my eyes were drawn to the tables around me. I liked the quilted art piece above the table behind Don. Below the framed piece, a fireplace was hidden. Did that warm the restaurant in 1948?
I studied the old casement windows nearby. The ladies sitting next to them had a nice view of the old Rt 66. However they seemed unaware of the world outside their table. One of the two was a talker. She hardly paused to taste her food. I was amused.
Don and I placed our order and enjoyed the upbeat atmosphere. There must have been 20 employees, wearing colorful Pantry t-shirts.
There was a cooperative, pitch in feel to the place. Lots of staff moving about, serving, clearing, chatting, joking. No one stood still for more than a moment and no one seemed stressed. My favorite kind of place.
Our meals arrived on colorful southwestern plates. Don ordered 2 fish tacos, well-stuffed with fish and fresh avocado. No complaints!
I'm not sure what possessed me to order a Greek Salad. But I'm glad that I did.
My hefty salad with crispy cucumbers, Kawamata olives, feta cheese and fresh greens, would have been much more than $10.75, if we'd been dining in the touristy part of Santa Fe.
It was 2:30 by the time we finished up. Most of the tables had cleared and some of the staff was freed up for a bit.
I chatted with this friendly bunch for a few minutes. They saw me taking photos and figured I was curious about the place.
One pointed out a silver dollar embedded in the counter. I was confused about her story. I'm thinking there was once another coin, in the nearby hole. It looks like someone needed more money to cover the bill and grabbed a dinner knife...
Another one of the girls took me over to the little open nook, with the cash register. She pointed to a display of origami dollars on the wall. Her favorite was the elephant. Cute!
Then and Now
We left full and happy. I wish we'd learned more about this wonderful 74 year old business. George Myers obviously did something right, when he started up, 74 years ago.
I read that George's son Max, has partnered with the current owners of The Pantry, to open up a new location. I love that.
We pulled out of the lot and I took one last look at the blue and yellow sign. I pictured a 1950 Chevy traveling on Route 66, slowing down to take a look at the neon letters.
As we continued down Cerrillos Road, I spotted more signs. I was reminded of a time when travelers in New Mexico stayed in motor courts, not boutique hotels and Airbnbs. I hope to someday and spend a night in one. In the morning, we can head over to The Pantry for breakfast!
2 Years Ago
I love a Drive-In Adventure! So why didn't I write this one up, 2 years ago?
I don't know, but I'll see what I remember about this little place from the summer of 2019.
Now and Then
This is how the building looked, when I spotted it at the intersection.
I found this second photo on the internet. Different, but still sort of a cluttered collection. Building, parking cover, signs, cars...
I spotted the name "Foxy" while doing an internet search for quick lunches in Clovis. I read the title aloud to Don (who drove every mile of our 3,000 mile road trip.
We both laughed and agreed, that we needed to experience the Foxy Drive In!
Drive Up or Walk In?
The drive-in seemed like a fun option. Besides, Sonic, there are so few options for drive-in ordering these days.
But, we needed to get out of the car. We headed for the entrance and that's when I spotted the rounded exterior. I love a round restaurant.
We had to decide again. Counter dining or table?
I love a good swivel stool at the counter, but we headed into the side room.
I had a fun time spotting all the foxes. There was a pretty fun retro menu with cartoon foxes and exciting prices! Foxy Steak Fingers for 75 cents!
There were some foxy figures on display, too.
There was only one table left in the back room.
We took the little table for two and checked out our food options.
Don studied the menu, while I studied the diners. There was a group with Lion's Club t-shirts. There was a dad with tattoos and ear gages, helping his kids order.
A middle aged couple at one table, reached for each others' hands and bowed heads for grace. It was an interesting bunch.
Call in Order?
I was pretty excited about the phone above our table.
There were instructions for calling in our order, but our server arrived before we had a chance.
Taquitos and Chili Dog
I asked about the taquitos. I was told that was a good choice, so I ordered 2, for 2 dollars.
I also ordered the chili dog and was warned, "That comes on a round bun. Is that okay?" I was fine with that, but it was sort of an odd looking thing. The chili, cheese and dog, were layered in an odd order. But it was yummy.
Burger for Hon
Our server called Don "Hon", which amused me. She seemed concerned that he wasn't ordering the "Ranch Size Burger" or fries.
I've given up trying to explain that we don't eat a huge amount when on the road. This lunch was actually pretty huge for us.
Using That Phone!
We were done dining, but I was dying to try out that phone.
I picked it up and asked if they sold t-shirts. Our sweet server answered and she was sad to say, they were out. "But, Mr. Chris should be in soon. He might know where some are."
We didn't linger for Mr. Chris. We headed to the counter to check out. I learned that Mr. Chris was the son of A.C. Bryant, who opened Foxy's over 60 years ago. He died in 2014 at age 99.
Chris has been running the biz for many years and now with the help of his own son Freddie. I regret that we didn't stick around to meet Mr. Chris.
I love family businesses with lots of history. There were lots of old photos near a curious looking door.
The history of Foxy's was a little confusing. Alfred ( A.C.) Bryant opened Foxy's in 1956, then moved to the current location in 1959.
The Name Foxy?
This photo of "Al's Drive In" made me think that Foxy's was once named for A.C. But this photo was taken during the 1940's before the Bryant family owned it.
It turns out, there's a pretty cute reason for the name Foxy's. In 1938, A.C was working at Fox Drug when he spotted his future wife Eva. They were married in less than a year.
We left happy. The food was decent and the people were friendly.
And oh how I love this winking fox! I caught sight of him on our way to the car!
Lunch Stop in San Antonio, New Mexico
Don and I don't usually stop at bars during the day, especially when we're on the road.
But Don had read a little something about this place that had us both scratching our heads.
The curious trivia had to do with what lead to their well-known Green Chile & Cheese Owl Burger. We knew we had to make a stop on our way to Albuquerque!
Our road trip route took us right to the small town, in the center of New Mexico. We pulled off the highway and found the little bar we'd heard about. There were quite a few vehicles parked outside the brown and tan, stucco building. But even in bright light, the place looked a bit intimidating. There were no windows to peek through, before entering.
The flapping flag and serious looking owl, made me worry that we might be walking into a local men's club. The door just past the sign, looked like the kind you'd enter from the alley. But the story behind the Owl Cheeseburger just drew us in.
Just though the door we found a small waiting area that made up for the mysteriously blank exterior.
Photographs and articles covered the plywood walls. A stuffed owl looked like he was ready to land on my head. A rack of bubble gum machines made me feel less intimidated.
Where to Sit?
The bar was a bit more crowded, (than photo) when we first entered.
About 3 older women rushed back and forth behind the bar, serving more food than drink.
The booths looked pretty iconic and it was tempting to choose one for a cozy lunch.
There were dollar bills and personal notes, tacked to the paneling inside each booth. I learned later that the business gathers them up periodically and donates to charity.
Bar With a History
The 25 foot mahogany bar was purchased shortly after the Owl Bar opened in 1945. Frank and Dee Chavez started the business in Dee's father's grocery store. They bought the 1880's Brunswick-Balk Bar from a famous San Antonio family.
It turns out that tiny town is the birthplace of Conrad Hilton... as in Hilton Hotels. The lovely bar that I failed to photograph well, was first in a rooming House/saloon, owned by C. Hilton's father. Frank and Dee bought the undamaged front bar, after a fire destroyed much of the rooming house. It took 2 days to carefully moved the bar 2 miles, to their roadhouse bar.
Owls Behind the Bar
Don and I sat on our stools staring at the crazy collection of owls behind the bar. I asked "Leo" our server if she had any favorite owls in the place. "Oh there are so many of them.
I don't really have a favorite, but there are some real cute ones." I had many more questions, but the women were far too busy. I held my breath while one woman rushed behind me, carrying 6 plates of burgers.
The Owl Burger
Leo served us up a couple of famous burgers while we pondered their history.
The cheeseburgers made with roasted Hatch green chiles go back to around 1945. In my distorted photos, one burger looks huge and the other tiny. Actually they were a perfect medium size with gigantic flavor.
"Prospectors" at the Bar
Our cheeseburgers were as spicy and fresh tasting as we'd read about. But the real fun was imagining the people who first ate these famous burgers. In 1945 some special customers talked Frank Chavez into buying a grill and serving food.
The so called "prospectors" were a group of temporary "regulars" who were working in the area. The men who yearned for food, weren't ranchers or cowboys, they were physicists, who were involved in activating the famous Trinity Site explosion. It was odd and eerie to imagine these men sitting at the bar, where we ate our burgers. How out of place they must have seemed at first. I wonder if the bar drinks ever caused a secret or two to slip.
My trip to the restroom was entertaining. I found a back dining room that had more booths and more owl decor. The little hallway to the restrooms, had a rather dramatic arched entrance... and
more framed owl art. The Ladies Room extra quite bright, with colorful, owl murals. I was a bit thrown by the lack of privacy between toilets. I found that downright amusing!
I returned to my stool and studied a little more owl art before we headed off.
I wish I could have talked to the older man beside me. Maybe he knew people who had stories about the nuclear bomb, that was detonated just 28 miles away in 1945.
"Here It Is"
As we headed to the car, I looked at the building and tried to imagine how this rambling building could have been a grocery store plus bar.
If only Rowena Baca had been there. She inherited The Owl from her parents, Frank and Dee. She was a child back when the Owl Burger was born, so I imagine she has some stories.
It was a yummy and interesting road trip stop, for sure! We had lots to think about, as we got back on the road.
Dinner in Vegas!
I've seen a lot of vintage postcards showing Las Vegas, with neon signs, glittery casinos and glam pools.
This is a postcard from the cute place where we ate dinner in Las Vegas, New Mexico! No neon or glam decor shown in these photos. But, the postcard looks vintage and the restaurant itself looked pretty vintage, when we visited in 2017.
In 2017, Don and I stayed at The Plaza Hotel. No, we weren't at the ritzy Plaza in NYC... we were in Las Vegas.
We weren't in the gambling Vegas, we were in New Mexico! The Nevada and New York locations would have been very entertaining, but this overnight was all about easy. We walked out of our sweet historic hotel and strolled across the plaza to dinner.
The Garcia Family has been running El Rialto since 1975.
They've had some time to accumulate some curious things for their windows. I have no idea about the age of the building, but once inside, the high, pressed tin ceilings, hinted at old.
Busy on July 3
It was the day before the holiday, so there was a weekend energy to the restaurant.
Most of the tables were taken up with large groups of locals, many with children.
Big Outfits Big Meals
Don and I did some dressing for dinner. I don't think our shirts or jewelry fooled anyone into thinking we were locals. However, our server said she loved my squash blossom necklace.
She said her grandmother had lots of turquoise and she hoped to get turquoise, one day. Don's bolo tie got noticed on our walk to dinner. A very polite panhandler asked for a quarter. Don gave him a dollar and then received a thank you, along with positive words! "Nice bolo tie!" We hoped there was no sarcasm in his voice.
Eating and Watching
Each of our piping hot meals was served on 2 thick plates. I ate my taco, tamale and relleno while keeping an eye on the busy kitchen. It was quite entertaining.
Don had chicken enchiladas and filled me in on the happenings in both rooms. He had a good view of many woven rugs, displayed on the wall. One had a large "R" in the center. Was that for el Rialto?
I studied a framed photo before we left. I don't know if we met any of the Garcia family that night.
It was too busy to bother anyone with questions. If we'd had some chatting time, I would have asked how the restaurant got its name. Rialto makes me think of the bridge in Venice.
There were some curious lamp creations for sale and a t-shirt or two.
We could have completed our meal with a purchase. But we headed off, with full stomachs and empty hands.
We headed across the plaza to our hotel. It was fun to imagine the little city, once a booming railroad town in the early 19th century.
After WWII, the town grew quiet. We may have missed out on the excitement of a bigger city, but we made it back to the hotel, just in time for karaoke!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.