Food, History and a Fun People Encounter!
In the heart of Albuquerque's historic Old Town, sits a sweet little house with a bunch of dining rooms. Don and I visited last September and had a fine time!
The Cookbook Link
Dating Back to the 1700's
The restaurant in our book was housed in what was once a hacienda belonging to Don Manuel Armijo and his family. The rambling, Pueblo-Spanish style building sits across from the Plaza that was once the bustling center of life in the 1700's.
This is how the casa looked in 1935, long after the Armijo Family left. The second story was evidently added to the structure around 1872, when one of the daughters got married and needed a dramatic stairway.
Under the Portal
When we arrived last fall, the long portal was offering shade for the Native American vendors selling their crafts. We took a peek, but moved towards the door near the corner... hungry for lunch.
The building was divided into 6 dining rooms, with hints of what the old home must have been like. I took a good look at the classic stairway that was imported from Spain, after the second floor was added. This allowed the young bride an impressive way to show off her 30-foot wedding train.
I asked if we could be seated in the dining room with the tree, since I'd seen it in the almost cartoonish cookbook illustration. The tree room had once been the courtyard. It was enclosed with a skylight back in the thirties when La Placita opened.
Windows and Doors
Our young waiter, Matt was happy to seat us at a table on the raised terrance beside the tree. The nearby window once gave a peek inside the house. Now the glass was covered in painted flower designs. The doorway into the next dining room revealed the 4-inch thick walls. I wonder how many coats of paint have gone on that wood trim.
Menu and Book
I loved the vintage photos on the menu. It could have been the same menu cover given to the writer/ illustrator who visited the restaurant over 65 years ago, for the Ford cookbook. The book's recipe for Sopapillas called for lard and the illustration showed a smaller tree. But at least I found sopapillas on the menu. Often restaurants no longer serve the recipes that are featured.
The illustration showed a fireplace covering half the wall. I had to hunt a bit for that fireplace, but I found it.
There were corner fireplaces in many of the rooms. These had once been used for "top of the stove" cooking, while the baking had been done outside in cone-shaped, mud ovens. This fireplace behind the bar was used for stacking wine carafes.
Dining With a Tree
For a while no one else was in our dining room. I had expected tons of tourists in this festive part of town. But eventually some others diner arrived and became interested in the cookbook they saw on our table.
The trunk today, looked to be about 4 feet in diameter. The branches lifted up through a metal portion of the skylight. The branches above the roof, swayed in the breeze and cast odd shadows in the room. A leaf or two had managed to drop onto the brick floor.
I had to save room for sopapillas, so I had a salad and shared Don's enchilada plate. The plate was piping hot and spilling over with flavorful sauces, rice, beans and cheese.
It was so fun to learn from Matt, that many recipes are still used from the day when La Placita first opened in 1931. The same family still runs the restaurant.
I obviously was dressed for my dining adventure on this day. Luckily I didn't burn myself on the scalding little pillows off goodness. And I also managed to keep the drippy honey off my embroidered blouse... bought 20 years ago at a thrift shop and used for very special occasions. What a yummy and sticky treat!
Our Waiter, Matt
I was delighted when Matt saw our cookbook and laughed. He actually recognized it! He said he had been working at La Placita for 10 years, starting in high school. He was sad that his days with the La Placita family might be coming to an end soon. He had just graduated from college
He couldn't rave enough about the family who owns the restaurant. His favorite working memories revolved around Christmas and the festive decorations and the families who came every year on Christmas Eve and posed beside the tree. It made me want to come back in December.
Best Server on Trip
"From: Matt (Top Candidate for Best Server Award) September 24, 2105
Yep, Matt won!
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.