Cafe Pasqual is a culinary leader in the Santa Fe restaurant pantheon
As we begin the last day of 2021, my mind wanders to Santa Fe’s loyal restaurants and the visionaries behind their unparalleled longevity and success. While Santa Fe has many restaurants with 20, 30 or more years of history, one stands out among the crowd as a culinary chef.
Long before local, seasonal and organic produce were all the rage, this was the foundation upon which owner and chef Katharine Kagel built Café Pasqual’s. Named in honor of the patron saint of cooks and kitchens, after 42 years, Café Pasqual’s remains a highly regarded institution where tourists and locals alike venture out for extremely creative and very cohesive dishes.
In the 25 years I visited Santa Fe before moving here, Pasqual’s was our first stop. And, yes, we bought the necessary coffee mugs, bowls, calendar, and cookbook. As locals he’s always a part of our repertoire, especially when we have friends in town, because Pasqual’s represents everything we love about Santa Fe.
Kagel’s commitment to buying locally sourced ingredients, pasture meats and sustainable fish is one of the reasons the food is so fresh and tasty. Influences from Mexico and New Mexico are woven throughout the menu, giving each plate a myriad of textures, colors and spices that make each dish unforgettable. For these reasons, Cafe Pasqual’s received a prestigious James Beard Award in 1999 and they haven’t lost an iota of the passion that continues to fuel them and nourish us.
Pasqual’s honors the fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day by serving it from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., while lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Its inherent popularity means you’ll likely be waiting for a table, so you can either wander around nearby stores or chat with others who are patiently waiting outside. Dinner requires both a reservation and proof of vaccination and is served from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Located one block south of the Plaza in an adobe building constructed in 1905, your spirits lift the moment you walk into the restaurant. Picado paper and colorful ristras wrapped in white Christmas lights drape from the ceiling, vivid murals by Leovigildo Martinez dress the walls, century-old hand-painted Mexican tiles adorn the dining room and music plays in the background to create a festive space that speaks to all of your senses and ignites a celebration.
After eating at Pasqual too many times to count, it’s possible to close your eyes, point anywhere on the menu, and be happy. Each dish is carefully prepared, carefully prepared and exceeds your expectations. But do yourself a favor and start this culinary adventure with Amy’s Hippie Dippie Green Drink ($ 8). A bright and bold combination of kale, cilantro, parsley, ginger, lemon juice and apple juice will give you the energy and nutrition you need in a cold cup. Slightly spiced with ginger and dark green with kale and herbs, it’s so good you might be inspired to make this juicy concoction at home.
We also ordered a chai but unfortunately we received a very sweet hot chocolate instead, although it was made with the almond milk we requested. When we asked if this was the winery, the waiter admitted he had made a mistake and I was disappointed that he did not offer to replace it. So we drank the hot chocolate.
I ordered and received the Durango omelet ($ 19) and cleaned my plate. Big enough for two people or two meals, it was the only meal I ate and it was one of the best things I can remember having eaten in a long time. Three chewy organic eggs are stuffed with diced rosemary ham, sautéed cremini mushrooms, green onions, a touch of Monterrey Jack cheese and sour cream with a roasted tomatillo salsa. Although it is served with guacamole, I requested it separately as I am not a fan of hot guacamole and they were happy to respond.
For sides, I chose the seed bread which is naturally gluten free and reminded me of a recipe on my blog called Life-Changing Bread – but it was better. The huge plate of food was accompanied by oven-roasted sweet potatoes lightly mixed with red chili powder to give them even the slightest hint of heat and a gorgeous burnt orange hue.
My husband ordered Pasqual’s favorite ($ 18), with two eggs of any style, a side of red chili mole, your choice of protein, and two maple syrup pancakes. He went with the homemade sausage which was one of the best we have ever had. Ground pork is seasoned with a generous amount of fennel, herbs and red pepper flakes. The spicy sausage goes well with fried eggs and the two sweet but light whole wheat pancakes.
The breakfast menu is eclectic and ranges from Golden Blintzes de Maga ($ 17) to Smoked Trout Hash ($ 18), two types of burritos for those who only eat breakfast burritos, Huevos Motuleños (17 $) and Corn Pancakes ($ 18). For something lighter, there’s granola ($ 17) or a smoothie ($ 8).
The lunch options are a bit more varied, which pays homage to Kagel’s mother who celebrated life by serving all kinds of cuisines that shaped her incredibly diverse palate that grew up in Berkeley, California. The dishes also pay homage to Kagel’s favorite childhood Mexican restaurant, Don Pequin’s.
Start with a shrimp cocktail ($ 19) or share a mouthwatering salad with your table mates ($ 16). The entrees feature several Mexican platters, including Oaxacan Tamale ($ 11), enchiladas, or carne asada ($ 21). Or go with your choice of hearty sandwiches ($ 18) or a classic but spicy bison-based green chili cheeseburger ($ 21).
The dinner is inspired by Yucatan, El Salvador and Guatemala with Mole Enchiladas ($ 27) and Cochinita Pibil ($ 36), seafood dishes, like the Mahi Mahi Creole Stew ($ 33) and Grilled shrimp ($ 31), as well as grilled lamb ($ 41) and beef ($ 47). Who continues to be moved by the flavors of the world, Kagel welcomes the ideas her talented kitchen staff bring to the table. For three days, each menu offers a plethora of options and guarantees that you’ll never leave Café Pasqual hungry.
The bowls they sell feature the classic Mexican phrase “Panza llena, corazón contento” which translates to “full stomach, happy heart” and as we begin a new year, that is exactly what we all have. need more.
For more on the Santa Fe food and hospitality scene, check out Heather Hunter’s blog, “The Cowgirl Gourmet in Santa Fe,” at thecowgirlgourmetinsantafe.com.