Tom suggested we stop for lunch at La Risa Cafe, a restaurant off I-25 N, about 43 miles from Santa Fe, which many people might overlook because it's not fancy and the signs directing people to the restaurant are hand painted and somewhat faded.
Do not pass this one by, though, because you would be missing out on some careful, flavorful home style cooking and attentive service. The cafe is in a 100 year old house which feels like you are dining in a living history museum.
One indicator of whether a restaurant is good is how many cars are outside and are the license plates from the home state. If there is a mix of work trucks and passenger vehicles, that's a plus. If an elderly abuela (grandma) supported by a daughter and granddaughter is just leaving, there's another plus. No one's going to take Grandma to a crummy place! All these indicators were in place, so we knew it was going to be good. Chef Laura Boyd-Martinez has worked at several notable restaurants in Santa Fe and La Risa is a family venture, with her husband and two sons working alongside her.
Because the weather was nice, we had our choice of inside or outdoor seating. Ms. Pearl was with us, and New Mexico has a law allowing dogs to dine with their owners on restaurant patios, so we ate outside in the screened patio.
The patio was an art and plant filled space, airy, with a flagstone floor that Ms. P thought was cool. She flopped right down. Overall clad workmen, Texas tourists, and a large family ate with gusto, served by an efficient server who happened to be the chef's son.
La Risa Cafe has a website, so you can check out what there is to offer, food offerings to satisfy every palate. Breakfast is served all day, so for me the easy choice was migas, a scrambled egg dish that included chiles, cheese and scallions. Green chile and beans were served on the side.
Tom had his go-to lunch dish, beef tacos. The tortillas were the blue corn type, which look kind of weird but have a robust, corny flavor.
Tom's choice of side was Spanish rice, a sometimes scary decision in New Mexico. I've seen gloopy catsup-like rice, dried, overcooked barely pink rice, and undercooked white rice with a few tomato pieces. This rice was cooked to perfection with tomatoes, scallions, and corn added to the mix.
Chef Laura likes to bake and if I weren't being careful about my food choices I would have had a piece of pie in a minute. I also spied some freshly baked brownies being frosted and smelled spicy cookies. Maybe next time, because there will definitely be a next time.
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