May 172013

santa fe reporter

Original Article From: Santa Fe Reporter

Fill ‘Er Up!

By Rebecca Withers Chastenet

p 47 FoodIt’s chile cheeseburger vs. fries: Which will disappear first? – Rebecca Withers Chastenet

You gotta love a restaurant that names itself after a gas station.

Not that Café Fina (624 Old Las Vegas Hwy. 466-3886)—the new brunch spot occupying the space that once housed the beloved Real Food Nation—feels anything like a garage with its crisp, clean interior, friendly counter service and sweet, family-centered vibe. Fina might just as well mean “fine,” as in “fine food”—honest homespun breakfast and lunch entrees made from the heart.

Inside the bright space, Murphy and Annamaria O’Brien, with their two adorable children skipping in, out and around their legs, serve a simple daytime menu, heavy on comfortable egg-based dishes that best define the café as a brunch spot.

There are omelets ($8.50 and $9.75) with hash browns and toast or English muffins and the more racy, over-easy huevos motuleños ($9.75), studded with black beans and feta, plus peas and sautéed bananas, all blanketed with red or green chile. A fat breakfast burrito ($8.95) comes more “gourmet” than most others, filled with organic scrambled eggs, home-grated hash brown threads, strips of crisp bacon and a pungent kick of New Mexican asadero and Gouda cheeses.

The cafe’s green chile is of the mild variety—fresh, smooth, bright green and almost sweet. And the salsa is mild too, scrambled into eggs, corn tortillas and cheese as migas ($8.95)—a chilaquile-type dish that I know as Texan in origin, served with black beans, sour cream, guacamole and a triangle of flour tortilla.

I don’t usually do eggs, even though they’re the “perfect” food, but I make an exception for good migas, and these exited the kitchen just right—hard scrambled and having absorbed the earthy flavor of corn tortillas, if sadly missing the topping of fresh jalapeño rounds or scallions that I’m used to seeing.

The lunch half of Café Fina’s “brunch” menu sticks out with a predominantly Southwestern theme, veering outside the region with only two offerings: a beautiful chopped salad ($8.95) with feta and pine nuts in a garlic vinaigrette, and a fish filet sandwich ($9.75), panko-crusted and topped with house-made tartar sauce.

The green chile cheeseburger ($9.50) turned out to be the table favorite, a neatly hand-formed quarter -inch slab of juicy ground beef that the menu says comes from a New Mexico ranch, layered with a bubbling melt of yellow cheddar, lined with strips of fresh-roasted, deeply smoky poblano pepper. The generous patty sits inside a flour-dusted ciabatta-type bun that soaks up the juice without turning to mush, and the accompanying pile of fries quickly disappeared! Crunchy on the outside, with just enough peeling on them to make you believe they are healthy, the fries can be ordered alone as a side dish ($4).

Better yet, hit the establishment mid-afternoon for a snack of sides. Garlic and sesame oil green beans or sautéed shishito peppers with garlic and sea salt ($5) might balance out a potato indulgence that could find the fries sharing space with a plate of hash browns topped with chile and cheese ($5).

Café Fina’s future plans include securing a liquor license for wine and beer service. For now, it offers aguas frescas, natural sodas and coffee drinks.

Plus, as young parents, the owners hope to open a drive-up kids’ lunchbox window service for time-pressed Eldorado and Cañoncito residents doing the weekday school-morning shuffle into town. Boxed lunches would include fruit and a baked good, and could be preordered to save precious time

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