Or stop just short of it and trek for brunch at Frankie's
Pecos is a name I have always associated with the word "wilderness." It's the aspen-filled forest that hovers over the city of Santa Fe, the massive sprawling expanse of green-colored blob on Google Maps, the "Pecos Wilderness." But, it's also a little town just outside of Santa Fe in San Miguel County.
Traveling north on Interstate 25, the road divides snow-lined valleys with cliffs that climb high against the overcast New Mexico sky, powdered white and dotted with tall, deep-green pines. This certainly is wild beauty. Just under 30 minutes from Santa Fe, dive off the high way onto NM-50, a winding road leading to an unassuming parking lot: Frankie's at the Casanova—a name as charming as it is intriguing.
On the outside, Frankie's is a classic pueblo revival style adobe building. The interior looks like the inside of a lodge. The walls are painted off-white, floors are wooden and the chimney is accented with bright orange. From the ceiling hang several glass and metal chandelier cages. On the back wall, two huge animal pelts—a bear and a mountain lion—flank the sides of a giant moose head mounted above the mantel, mouth agape, as if at any moment it might cry out.
The pelts, I'm told by a staff member, were from animals hunted by a local man, and the moose head by one of the owners, Brian Sandoval.
The building was constructed over a three-year period from 1908-11, and has been used for many things over the years. It has served as a rest stop, a convenience store, several restaurants and even as a courthouse and jail, although no one seems to know how this particular arrangement of the space worked.
Frankie's, owned by Sandoval and Bob Cleary, is named after Sandoval's deceased younger brother. At one point Frankie's was located down the street from its current location as a coffee shop. When the partners wanted to expand, they bought the building that was known as "the Casanova." Sandoval's brother and nephew Orlando, who also passed away young, are both featured in the wooden painted relief that proudly hangs in the dining room.
The locale is open from 8 am to 2 pm, Monday through Sunday for lunch and breakfast. Dinner is served on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. Frankie's also does special buffet-style meals on Thanksgiving and Mother's Day.
The breakfast menu has all the things you'd expect. Prices for breakfast entrées range from $4.95 to $9.95. There's also a full coffee bar menu (including bottomless coffee for $1.95), with drinks better than what most restaurants in town offer.
The food is definitely “stick to your ribs” Southwestern comfort food. The flavors, not smothered in cheese or chile, are distinctive and satisfying. The most popular item on their menu, the chicken enchilada casserole ($9.95) is probably the only enchilada dish I’ve ever enjoyed. The potatoes that come on the side of almost every breakfast entrée are well-seasoned, with a delicious molten center and an interesting, almost dehydrated texture. There is nothing greasy about the food, as my friend so succinctly put it “you don’t feel like you need to have an angioplasty after you eat.”
The ham steak and eggs ($8.25) is simple and straightforward. What you order is exactly what you get.
I highly recommend that when you take a day trip, you make the trek for brunch at Frankie's at the Casanova. Daily lunch specials might also tempt you with fare that ranges from steak enchiladas to salmon salad.
Frankie's is a perfect example of what the city folk miss out on. It is a place with a story, a place with heart. Not only is there unaffected and genuine charm, but the staff is warm and welcoming. Pecos might be a trip, but it is worth the drive for the food and the folks who will happily greet you when you arrive.
FRANKIE'S AT THE CASANOVA
12 S Main St., Pecos, 757-3322
Open for breakfast and lunch 8 am-2 pm, Monday-Sunday
Open for dinner 5:30-8:30 pm, Friday & Saturday