“It’s where?” I asked over and over, craning my neck whenever I drove around the neighborhood. Finally, I saw it.
Midtown Bistro (901 W San Mateo Road, Ste. A, 820-3121) doesn’t look like much from the outside. Yet, hiding behind a stone yard on Second Street and tucked near a yoga studio, a T-shirt shop and a medical marijuana dispensary, the restaurant recently passed the milestone of staying in business for a whole year.Locals can attest that this feat is only accomplished by a fraction of new restaurants here, and this one did it dangerously close to the indefatigable Chocolate Maven and a stone’s throw from Second Street Brewery. All three restaurants are part of the Triangle District, shorthand for the area generally bordered by Cerrillos Road and St. Michael’s and St. Francis drives. It’s definitely away from downtown, but it’s not far enough away to be the Southside. Some people say this region of the city is the new it. Welcome to Santa Fe’s Goldilocks.
The Bistro operation is a partnership between executive chef Angel Estrada and Edmund Catanach, who worked for more than a decade together at Santacafé. Be forewarned, you’re also paying a couple bucks for the atmosphere, and maybe for that clout. In return, you’ll get an attentive waitstaff, ironed table linens, fresh flowers and the works as you settle back into red-leather armchairs at every table. They might seem familiar if you ever dined at the O’Keeffe Café at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Much of the flatwear and some of the china was purchased from the restaurant when it went out of business, our waiter divulges when I smile at a shell-shaped pasta dish.
The pasta didn’t allow the smile to linger, however. The dish of the day on our visit was an ample pile of fettuccine with a cream butter sauce, mushrooms and asparagus ($14). The green vegetable was cooked perfectly, with just a suggestion of crunch, but the rest of the composition fell flat. Salt helped a little, but only a little.
The ruby trout, though, was what redeemed the table. A $14 portion of juicy, pinkish-colored fish stacked on baby carrots and Brussels sprouts with quinoa was large enough to eat some of it the next day for a second lunch. The green olive and sundried tomato salsa on top gave it a salty, acidic bite that cut through the more mild flavors.
Another redeeming quality is that sandwiches here ($10-$12 each) come with housemade lemon pepper potato chips. A kitchen has got to make chips thin and flavorful if I’m going to put a dent in them, so I usually don’t order housemade chips because of the disappointment factor. During this meal, however, I’m surprised my companion didn’t slap at my hand for taking too many “taste tests.” We all know lemon pepper goes on every vegetable, but this was the first time I’d tried the seasoning applied to the holy medium of thin, fried spuds. And holy spuds! The menu also features green chile cheeseburgers in two sizes: Edmund’s is 10 ounces ($13) and Melissa’s is 5 ounces ($9). A grilled chicken breast served with bacon, avocado and mozzarella cheese that we tried was about as basic as it gets with a too-proud price tag of $10.
For dessert, we shared a slice of fluffy cheesecake smothered in caramel made by a waitress named Carmelita. Our helpful waiter said the crème brûlée was his favorite desert, but it wasn’t on the menu the day we dropped by.
SFR’s former editor Alexa Schirtzinger wrote just a few months after Midtown Bistro opened that the eggs Benedict during Sunday brunch at the restaurant were top-notch. The joint, open now for all three meals of the day, also has a beer and wine license.
Hint: No matter the time of day, you might be extra ready for a meal if you stop next door first.
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901 W San Mateo Road, Ste. A, 820-3121
Open Monday-Saturday, 11 am-1:30 pm and 5-9pm;
Sundays, 11 am-3 pm