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This. Goddamn. Film Series.

It’s become Mission: Impossible to see an end to this nonsense

MehFriday, July 31, 2015 by David Riedel

Considering how little Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation cares about a coherent story, exciting action set pieces or jokes that aren’t eye-rollers, it’s worth noting that this film is the fifth in a series that has an uncharismatic lead and absolutely jack shit to contribute to the spy genre. Couple that with the fact that the bad guy (Sean Harris) looks like one of the good guys (Simon Pegg), only with a weak chin, and you have the blah-be-de-blah-blah, OH FUCK IT, WHO CARES?

 

Seriously, is there a guy with less charisma than Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt? What hero is named Ethan, for the love of God? Paste eaters are named Ethan.

 

Anyway, all Cruise’s fading star power can’t make this guy worthy of audience goodwill. Hunt is an empty vessel who runs a lot. Hot shit! Brian De Palma’s big screen update of the faded TV chestnut at least had some tense moments (the silent break-in, for example), but M:I 2 would be one of the worst action movies ever made if it weren’t for M:I 3, which was like watching hack auteur J J Abrams direct an episode of Alias with an unlimited budget.

 

Brad Bird breathed life into the franchise with Ghost Protocol, but director Christopher McQuarrie, helmer of the much better Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher and the weirdo-good The Way of the Gun, has decided to leave any semblance of giving a rat’s ass on the cutting room floor. For example, the villains are called the Syndicate.

 

(Aside: THE SYNDICATE! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WITH THE SYNDICATE? THAT'S THE BEST YOU GOT? AT THIS POINT, I'D SETTLE FOR SOMETHING AS LAZY AS "THE MOTHERFUCKERS" OVER THE I'VE-NEVER-HAD-AN-ORIGINAL-THOUGHT "THE SYNDICATE." FOR FUCK'S SAKE.)

 

Action-wise, there’s a decent motorcycle chase, and Hunt nearly drowns—if only—but bring a pillow because you’ll be nodding off like my grandfather on a warm summer afternoon. I’m sure someone made this joke—but considering how few of Pegg’s land, who gives a whoopie fuck?—but the fact there are five of these things means the missions are entirely possible, no?

 

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: SO MANY COLONS

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

With Cruise and whatever

Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14; Violet Crown

131 min. (WHY??)

PG-13

DEA Destroyed Medical Cannabis

Santa Fe dispensary had state permission to grow marijuana, but the feds took all its plants after a workplace accident

Local NewsFriday, July 31, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr

When federal Drug Enforcement Agency agents visited a Santa Fe medical cannabis dispensary after an explosion last week, they seized what local police originally described as “evidence” for an investigation. SFR has since learned that the federal agency yanked all the marijuana plants that were growing there and hauled them away for destruction. 

Without more information, the seizure seems to be a shift in the understanding that the DEA would turn a blind eye to producers who have permission from a state to cultivate the plant that is still considered a banned substance by the federal government.  

As investigators try to determine more details about what caused the explosion, suspected to have occurred during an extraction process at New MexiCann Natural Medicine's compound on West San Mateo Lane, attorney Marc Lowry says the management and staff are more concerned about the health and recovery of Nick Montoya, 29, and Aaron Smith, 28, who received third-degree burns and remain hospitalized. 

Yet the loss of the 150 plants—conservatively valued at $750,000—will impact New MexiCann’s fall harvest and ongoing operation.

The US Department of Justice and DEA would not answer questions about why they seized plants during a gas explosion investigation, and a public affairs representative with the US Attorney’s office in New Mexico says they’re prohibited from commenting during an ongoing investigation. 

Lowry says he understands that federal agents are in an impossible position in this case, because federal law still considers all cannabis to be illegal.

“The DEA is in unchartered territory as it tries to reconcile federal policy with state-run programs,” says Lowry.  “Historically the DEA has always confiscated contraband, and under federal law all cannabis is contraband, medical or not.”

A spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Health was out of his office Friday and did not respond to SFR’s inquiry about the DEA's seizure of medicine from a state-licensed program.

In the meantime, SFR has also learned inspectors from the city’s fire marshal office visited New MexiCann’s facility after the producer filed a certificate of occupancy, but Fire Marshal Rey Gonzales Jr. says the gas extraction equipment was not in place during his team’s original site visit.

Gonzales says businesses are required to request a new inspection if the use of a space changes. For now, Gonzales’ staff is reviewing hazardous material regulations in the city’s fire code to determine if New MexiCann violated any regulations.

Meanwhile, Lowry says that Len Goodman, the founder of New MexiCann, is engaged in open dialog with all law enforcement and government agencies and is waiting to get a green light after the investigations are concluded before reopening his Santa Fe location. 

Other state-licensed producers tell SFR they’re in discussions and plan to provide New MexiCann new plants so Goodman’s patients have a consistent supply of medication and he’s set back up in time to plant a new winter crop.

“The timing of this accident is bad. It hurts everybody,” says Rachael Speegle, director of operations at Verdes Foundation, an Albuquerque-area dispensary. 

Speegle, who is also a registered nurse with experience in public health policy, says the conflict between federal and state laws needs to be worked out.  

“It’s impossible to operate in this country when we still have this divide between the two regulatory bodies,” she says.

Earlier this year, Speegle helped potential new growers apply for producer licenses. She says many of the new groups have been calling her with concerns about the DEA seizure. 

“They want to know if they should invest money in this business because federal agents can seize plants at their whim,” she adds. 

R. Greenleaf Organics founder Willie Ford says everyone should be concerned about the seizure, but he claims he understands the DEA’s action. 

“It’s in their DNA,” says Ford. “These guys are just doing their jobs. They’re required to investigate gas explosions, and when they see all the plants, they have to take them.” 

This Weekend

Celebrate the Best of Santa Fe!

Weekend PicksFriday, July 31, 2015 by SFR

Full Moon Roots Music Madness: Jono Manson and Man No Sober

Two bands with two awesome dudes (and then some) make you wish you had more than two ears with which to hear the tunes.

More Info >>

Needles & Seams

Four artists engage with some of our most ancient art forms: sewing, knitting and felting. Through Aug. 23

More Info >>


42nd Annual Girls Inc. Arts & Crafts Show

Jewelry, painting, pottery, sculpture and lots more enter in the 42nd year of the org's annual show.

More Info >>

SFR's Best of Santa Fe Party

Come celebrate the best and brightest from your community as voted by you—the readers of SFR. Food, drinks, partying indoors and out...sold!

More Info >>


2015 Festival of Song

A showcase of luminous and emerging talent from the opera world, the first concert features Quinn Kelsey and Marjorie Owens.

More Info >>

SFO Civil War Symposium

Deepen your understanding of the Civil War with presentations from authors including Harold Holzer, Hampton Sides, Kirk Ellis and music by Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout. Visit media.newmexicoculture.org for more info

More Info >>




Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.

Cymbalism

Party like a winner

Music FeaturesFriday, July 31, 2015 by Alex De Vore

Once our Best of Santa Fe party has been thoroughly enjoyed and provided you with enough hometown pride you could just barf, you’ll realize that the good times have just begun and the after-party is going to be a blast.

And though Portland's Unknown Mortal Orchestra and L.A.'s Vinyl Williams will be on hand to keep it goin’, the most exciting part of the night will come in the form of Cymbals Eat Guitars.

The Staten Island-based act will transport you back to the glory days of melodic indie rock, as the quartet reminds us all that feeling feelings is great and that Barsuk Records sure knows how to pick ‘em.

Think Pavement meets Braid but leaning a little more toward the sonic soundscapery of Pelican, sans the super-serious attitude.

Do note this thing is going down inside the Farmers Market Pavilion and has a separate cover. But seriously, though—it’s more than worth it.

BoSF After-Party
8 pm Saturday, Aug. 1. $15
Farmers Market Pavilion
1607 Paseo de Peralta,
983-4098

Morning Word: PNM Agreements Sidestep PRC Review

Advocacy groups want ownership transfer agreements ruled null and void

Morning WordFriday, July 31, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
PNM has spent months trying to restructure ownership agreements of the aging coal-fired plant near Farmington before it shutters two of the units. In May, they signed acquisition agreements with the City of Anaheim and M-S-R Public Power Agency in Modesto to acquire their portions of the San Juan Generation Station. The only problem: The investor-owned utility never got the Public Regulation Commission's required review or approval for the transfer. Now, New Energy Economy has filed a petition declare the secret "deal null and void."  
According to a July 16 memo from the M-S-R Public Power Agency’s attorney and general manager to its commission, divesting from the San Juan plan would save its members tens of millions of dollars in the next seven years.
The memo says that M-S-R drew on the expertise of an independent consulting company to determine that by divesting in the San Juan plant, the power supply costs to its California members would be lowered by $81 million beginning in 2015 and continuing through the final retirement of the agency’s San Juan Project Revenue Bonds in July 2022.
The memo also states that the restructuring agreement with PNM “avoids $28 million in [San Juan Generating Station] retrofit costs” and allows ongoing power cost savings valued in a study conducted in 2015 by Navigant Consulting Inc. at $20 million during a 20-year period. Further, it “avoids the timing risks and legal uncertainties associated with litigated or arbitrated exit plans or renegotiation of issues which have consumed exhaustive negotiation.”
PNM, which has scheduled its Second Quarter conference call with financial analysts this morning at 9 am, calls the petition meritless.

Margaret Wright has the details. 

Journalist Joey Peters was able to determine the name of the business at the center of an investigation into whether the New Mexico Tax and Revenue Secretary gave a former client preferential treatment. After brightening his computer screen, Peters was able to see right through a blacked out portion of the email meant to hide the name of Harold's Grading and Trucking of Bernalillo. The owner of that company told Peters that Tax and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla had been his CPA years ago but claims she didn't offer any special treatment during a recent audit. .

Read it at the New Mexico Political Report. 

The Albuquerque Journal talked to the tax department about their incomplete redaction. A spokesman didn't deny the business in question is Harold's Grading and Trucking but instead blasted the journalist for revealing the name.
“The fact that a left-wing blogger manipulated the public record to out the small businessman underscores how this has become a pathetic example of manufactured political theater led by the most partisan state auditor in New Mexico history,” TRD spokesman Ben Cloutier said in a statement.
Cloutier was referring to Auditor Tim Keller, whose office oversaw a preliminary investigation into whether Padilla inappropriately pressured employees to give preferential treatment to a taxpayer she had previously worked for as a CPA.
Read it at the Albuquerque Journal. 

Former Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella will be getting another day in federal court. He wants Judge James O Browning to halt prosecutors' plans to seize $70,000 from his bank accounts to pay court fines after he was convicted of beating up a motorist and violating the man's civil rights.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Donald Trump has a commanding lead in the Republican presidential campaign polls despite making outrageous comments about war heroes and undocumented workers. Before heading to Scotland to golf and deliberately not prepare for next week's debate, Trump proposed mass deportations.

Read it online here. 

A few state prosecutors who got fired by Attorney General Hector Balderas may be heading to state district court if their administrative appeals are dismissed.

Deborah Baker reports. 

New Mexico Health Connections, a nonprofit health insurance cooperative, continues to struggle financially. It posted a $4.3 million loss last year.

Rosalie Rayburn has the story. 

Lauren Villagran has the latest on Virgin Galactic's plans to take tourists into space from its Spaceport America base in southern New Mexico. Despite setbacks, Sir Richard Branson appears to be adopting his mother's "just keep going" motto.

Read Villagran's report at the ABQ Journal

Santa Fe baseball fans will have to wait a while longer for the Fuego playoff games. A soggy field postponed the game for the second night in a row. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the team's manager has resigned abruptly.

Read why Will Webber calls Bill Moore a quitter. 

Morning Word: Prison Guards Fire at Inmate During Target Practice

Prisoner screamed in pain after getting hit by a nonlethal bean bag

Morning WordThursday, July 30, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
It's Thursday, July 30, 2015

This story just seems unreal. A prison inmate in Grants is suing the New Mexico Corrections Department after he says a guard shot him in the foot with a bean bag during target practice.
Prisoner Robert Vasquez filed the suit in state District Court in Santa Fe. He alleges that administrators at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants conducted a training exercise for officers with targets taped to the wall and floor of a building next to cells. “The guards intentionally pointed their weapons and fired at the cells of various inmates,” Vasquez’s lawsuit says.
A spokeswoman says the department contends their nonlethal training exercise didn't injure Vasquez.

Robert Nott has the shocking details. 

New Mexico Tax and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla continues to deny she pressured two staffers to give a former client preferential treatment. Her office gave Heath Haussamen an email that shows officials told the workers the audit was not changed, but the attorney general's office continues to investigate information turned over by the state auditor's office. For now, Padilla says she remains focused on her work.

Read it at NMPolitics.net. 

Daniel J. Chacón reports a plan to build a controversial assisted-care living facility on Old Pecos Trail remains in limbo after a wild City Council meeting last night.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Even with illegal border crossings on the decline, a report from the Homeland Security Advisory Committee suggests systemic changes at the US Customs and Border Protection agency and says the country's largest police force needs to be more transparent and develop a use-of-force policy that prioritizes human life. Information in the report about racial profiling exceptions, according to Brian Erickson, are alarming.

Read more at NM Politics.net. 

Meanwhile, the state's US senators want to know more about a labor dispute at the federal law enforcement training center in Artesia.

Matthew Reichbach reports. 

While the New Mexico Occupational Safety and Health Bureau investigates that fiery medical cannabis dispensary explosion in Santa Fe, the bureau has leveled a big fine against the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority for exposing employees to toxic chemicals.

Joey Peters has the details. 

With six key jobs vacant at the Public Regulation Commission in Santa Fe, the chief of the regulatory group says the agency is struggling to move cases through the docket. But hiring new staffers would increase the PRC's budget deficit.
When questioned about the PRC’s ongoing staffing shortfall and a possible agency request for a funding increase, Michael Lonergan, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez, said, “It’s worth noting that for last fiscal year, the PRC received a budget increase of 10.7 percent, more than twice the average percent increase for other state agencies.”
Margaret Wright has details. 

Piecemeal Money Reform

City Council approves portion of proposals on campaign finance rules and kicks discussion of Morningstar senior complex to next meeting

Local NewsThursday, July 30, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

City Council candidates who take public money for campaigns in the next municipal election will have more clarity on the legal definitions of terms such as “coordination” and “disclosure.” Yet, they won’t be allowed to raise additional funds to compete against privately funded candidates. That’s after Santa Fe City Council approved some proposed revisions to campaign finance regulations late Wednesday.

But some of those following the issue closely say the changes won’t really do much to stop the influence of political action committees.

Ethics and Campaign Review Board members had proposed rule changes to address what constitutes coordination between candidates and independent groups and what kinds of election activities require disclosing who has paid for them, and those measures passed. What failed were revisions that would have allowed publicly financed candidates to raise money privately and receive matching funds from the city for those efforts.

During the 2014 mayoral election, some alleged that local unions acted in coordination with candidates, Zachary Shandler, assistant city attorney, said in his introduction to the ordinance.

“These citizens asked, what does coordination really mean?” Shandler said. “If citizens are confused [about] what coordination means, let's give them examples.”

The proposed ordinance changes arrived before the governing body without a recommendation from the Finance Committee, which reviewed the proposal on July 13 and determined, as Finance Chairman Carmichael Dominguez told SFR earlier this month, “in order to do this right, we needed to have the entire City Council chime in on it and debate it.”

That approach, however, fueled a confusing flurry of amendments and motions for changes.

“That fine-tuning should come from the professionals that do it…Us making legislation on the fly is not a good idea,” said Councilor Chris Rivera. “I'm planning on running again, so these changes would really benefit me, but I think there's more important things than what would benefit me.”

Members of the ECRB suggested that if councilors couldn't comfortably adopt all of the proposed changes during Wednesday evening's meeting, they could adopt the definitions and disclosure provisions and table the remainder, with a set deadline to reconsider the proposals.

Following a motion from Councilor Signe Lindell to that end, the council voted 6-3 in favor of that approach, with councilors Peter Ives and Joseph Maestas and Mayor Javier Gonzales opposing.

The ECRB recommendations that were approved define coordination, expressly list coordinated expenditures and outline the boundaries that need to be maintained for professional services, like perhaps a polling service, to work with multiple entities in a campaign without combining resources or using voter information in a way that would constitute real coordination, like sharing materials, phone scripts or voter lists.

The changes also add examples and definitions to rules stating that entities spending $250 or more on any campaign communication, including advertisements, mail campaigns, billboards, signs or phone banks, also have to disclose their expenditures and contributions. A representative for that organization must certify that these expenses were not made at the request or suggestion of the candidate.

Some have questioned whether it would remain possible, under what’s called the "nesting doll” effect, that the only contributor a group could disclose would be another political action committee that’s not required to list its donors. To take their best shot at that issue, the ECRB added language that says if an entity does not have to disclose its contributors, then their campaign materials need to state that.

“We concluded that, with the limited staff that we have at the city, there was not a way of really tracking that back,” said Ruth Kovnat, a member of the ECRB.

“These will not stop PACs,” former councilor Karen Heldmeyer said during public comment. “I think the public needs to be aware of that, or they're going to be very upset with the outcome of this.”

The definition of coordination is basically unenforceable without a mole, a disgruntled employee or a misfired email,  Heldmeyer said.

The portion of the ordinance that was postponed would have allowed publicly financed candidates, funding for whom is capped at $15,000 for City Council and $60,000 for mayoral races, to raise money privately and receive matching funds from the city's coffers at a four-to-one rate. The intention was that those additional funds might better allow publicly funded candidates to compete with those who are privately funded or are benefiting from independent groups campaigning on their behalf.

“I will tell you being a participant in that election and being the individual where people were casting lots of stones, I think that it would have been good for that campaign if there were other funds that were available to be used,” Gonzales said.

But councilors expressed concern at the possible expense the city could face by spending so much on campaigns, and what remedy these revisions really would provide.

“In the last mayoral election in 2014, all three candidates, in an effort to level the playing field, used public campaign financing," Councilor Bill Dimas said in a prepared statement when council discussion opened. When outside groups, including unions, started spending money for a certain candidate, Dimas said, "that's when the concept of a level playing field went to hell."

He added, “Public campaign financing will be nothing more than supplemental financing to PACs. I'm not sure this is what the voters wanted. I'm not naïve enough to believe these will fix anything…I know some campaign finance changes will probably pass tonight because it's the politically correct thing to do, but I don't always do the politically correct thing.”

Maestas, who opposed the motion to pass just the definitions and disclosure requirements and not the change to publicly funded candidates, said he was sorry to see these “progressive concepts” removed from the ordinance, and Gonzales echoed that it was a missed opportunity. They said they expect to revisit the matter in January.

Because postponements were the theme of the evening, City Council also reopened the July 8 vote in favor of a senior living community on Old Pecos Trail, but were unable to come to a decision on how to handle the matter. Weeks after casting the tie-breaking vote, Mayor Javier Gonzales asked council to remand the decision to the Planning Commission to see if the Colorado-based developer Morningstar and the Southeast Neighborhood Association that had opposed the project could mediate a compromise that might alleviate some of the visual impacts of the project on the historic access route to Santa Fe. 

The conversation led to some exacerbated procedural bickering and councilors split themselves in half several times voting on multiple motions to require parties to attend mediation meetings, then allow the City Council to reconsider the proposal themselves or remand the decision to the Planning Commission, the composition of which has changed since that committee last approved the development’s special use permit and rezoning.

Gonzales argued the Planning Commission should have another chance to consider it, Councilor Patti Bushee argued the decision should fall to City Council. Councilors Rivera and Ronald Trujillo fought against the whole question of reopening the application, Rivera saying this kind of unsteadiness sends a bad message to businesses that want to move into town.  

Discussion descended into what councilors themselves deemed “a circus” and a “dog and pony show,” and, ultimately, a decision only to postpone the conversation to the next City Council meeting.

Morning Word: New Mexico Clergy Promote Solar and Wind

Interfaith leaders urge action on climate and poverty issues

Morning WordWednesday, July 29, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Religious clergy from all faiths in New Mexico are lining up in support of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, climate change and poverty.
“We do not have unrestricted freedom to misuse creation,” Rabbi Min Kantorwitz said outside St. Therese Catholic School in Albuquerque. “In our ignorance and in our greed we have damaged the world. There is no one else but us to repair it.”
Expect the state's three Catholic bishops to begin promoting wind and solar energy and increased funding to help improve child well-being in New Mexico.

Read more at the ABQ Journal.

In the meantime, it appears that oil production is on pace to match or set state records.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Even as oil production increases and fuel prices stabilize, it looks like Santa Feans are driving around town a little less than before.
Traffic counts from the regional Metropolitan Planning Office show that average annual daily traffic around the city decreased 1 percent from 2005 to 2014. Seven percent fewer cars, from just over 5,000 to just under 4,000, are making daily trips on Agua Fría Road. Meanwhile, Santa Fe’s population has grown by 13 percent between 2000 and 2014.
Elizabeth Miller reports. 

Amid allegations of cronyism and corruption, Santa Fe Police Chief Eric Garcia has decided to retire from law enforcement. Patrick Gallagher, a former New York City police officer who was a first responder on 9/11, now takes the reins as the city’s top cop. 

Thomas Ragan has the story at SFR. 

Proposed rules governing mines, landfills and junkyards in Santa Fe County are raising concerns. Some residents want new ordinances to require more regulatory reviews before new projects are built.

Justin Horwath reports. 

What a difference a good monsoon season can make in just one year. Ollie Reed Jr. has published some maps that show exceptional and extreme drought conditions are gone and only 1 percent of the state is still in severe drought. Nearly half the state has no drought after the buildup of rain water this spring and summer.

Read more at the ABQ Journal. 

New Mexico road construction crews are breathing a sigh of relief after the US Senate approved additional highway transportation funds for at least the next three months.

Read it at ABQ Business First. 

The National Security Agency says it will finally destroy millions of Americans' call records it had collected and stored in its computer systems.

Read more at the Los Alamos Daily Post. 

New Mexico's two US senators are planning hearings to seek relief for the state's radiation victims.
The senators have introduced legislation that would amend the so-called RECA law to cover victims of the government’s nuclear arms testing, including those living downwind of the Trinity bomb test in New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin and post-1971 uranium workers in Northwestern New Mexico.
Michael Coleman reports from Washington. 

The National Park Service and US Department of Energy have agreed to jointly manage the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which commemorates the development of the atomic bomb in New Mexico.

Anne Constable has the story. 

After a fiery explosion at a Santa Fe medical cannabis dispensary last week, other producers are taking a close look at the safety of their own gas extraction manufacturing processes.

Read my story at SFR. 

Las Cruces Democrats are planning a big kickoff event for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign this week. The Vermont senator is also scheduled to deliver a personal message to the crowd via a live video stream.

Read it at the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Work is beginning on the first 20 miles of the new 500-mile Rio Grande trail that will follow the length of the state's biggest river.
The first miles of the Rio Grande Trail will be within the boundaries of Elephant Butte Lake, Caballo Lake, Leasburg Dam, Mesilla Valley Bosque, Percha Dam and Rio Grande Nature Center State Parks.
Staci Matlock reports. 

Everything Else

Best of Santa Fe 2015

Best of Santa Fe 2015Wednesday, July 29, 2015 by SFR

Best Place to People-Watch

The Balcony of Draft Station
60 E San Francisco St., 983-6443

Maybe it’s my natural curiosity, my desire to understand human behavior or simply the fact that I’m socially awkward, but I love to people-watch. And I’m certain that most people do too. The popularity of social media, I think, backs up this point. When I’m in the mood for leisurely local voyeurism, I like to head down to Draft Station and perch myself on their balcony. As with most things (dare I say all?), people-watching is better with beer, and Draft Station offers the best in local brews. The balcony itself is pleasant: Overlooking the southern side of the Plaza, just off the corner of San Francisco and Lincoln, you can enjoy—day or night—the pedestrian traffic. From tourists to Plaza regulars, there’s much to be seen. So take a break from your virtual spying, channel your inner LB Jeffries and enjoy the view. (NA)

Best place for a stay-at-home dad to suck in his gut

City of Santa Fe Bicentennial Pool
1121 Alto St., 955-4779

The city’s only outdoor pool, this chlorinated oasis is a top destination for me and my infant son, particularly on weekdays during off-hours when the crowds are smaller. We gave up on the Genoveva Chavez Community Center’s indoor leisure pool after summer commenced and we kept getting denied because of max occupancy. Admission to Bicentennial Pool is also very affordable, $1 for children up to age 10, $2 for 11 to 17 and $3 for adults. For the young and single looking to catch a tan and a venereal disease in a Las Vegas poolside dayclub, this is not your scene. But the Bicentennial Pool offers plenty of sun, cool water, green grass, a slide, a tot pool and enough moms in bathing suits to make a potbellied dad straighten his posture. (TEL)

Best place where female objectification is still a thing

Thomas Ragan

Cheeks
2841 Cerrillos Road, 473-5259

Another great place because it’s the only place in town is Cheeks, an, ahem, so-called Gentleman’s Club. And it might be the last. Per city ordinance in 2009, there shall never be another strip club located inside city limits, so get it while you can, folks, before owner Elmo Montoya sells it (although that doesn’t look to be in the cards anytime soon). Cheeks is a great place to unwind after a hard day’s work, or even celebrate a birthday or bachelor’s party. For $40, if you’re the groom or birthday boy, you can get your own Cheeks T-shirt, but most importantly you’ll be put on stage and become the center of attention, however fleeting. Girls will give you free dances while your buddies egg you on. And if you don’t have the money to burn, it can be just a great neighborhood bar away from downtown, notes bartender Andrea Gonzales. She’ll make you a $3 house margarita. Or if you prefer beer, that’s only $3 too. Bring your umbrella, the forecast here calls for nightly showers. (TR)

Best Place (That’s Not Cheeks) to Spend a Wad of Singles

Julie Ann Grimm

Santa Fe Fuego Game, Fort Marcy Park
329 Garfield St., 820-7827

Fans of Santa Fe’s team in the Pecos Baseball League already know this secret. But as the season draws to a close, there’s still time for newbies to get in on the action. Picture yourself seated on the wide, comfy concrete grandstand at Mager’s Field at Fort Marcy Park, looking out over the very same turf that’s elbow-to-elbow with spectators for the annual burning of Zozobra. Only this time, the field is dotted with uniformed players. Ours is the red team, their hats emblazoned with the fiery logo that represents the Santa Fe Fuego. Since the players earn only a paltry sum for their efforts and spend the summer sleeping in dens and spare bedrooms in fans’ homes when they aren’t on the road, the ritual of passing the hat is one that they appreciate. Whether it’s for a home run or seven shutout innings by the pitcher, throw in your dollar. Better yet, make it two. (JAG)

Best Road to Confuse Non-Santa Feans

Paseo de Peralta

Not always the easiest city to navigate, Santa Fe confounds people traversing its streets for the first time. Where is the logic? It’s as if King Minos was the original city planner. The most labyrinthine road for an out-of-towner is Paseo de Peralta. We begin at an intersection with St. Francis and go east. The road twists and turns, but many roads do. The road then takes a 90-degree turn, and we go north. Okay, something new. Now we’re going west? Here we are, passing the DeVargas Center, only to end up at…St. Francis? It feels as if Paseo has a life of its own, going where it wants. But once it’s understood that Paseo is a loop, it takes on a charming and useful quality that not many roads have. However useful, the grid systems of newer cities can feel impersonal; these roads have personality, dammit! No matter how illogical. (NA)

On a Related Note, Best Place to Use Your Turn Signal

Every Fucking Time you Turn

It is a perplexing fact of humanity that it can invent the automobile and then lack the ability to operate it. Like cars, the roadway is a feat of great proportions: Few things, when the rules of traffic are followed, showcase the full potential of human civilization, and yet few things do so much to drive us absolutely insane. Like, say, when fellow drivers don’t use their turn signals. Am I supposed to read your mind? It’s more than a simple courtesy, it’s an act of communication that allows the system to run efficiently. The New Mexico Driver’s Manual states, “Signaling gives other drivers time to react to your moves. You should use your turn signals before you change lanes, turn right or left, merge into traffic or park.” Please, let people know what you’re doing. And don’t even get me started on double yellow lines. (NA)

Best Place to View Urban Wildlife

St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road

Although the original depiction of St. Francis of Assisi featured the saint holding a skull (representing his work with leper colonies), more modern renderings of Santa Fe’s namesake monk depict him with animals. A fuzzy, feel-good version of this can be seen in front of City Hall, where a prairie dog sits at his feet, facing Francis in conversation. It’s no wonder, then, that our city has a long love of those critters. City laws even say you’ve got to humanely relocate a colony if it’s living where you want to build. As urban development encroaches on their habitat, Santa Fe’s prairie dogs have been marginalized, but they’re still hanging in. See a great example at the corner of St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road. Roll down the window and listen to their chatter while you wait at the light, or ride by slowly on your bike and get a glimpse of their complicated social structure. (JAG)

Best Place to Soak up AC and Pretend You Are Home

Violet Crown
1606 Alcaldesa St., 216-5678

The gaping hole in the Santa Fe Railyard finally became a thing this year, when the long-envisioned cinema opened in May on the city-owned land, bringing a whole new kind of moviegoing experience to the City Different. While many are enjoying the perk that they no longer have to sneak a cocktail into the theater in their purses, but can instead buy cold beer on tap and drink from a pint glass in a right-sized cup holder, the other big attraction in these extra comfortable theaters are the front row seats. The reservation system lets you choose seats ahead of time when you buy tickets online or in the lobby, and choosing the front row means each leatherish armchair also comes with a rolling ottoman. Plus, no more stumbling through the dark to find your friends when you show up late. They’ll be right where the tickets say they are. (JAG)

Best Place to Pretend You’re a Guest Star on an Episode of Wings

Elizabeth Miller

Santa Fe Municipal Airport
121 Aviation Drive, 955-2903

If you visit the Santa Fe Airport more than once or twice, it could easily become the place where everybody knows your name. Not that that means they’ll stop sending you through the one metal detector, of course. But the single row of desks for airline check-in, the solo security line and, upon arrival, the one conveyor for luggage give the airport the kind of feel a savvy real estate agent would label as “cozy.” Drop into the Santa Fe Airport Grill, and you’ll be treated to all the Coke products and snack foods you need; just pull up a seat at a vinyl booth, crack open a magazine from the racks and admire the movie posters for classics like El Recuerdo and En La Palma de tu Mano. (EM)

Best Place to Chug a Mad Mini

Anson Stevens-Bollen

Anywhere. But soon

It’s a tie between the downtown bus depot and in front of the Allsup’s on Agua Fría Street. But do it now, because the city has already outlawed the sale of these single-serving, to-go booze containers along Airport Road, and the law oozes into the whole municipal area in October. A runner-up for this category is also “Best Threatened Lawsuit.” While liquor retailers and a couple of lawyers beat their chests when the City Council banned the tiny bottle, their threats to fight the law in court before it kicks in have so far been empty. It’s empty bottles, though, that officials say are the real problem. Look in any major thoroughfare median, in the weeds along neighborhood entrances and along the edge of every arroyo and the Santa Fe River, and you’ll spot the litter. Apparently once you drink the shot, your ability to find a trashcan diminishes rapidly. (JAG)

Best Noncongruent Strip Mall

The one at 2101 Cerrillos Road

It houses Book Mountain Used Paperback Exchange, Romero’s Tattoo, Sierra Trophies and Sports Outlet (selling T-shirts, trophies and athletic uniforms), Healthy & Energetic (an Herbalife outlet selling shakes and teas), H&R Block (for taxes and notary public services) and O’Reilly Auto Parts. If necessity is the mother of strange bedfellows, we’re going to guess the needs that drove the shops to share the strip mall at Cerrillos and Apache had more to do with real estate and a large parking lot all their own than it did the neighborhood’s regular to-do list. Though perhaps you know someone who likes to pair their Herbalife pickups with a new tattoo and some tax paperwork or purchase a new oil filter and Little League uniform in the same go. And while you’re at it, grab a used paperback. No, but really. Get a used paperback from the guys at Book Mountain. They’re everything a used bookstore needs to be. (EM)

Elizabeth Miller

Best Place to Read a Complete Novel while Waiting in Line

US Post Office

First, for you kids, the post office is a place where one can affix tiny stickers to paper envelopes and send them through a magical delivery system that avoids iEverything. People send packages to each other containing gifts for birthdays and holidays. Row after row of metal boxes may be rented to receive these objects. Now, for the experts: Let’s face it, the US Post Office on Pacheco Street has notoriously long lines that challenge even the most jovial believer in the mañana philosophy. We don’t blame you, overworked postal staff. And the men and women down on Federal Place are slammed most of the time. (Good God! Stay away during the lunch hour.) But if you really want a chill, fast experience, we recommend the location at Santa Fe Place. Maybe it’s the slow death of the Southside’s former Villa Linda Mall that makes it this way. But we hear the mall is making a comeback. (JAG)

Best Spot to Practice for the Zombie Apocalypse

BLM’s Camel Tracks

Julie Ann Grimm

There’s no sign that tells you what everyone knows the name of this place is. In a town where some things are on a need-to-know basis, you’ll need to know more than how to get here if and when the zombies arrive. The federal Bureau of Land Management has jurisdiction over the large shooting range west of the Santa Fe Airport, off County Road 56C. While there is a sign that reminds shooters to pick up shell casings, apparently most people can’t read. The drive-up dugouts offer a free, relatively safe place to practice with pistols, shotguns and rifles. While shooting at flying fluorescent disks of skeet is a skill that will come in handy during the aforementioned apocalypse, apparently it’s also fun to blow up cardboard boxes, mattresses and other junk. If you go here, don’t be an idiot. Maybe you should just stay home with the video game. (JAG)

Best Bankable Coffee Shop Decorations

Holy Spirit Espresso
225 W San Francisco St., 920-3364

There is an ATM next to Holy Spirit Espresso, and as it is an unusually big ATM, it serves as a nice comparison for the size of the coffee shop. With barely enough room for more than two people to stand inside, Holy Spirit is certainly cozy. It also serves some of the best, smoothest [insert praising adjective here] coffee you’ll ever have. While you’re waiting for your coffee, you’ll have no shortage of artifacts to ponder. Decorated in a way that makes you feel at home, Holy Spirit is adorned with an eclectic mix of things: A collection of foreign currency hangs from the ceiling, a map of the United States serves as the background for bandana-clad barista Bill Deutsch and there are postcards, miscellaneous pictures and scrunchies(!). It feels like, and most likely is, the result of adding items to the mix throughout the years. It’s the antithesis of chain coffee shops which, despite their size, more often resemble the uniformity of ATMs. (NA)

Best Parking Lot to Make You Lose All Faith in Humanity

Trader Joe’s parking lot. Try it and you’ll see

Anson Stevens-Bollen

If Sartre were alive today, he wouldn’t declare that hell is other people, he’d say hell is other drivers. He might even point a finger specifically to those who seem to be interminably circling the Trader Joe’s parking lot, pausing without cause and making sudden exits from parking spaces—which have already been staked out by some other driver’s blinking turn signal, of course—without seeming to check their mirrors. We’d graduate the award from hell to purgatory if Trader Joe’s would add a coffee counter, a tiny paradise to reward the tribulations it takes to get there. (EM)

Best Place to Get Your Weed(s) Removed

Invasive species removal volunteer programs run by the Botanical Gardens and YouthWorks
989-1855

For the entry price of gloves, a sharp shovel or spade and water, volunteers sprang to action this summer to fight back against an unwanted occupant of the Leonara Curtin Wetland Preserve: invasive weeds. The Santa Fe Botanical Gardens led the effort to protect the rare cienega, or marsh, and its diverse native plant life and wildlife habitats. Arroyo erosion often leaves riverbanks open to opportunistic invasive species. YouthWorks also partners with the city to get teenagers involved in river restoration work, including ripping up a few weeds, a healthy alternative to some of the other habits teenagers at times pick up with plant-based items. (EM)

Best Group of Folks Making a Difference

1 Santa Fe
1santafe.wordpress.com

Southside neighborhoods have been a little bit like the land that time (or at least services) forgot. Big housing complexes sprang up. People had no nearby choices to purchase food, or check out library books, or see a doctor. Grassroots organization 1SantaFe has been biting back against that trend, combatting the so-called food desert in the neighborhood by campaigning to bring the Farmers Market to the area (and now increase its frequency) and reviving Feeding Santa Fe’s food distribution program at Zona del Sol. They’ve also hosted clean-up events on Cerrillos and Airport roads, seen the ribbon cut on a new health clinic and generally presented a unified front to City Council, asking that the area be home to more than all the multifamily housing no other neighborhood seems to want. (EM)

Best Themed Motel

Silver Saddle
2810 Cerrillos Road, 471-7663

As far as motels go, you can’t get any better than the Silver Saddle. The rooms may not be huge, but they’re designed around individual cowboy themes, with information about Willie Nelson, Billy the Kidd and Calamity Jane, framed and hung on the walls. What’s more, all of the rooms were recently upgraded with new carpeting. Dawn Aley and mother Penny run the place, which Penny bought in the late 1970s. They like to describe it as “an affordable vintage ’50s throwback” or “a kitschy vintage budget motel.” Yeah, that sounds about right. (TR)

Best Mobile Billboard

Micah Ortega
Second Glance Promotions, 819-1484

There’s no doubt you’ve seen him. Maybe he was in his “Good Neighbear” suit, or sporting a green hat and lederhosen outside of the Swiss Bistro, or maybe you’ve seen him as the masked luchador at Whoo’s Donuts. If you have seen him, chances are you wouldn’t have forgotten. In the monotony of our everyday lives, Micah Ortega does his best to provide us with moments that are memorable. “You remember what touches your heart,” says Ortega, whose marketing philosophy is to make connections with people as humans, not as customers. “If people’s hearts are happy,” he says, “they’re gonna come in to the store.” In a world where we’re constantly being bombarded by advertisements, where our value lays in the depths of our disposable income, Ortega brings a warm color to the often-cold approach of advertising. And behind these characters is an enthusiastic and reflective man. “Life,” he says, “is about acknowledging each other’s existence; it’s about touching others and being touched.” (NA)

Best Life Advice

Ardry Adams

Enrique Limon

There’s an added bonus to parking in the lot behind La Casa Sena on Nusbaum Street, and that is 21-year vet on the lot Ardry Adams’ advice. Few words need to be exchanged to get in and out, he just looks at your tire tread and knows the score. But if you just ask, he’ll provide a wealth of Ann Landers-quality advice. “Oh shit!” he says as he sees me pull out the voice recorder. The following is a transcription of our quick-hit convo:

On women:
“The truth? Can I tell you what they told me? Let ’em have their way.”

On career choices:
“They all cliché. Like what you do, my coach always told me that. He said the worst thing in the world was for a man to go to a job that he hated.”

On lifelong friendships and how to achieve them:
“That’s as old as you and I. Treat people that way you wanna be treated.”

Red vs. green chile:
“Green is more friendly to me, yeah. I like green.”

On Pets:
“Wow. If I was gonna have a pet? A wolverine. ’Cause they like otters on steroids. Mm-hmm.”

On the rat race of life:
“Like Too Short said, ‘Get in where you fit in.’” (EL)

Best Form of Flattery

Faking It

From burrito joints to barbershops, nail salons to auto dealers, Best of Santa Fe banners proudly hang in windows and on walls all over the city. We are flattered when business owners put so much value on our annual readers poll. But you know what they say about imitation: It’s the best form of flattery. And lately, imitators abound. Around the Marcy Street headquarters, SFR staffers took to calling this one “Best of Scamta Fe” after it surfaced a few years ago. Somewhere out there, someone is sitting behind a computer, parroting our long-running effort by selling cheap plaques to retailers through an anonymous email. We see you, and we’re calling you out! Every year, SFR gathers votes in more than 100 categories to grant what we call our Readers Choice Awards (see page 61). If you’re contacted about Best of Santa Fe by anyone whose email doesn’t end with sfreporter.com, don’t take the bait. (JAG)


Food & Drink

Best of Santa Fe 2015

Best of Santa Fe 2015Wednesday, July 29, 2015 by SFR

Best Burrito Heiress

Berenice @ El Chile Toreado

Lines at El Chile Toreado (950 W Cordova Road, 500-0033) are commonplace. Be it to get your chorizo breakfast burrito fix ($6.75), munch on some heavenly tacos de adobada ($7.27) or go to town on a Polish sausage hot dog ($6.75), the little white hitch sandwiched between Whole Foods and a tire shop keeps ’em coming back. The secret? Berenice Alejandra Medina on the spit, maintaining her family’s recipes and staying true to her father Luis Medina’s vision when he opened up 10 years back. Five years ago, the elder Medina sent his daughter to Le Cordon Bleu to, as she says, “pump it up.” The results are obvious. “Our hopes and dreams are to get a spot to sell our salsa on the market and just spread out food, spread out love,” Berenice says. A first good step is packing up an antique wooden food cart (the one her dad started with) and taking the legacy of El Chile Toreado to the Plaza. As to the ingredients of their iconic green salsa, Berenice lists jalapeños and cilantro. “My dad says that if you want to know anything else, you’re gonna have to marry either him or my brother.” (EL)

Best Dish Worth Driving 26 Miles for

Angelina’s Restaurant
1226 N Railroad Ave., Española, 753-8543

One could only imagine that a good dream for proprietors Angelina Gutierrez and Chris Quintana ends with them slaughtering all the sheep they were counting earlier and having a line outside the block the following day. Sure, New Mexico staples like green chile rellenos ($8.99) and carne adovada-stuffed sopaipillas abound, but the real insiders order from the “lamb specialties” portion of the menu. I’m talking house-ground lamb burritos ($7.50), steaming lamb fajitas ($10.99) and the crown jewel, the costillas—I’m talking about 10 ounces of lamb ribs ($8.25) that you wish would never end, accompanied by a bowl of whole beans with your choice of red or green and a lone wet-nap. The ribs are delectably crispy, the soupy beans (drenched in red for added smokiness) are mouth-watering and the two sopaipillas the dish came accompanied by worked overtime. Houston, we’re gonna need more wet-naps. (EL)

Best Food Stand Rivalry

El Molero Fajita and Roque’s Carnitas

On two opposite corners of East San Francisco Street, there is a battle being fought, which benefits everyone looking for a quick, cheap meal. Well, maybe the stakes aren’t that high. The corner of Lincoln and San Francisco is home to El Molero Fajita, a charming wooden food stand that serves…fajitas—for just $5. What’s not to like? Especially at a time when the $5 lunch has too often been replaced by the unseemly $8.50 lunch. On the other corner, where East San Francisco meets Old Santa Fe Trail, we have Roque’s Carnitas. At a whopping $6, his beef carnitas topped with onions and peppers have long been a fixture of the Plaza. While waiting for him to put your order together, you might hear Roque muse on the character and characters of the city—like an elder statesman, he seems to know everything and everyone. That makes the extra dollar worth it. Antagonism never tasted this good. (NA)

Best Fucking Muffin I’ve Had in My Entire Life

Blueberry Muffin @Dulce
1110 Don Diego Ave., Ste. A, 989-9966

There is no shortage of awesome bakery options in Santa Fe, and yet it’s somehow difficult to find a truly amazing muffin around here. Too dry, too small, too crumbly (I’m looking at you, Whole Foods—you should be ashamed of yourselves)…the list goes on. But the day I ducked into Dulce for a quick coffee and almost fainted at the sight of their gorgeous pastries and deserts, all the prior sub-par muffin knowledge in the world couldn’t have stopped me from picking up that blueberry muffin and going to town on that bad boy. The top, so brilliantly crispy with grains of sugar cascading down its dome-like shape and bursting with fat blueberries. The stump, so perfectly moist and easily detachable for maximized eating potential. The size of the thing itself, perfect for a snack or even a serious stopgap between actual meals. It is the muffin of dreams, the pastry of your heart, the kind of muffin that hovers in ethereal fashion at the forefront of your subconscious like a siren call. Look, I’m not out to over-sell this thing, but every other muffin that has been or will be made in this town is like a pile of hot garbage compared to this thing, and I…OK, so I literally worked myself up writing about it and had to go pick one up. Seriously. (ADV)

Best Restaurant News to Hit Santa Fe Since Tecolote Café Opened in 1980 and then Closed on Easter Day 2014 with an Uncertain Future

Enrique Limón

It’s a no-brainer, really. Welcome back, Tecolote Café (1616 St. Michael’s Drive, 988-1362)! New digs, same great menu, same friendly staff plus some newbies, and yes, still: NO FREAKIN’ TOAST. It’s rare that Santa Fe institutions like this recover at a new location, but Tecolote has risen again with much aplomb, bringing its historically delicious bakery basket along with it. But really, the owners of Tecolote say it best in a recent social media post: “We realized something traveling to this point, making all of our plans and how the opening had to perfect, and stressing, and blah. It wasn’t the building. It didn’t require a ceremony from old to new. It doesn’t take all that. It’s you. It’s all of you. It’s your memories. It’s our memories. It’s us trying our best to honor all of those memories and help create new ones. Thank you for sharing with our family for so many years. We look forward to many more with you!” (RDW)

Best Condiment You’ve Never Tried

SF Mushroom Co. salt

“Pass me the garlic salt,” you say under your breath as you try to spice dinner up. If only there was something different, you think. If only there was something that both makes my dish more savory and reinforces my nostalgic love for Super Mario Bros. Enter Santa Fe Mushroom Co. and their aptly named “magic mushroom powder.” On sale since March at the Farmers Market, the company’s Wesley James describes the flavor as “umami in a jar, basically.” Per James’ own estimation, each $10 jar has about a pound of oyster mushrooms, guaranteed to make your dishes sing. Bland food doldrums no more. (EL)

Best Foodie Comeback

Chef Estevan Garcia

Anson Stevens-Bollen

While many were eagerly awaiting John Sedlar’s return to Santa Fe and all its hullabaloo, Sedlar’s former partner Estevan Garcia stealthily set up shop at the old Tías Cocina. Garcia’s eponymous restaurant brings back some of his legendary Café San Estevan fare (carne adovada ravioli in Chimayó red chile ragout, anyone?) and serves ’em up with a side of personality. “We started with all French food,” he recalls about the days he and Sedlar started Manhattan Beach’s Saint Estèphe on a dime. “Then we did a menu within a menu called ‘Southwest Food,’ and that’s how it started.” The result was the birth of modern Southwest cuisine. Each plate at Estevan’s reflects this history and pays homage to Garcia’s homespun roots. “I didn’t go to school, I went and spent my own money, and I went to restaurants, ate, wine and dined.” For a party in your mouth, make sure to try the heavenly flourless almond cake ($8) for dessert. Is that crème Anglaise, Chef, or are you just happy to see me? Please repeat that to him. (EL)

Best Nontraditional Espresso Drink

Red Chile Mocha @Travel Bug
839 Paseo de Peralta, 992-0418

Travel Bug, best known for its adult language classes, help in planning trips and varied selection of maps, is an impressive coffee shop. Most people who’ve been there know this, I’m sure. And even though Travel Bug helps people get out of Santa Fe, they have one drink that celebrates the area: the red chile mocha. The traditional mocha (espresso, chocolate and steamed milk) gets a Southwestern twist: Red chile flakes are placed over the filter, and after it is brewed, the coffee runs through the chile and becomes spiced. At first, all one tastes is the traditional mocha, then the kick comes, complementing the often too-sweet taste of melted chocolate. Red chile and chocolate is really a natural combination, and when combined with coffee, there’s not much else to ask for. (NA)

Best Fair-Priced Bulk Salad Feast

Souper! Salad!
2428 Cerrillos Road (inside College Plaza), 473-1211

The only salad buffet in town and therefore the “Best” by virtue of being the “Only.” While Whole Foods has come under scrutiny for overcharging for their green stuff, Souper! Salad! was a mainstay along Cerrillos Road long before the organic movement came to play. It’s been a fixture here for more than three decades, offering an all you-can-eat buffet of salad, soup, potatoes, pizza, hard shell tacos and dessert. And you don’t have to worry about how much the salad weighs. Just pile it on your plate and go back for seconds, if you so choose. It only costs $8.64, including tax. In a day of obesity and fast food, what’s exceptional about Souper! Salad! is that if you want to eat healthy and you’re in a hurry, you may do so, but if you want to pig out, you can do that, too. It’s all up to you. Nobody’s stopping you. It’s one of those fine lines you have to learn how to walk, but usually the baked potato and the hard shell tacos win me over. Oh, and a little salad on the side. (TR)

Best Restaurant that Constantly Makes You Wonder Why the Hell More People Aren’t There

Red Enchilada
1310 Osage Ave., 820-6552

As I cut into my incredible Christmas tortilla burger at Red Enchilada during a recent dinner, the same thought occurred to me that always occurs to me when I’m dining in the midtown establishment: “Why isn’t this place packed?” From the insanely affordable menu that represents the best of Mexico, New Mexico and Central America to the delicious pupusas and best sopaipillas in town, it’s the place to go for breakfast, lunch or dinner or for any occasion. It might have something to do with our lousy restaurant attitude in town that finds us claiming misguided loyalty to the downtown set of overpriced standbys, or it might just be that Red Enchilada’s sort-of-weird location nestled in a strip mall between a bank and a grocery store makes it look like it’s not great. Well, stop it! Hear me now and believe me later, Red Enchilada is some of the best food our town has to offer, no matter your tastes. (ADV)

Best First Step to Throwing Your Own Sausage Fest

Big R Ranch Supply
725 St. Michael’s Drive, 820-0895

In addition to selling bedazzled jeans that are going to make your butt look great at the party, the new Big R chain on St. Michael’s is the place to go for all your sausage-making supplies. The stunning DIY section has accoutrements for every step of the process, from ammo for your hunting trip to dipping sauce for completed meat sticks. Start with the dead animal of your choice and run it through the fancy grinder that you’ve bought and bolted to your kitchen counter—the store offers models that range from Kia to Cadillac. Then, add spices like the ready-made Smokehouse Polish Sausage mix. Next, grab a package of casings made from dried intestines, and lastly, cram all that stuff way down in there. Or, if this is really grossing you out, go a few aisles over to check out the beekeeping section, which includes a full protective suit with a netted hat. (JAG)

Best Date Night

Lemon and date bars at Iconik
1600 Lena St., 428-0996

Dating is tough. Dates, as in the Mediterranean staple, are far more pleasant. Drop into the bench seating or the repurposed schoolroom chairs at Iconik and enjoy a little of the latter. Their lemon and date bars ($3.50 apiece) are just a little sweet with hints of citrus and a crumbly layer of oats for topping, and a cappuccino provides an enjoyable companion, whether you like the conversation or not. Wash it down with one of Iconik’s espressos, which are brewed from a seasonally rotating blend of beans that draws from the freshest coffee harvests from all over the world (this summer’s mixes beans from Ethiopia, Honduras and Mexico) to pack the best in flavor potential into every sip. Take a 14-ounce bag of their six options of single origin beans or their espresso blend home for $18.50. Just don’t actually go for date night. They close most days by 6 pm. (EM)

Best Exotic Iced Coffee with a Side of Man Musk

Caveman Coffee
1221 Flagman Way, Ste. B1, 992-2577

Anson Stevens-Bollen

Tucked away in the burgeoning Baca Street Railyard is an unsuspected business combo that’s part CrossFit gym and part coffee shop. But this isn’t the joint to order your skinny latte with two pumps of vanilla and extra foam. Bam-Bam, meet Caveman Coffee. While power lifters grunt and drop barbells in dusty, floor-shaking clangs in the adjoining Undisputed Fitness gym, you can supercharge your morning with a creation from gym founder and health food guru Tait Fletcher that will make even the scrawniest dude feel like pumping the iron. This summer, we suggest an iced “Putting on the Spritz.” Like most specialty drinks here, the $4.50 concoction includes espresso blended with butter, which the gurus say helps you burn fat, along with mineral water, which provides a bright note of hydration. Lastly, catch on to the secret ingredient: a refined coconut oil known as MCT, a miraculous, flavorless liquid that has way too many purported benefits to list here. Healthy coffee. Go. (JAG)

Best Buzzed Artist Encounter

Duel Brewing
1228 Parkway Drive, 474-5301

Trent Edwards, owner of Duel Brewing, says he may not be sure quite what they’re doing with the brewery, but he knows what they’re trying to do, which is, at least in part, make good beer (check) and serve it in an inviting, sociable atmosphere (check again). What he’s stumbled into is a list of beers that will invite reminiscences of a liberal arts education and that one art history class, or afternoons in a distant art museum. There are blondes named for post-impressionists Cezanne and Whistler (pints run $4.50-$10 and drop $2 during happy hour), an imperial porter that shares a name with Renaissance-era German painter Grunewald and a golden strong ale named for his Italian contemporary Titian. Feeling a little more like dense and obscure prose? Go for the Marcel witbier. (EM)

Best Use of Color in Oatmeal

The Teahouse
821 Canyon Road, 992-0972

Aside from a wayward red cranberry or a dot of raisins, oatmeal is missing the visual appeal that makes its breakfast competition more appealing. Banish the bland and keep all the goodness of the hearty mush with a bowl of steaming vibrant purple oatmeal at this Canyon Road hideaway. While it might take you a solid hour to fully explore the extensive menu and make your first tea decision from a global selection, don’t debate too much about whether the dish will fill you with happiness. It will. The Teahouse oatmeal ($7) includes oats, sure, and buckwheat groats. But the real star that gives the royal concoction its color is the forbidden rice. Don’t pass on the dual dose of maple cream and whipped cream that comes on top, which along with strawberries or bananas (add $2) tips the scale toward breakfast dessert. Bonus: It’s also gluten-free. (JAG)

Best Place to Feel Unsettled and You’re Not Sure Why

The Food Court at Santa Fe Place Mall

I see a merry-go-round carrying a single child, wood paneling, stone pillars, three eateries and a group of people who seem to have no aim. I’m sitting in the middle of the food court at Santa Fe Place, where the chairs are arranged as if it were an outdoor plaza, yet no matter how many windows there are to let in the light of the sun, the stuffy air is enough to remind me that I’m indoors. Millions of dollars and a name change later, this mall is lacking the life that it promised to bring to the area. Where are the shops, the setting and the people who would make this a lively city center? I note this as a touring train passes by, empty. A small child stands a foot away from me and simply stares. Is this a dream? Is Fellini capturing this from behind the walls of Foot Action? No. This is boredom. (NA)

Best Under-Two-Buck Meal

La Loncherita Salvadoreña

There’s a new arrival on Santa Fe’s flourishing food truck scene: La Loncherita Salvadoreña. Propped on a stretch of land next to the Mandela International Magnet School, the swimming-pool-blue truck does one thing and it does it right—pupusas. Tracing its roots to Mesoamerica, the stuffed masa treat comes in an array of fillings and, at $1.75 a pop, fills you up on the cheap. Handmade options include chicharrón con queso, queso y loroco (a traditional vine with edible flours) and a combo one that’ll make you feel like you struck foodie gold in the streets of San Salvador. They are served daily except for Wednesdays. Vilma Peraza flips the good stuff inside the former birria truck. “I don’t know,” the Chalatenango native says when asked what makes for good pupusa. That’s OK, just keep churning those mouthwatering babies out. (EL)

Best Green Chile Cheeseburger outside the City Limits but Still within Easy Driving Distance

Frankie’s at the Casanova
12 S Main Street, Pecos, 757-3322

Santa Fe has a problem with thinking a drive of more than 10 minutes is too far (not counting drives to places that have free booze), but if you can ditch the ’tude and make plans for a day trip out by the Pecos River, you’ll be able to discover a semi-hidden secret that will reward your taste buds and help you to realize a 20-minute drive for an amazing green chile cheeseburger is totally worth it. Frankie’s at the Casanova in Pecos may be well known to that town’s denizens, but to us Santa Feans who often act like we wrote the book on the green chile cheeseburger (to be fair, we pretty much did), it might just be the kind of semi-secret menu item that’s worth a drive and another stamp on your mental foodie passport. Throw in the restaurant’s excellent ambience and the friendly wait staff and you’ve got yourself a fun little day trip, complete with one of the best damn burgers the state has to offer. (ADV)

Best Way to get an L.A.-Style Asian Street Taco Experience without Leaving Santa Fe or Feeling Guilty for not Having a Boss Tan

Bonsai Asian Tacos
3668 Cerrillos Road, 316-9418

When chef Juan Carlos Ruvalcaba opened Bonsai earlier this winter in the parking lot of Pawn City, between Richards Avenue and Zafarano Drive, the positive response to his pulled-pork tacos and vast vegetarian options was immediate. Now, with the city’s new food-truck ordinance in place, Ruvalcaba is frequently on the move, serving up his tasty fare downtown at gallery openings, public events and other 505 doings. The Bonsai still calls Cerrillos Road its permanent home. To keep up with where they are on any given day, follow them on Facebook. (RDW)

Best Restaurant for the Morning After

Restaurante El Salvadoreño
2900 Cerrillos Road, 474-3512

Inside the kitchen, Elsa Coto, a Honduran, cooks menudo, a Mexican soup, then Roxana Guerra, a Salvadoran, delivers it to my table while the owner, Eddie Aguilar, of Albuquerque, looks on. I begin to eat the menudo, a hearty tripe broth that is supposed to cure hangovers in Mexican culture. Usually it’s only served on weekends, but at Restaurante El Salvadoreño on Cerrillos Road, it’s prepared every day, something of an aberration in the world of cuisine. The soup comes with onions, cilantro and limes; a pig’s foot, in my case, is thrown in as an audible. I decide to gnaw on it. All good stuff. What’s Aguilar’s secret to serving up menudo on a daily basis? “I never expand the menu,” he says. “It’s pretty short and sweet.” It turns out the Salvadorans also have a special soup that cures hangover, sopa de bolos, only it doesn’t come with chile and hominy—the staple of Mexican menudo. Both soups are the same price: $7.95 for a small and $10.98 for a large. The cost of curing a hangover? Priceless. (TR)


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