Aug. 18, 2017
Home / Places / Restaurant / Tune-Up Café

Tune-Up Café

1115 Hickox St.
Santa Fe, NM, 87505
505-983-7060 | Website

SFR's 2009-2010 Restaurant of the Year

Social networking may be a popular frivolity on the internet, but it’s dead serious as a scientific model for real-world human behavior.

“Social contagion” is the “it” term from the last few years of research conducted to unveil the manner in which traits and characteristics spread through interconnected social groups. It makes sense that peer-influenced behavior like smoking and drinking might be stimulated or suppressed among cliques of friends and acquaintances, but some recent studies suggest that obesity, depression, happiness and wealth are also, effectively, contagious.

No wonder people eating at Tune-Up Café always look so damned happy. The simple, hearty food and the resulting pleasure is spreading like a pandemic.

Here’s how it works: Groups of friends made happy by each other decide, in the warm glow of their mutual joy, to go out and have a cheerful meal together. They eat at Tune-Up, possibly having the gregarious mole colorado enchiladas or the jubilant Yucatan fish tacos or the altogether amicable El Salvadoran pupusas. The meal�and the infectious camaraderie engendered by the low-key atmosphere, friendly staff, open kitchen and community tables�leaves the group more elated than before. Those at adjoining tables in turn become increasingly jovial and, soon, passersby on Hickox Street feel a warm glow of contentment, which, apparently, they are likely to pass on to their own family and friends. If just half of these people end up feeling genial enough to go out for a drink or a stroll, the whole freakin’ town might be wearing stupid smiles before the night is through.

Diagnosis: a bad case of Tune-Up induced euphoria.

Apparently the cause of social contagion is “mirror neurons,” little bits of brain that make us believe the behavior of those around us is desirable. In a city so resistant to change (despite our claims of progressiveness), it’s remarkable Tune-Up has found such success in the old digs of perennial locals’ favorite Dave’s Not Here, but then again our neurons may be predisposed to love whatever happens in that building.

Of course, Tune-Up owners Charlotte and Jesus Rivera probably feel that lots of hard work, combined with Charlotte’s managerial and baking talent and Jesus’ kitchen skills, is at the root of the joy their café has inflicted upon Santa Fe.

Indeed, they’ve hit on a particularly neuron twitching restaurant formula since opening in the spring of 2008. It hasn’t hurt that Jesus and his brothers (Tune-Up is a bit of a family affair) had their El Salvadoran sensibility and ingredients infected by stints at Harry’s Roadhouse and Café Pasqual’s before taking the plunge into Tune-Up.

There’s a kind of full-spectrum fusion going on at Tune-Up. It’s not just the medley of cuisine styles at work, but the range of Santa Feans who feel at home sprawling across the modest patio or lingering within the funky decor.

Tune-Up is a genuine neighborhood joint, but its neighborhood extends well beyond the people who happen to live nearby.

Even the triple Ds are treated like neighbors. These are the looky-loo, tourist customers that have descended on Santa Fe since Tune-Up, Back Road Pizza, Bobcat Bite and Tecolote Café were featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in 2009.

Tune-Up’s status as an epicenter for positive social contagion is confirmed easily enough through occasional driveby observations. At the breakfast hour, the parking lot is packed and bicycles are piled haphazardly against every possible surface. The lure of the huevos rancheros and the fresh-fruit-stuffed French toast is too strong to allow for orderly parking.

Lunch provokes a similar scene: business partners sharing the tamales wrapped in banana leaves and reveling in fresh fruit juice; solo readers hunkering in the corners; satisfi ed coffee drinkers soaking up the sun, even when the weather is cool.

During dinner the place glows from within like a beacon on a lonesome road. Opening the door awakens the senses: fresh baked bread, breathing wine, burgers ground on the spot, a satisfied�even infectious�murmur of conversation
and laughter.

Go on in. It’s true, Tune-Up is contagious. But it won’t hurt you. It’ll make you happy. (Zane Fischer)

Also At Tune-Up Café

There are no events at Tune-Up Café
comments powered by Disqus


* indicates required
Choose your newsletter(s):

@SFReporter on Instagram