Santa Fe restaurants exhibit strange timing, making them seem connected.

Soon after SFR published its 2011 Restaurant Guide, for instance, four acclaimed fine dining spots closed almost simultaneously. This year's guide, published in October, has had the opposite effect: Several new, health-oriented restaurants sprang up around the time the guide came out.

(Since Santa Feans are prone to conspiracy theories, let's clear this up right now: SFR's restaurant guide is not, in fact, secretly choosing local restaurants' fates.)

The latest newcomer to the Santa Fe scene is Momo & Co. Bakery and Boba Tea Bar, a cheery little joint tucked next to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum on Johnson Street.

Momo & Co. (229 Johnson St., Ste. A. 983-8000) is doing a lot of different things at once.

First, there's the boba tea bar, which offers locals a taste of the bubble-tea craze that hit coastal cities back in the early 2000s. (Boba tea is cold tea, often served with milk, with pearls of tapioca suspended in the mix; Momo & Co. serves fruited green, black and herbal varieties.)

There's a breakfast menu, a kids' menu and a lengthier lunch menu, which features a few mainstays (pizza, sandwiches, etc.) along with daily soups and specials. Everything is gluten-free, and co-owner Leslie Thompson estimates that 95 percent of the restaurant's offerings are also vegan.

The café is comfy, complete with free Wi-Fi, a tastefully appointed play area for kids and colorful, welcoming tables. (Momo & Co. hasn't fallen into the classic error of stuffing the place with furniture, which leaves plenty of room for diners to enjoy a quiet meal and gives the café a feeling of spaciousness.)

But Momo & Co.'s greatest asset is the bakery, where Thompson's talent truly shines. Before opening Momo & Co., Thompson—an art therapist by trade—started its predecessor, a side business called Momocakes.

She did so well, she says, that she decided to make a full-time switch—from art therapy to culinary arts.
"I realized it's a lot more fun," she says, laughing.

In the five weeks since it opened, Thompson says, Momo & Co. has quadrupled its business.

"The goal is to make the food tasty, period," she explains, "so it's not going to seem like it's some dietary restriction."

Within its pastry case, Momo & Co. unquestionably achieves that. The cupcakes—which eschew gluten, soy, dairy, egg and peanut products—range from $3.50 for classic chocolate or vanilla to $3.75 for specialty flavors like red velvet, sno-balls, ginger carrot and mint chocolate chip ($42-$45 for a dozen). They are simply divine; I'd put them up against the city's best non-GF, nonvegan cupcake any day.

Cakes, muffins and cookies beckon from the café counter, and the gluten-free bread used in Momo & Co.'s yummy Cacique Sandwich (grilled veggies, avocado, spinach and a savory, finger-licking blend of Italian seasonings for $8.25) does justice to the healthier side of GF indulgence.

Our only low point was the Torta Yucateca ($8.25); while pickled red onions and a tasty black-bean puree do their best to spice up the sandwich, they fail to overcome the dry, cardboardy taste of the thick GF bun. Still, both sandwiches are served with a lightly dressed, colorful salad of spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes—a refreshing, healthy accompaniment.

Of course, timing is everything, and Thompson acknowledges that with the relatively recent opening of the gluten-free Revolution Bakery, she'll have some competition.

"Some of the things we offer are similar, but there's enough room for both of us," she says.

Indeed, even if Revolution has perfected the art of GF bread, Momo & Co. has a different ethos—a sense of joie de vivre, gluten be damned, that's scrawled in chalk on a blackboard hanging on the café's southern wall: "Eat a cupcake a day!"