In many cities, coffee shops tend to stick to the liquid realm, often venturing only as far as bagels, cookies and muffins. Caffeine peddlers here, however, have also been known to sell a variety of foods, from sandwiches to pie, and the trend in Santa Fe has moved ever closer to full-service restaurant in the last few years.
Iconik Coffee Roasters (1600 Lena St., 428-0996) is the latest café to head in this direction, quietly adding later hours and a dinner menu. The coffee roasters have always offered decent food: a nice mix of items from breakfast burritos to grilled cheese. But over the last year, they added foods to the menu with a pan-Asian flair as falafel and a Thai salad joined the more classic items.
The newly implemented full dinner menu, developed over the last few months by chef Mario Rascon, presses fully in this direction—lamb, Korean galbi steak, pani-puri (a fried puff pastry often consisting of mashed potatoes and tamarind) and ramen are now on their “Eat More” tapas and mains menu, alongside lamb sliders, salmon tacos, a quinoa sweet potato bowl and more. The new menu starts around 12:30 pm and is available until they close at 8 pm; most items run under $10.
To say I am skeptical of coffee shops trying to be full restaurants is putting it mildly. Being able to serve drinks hardly assures the ability to make the transition to functioning restaurant. And to be honest, I've never really been an Iconik fan. I find the whole aesthetic to be a bit on the overly "cool" side. It's rarely anything but packed to the rafters, and parking on Lena Street is garbage. The food and drinks have always been fine enough, though, so off I went to try it out.
The new hours are still a bit unknown to Santa Feans, so the room was mostly empty, which was wonderful. I took the suggestion of the counter person and tried out the Korean galbi steak bowl ($10.50). I also got an iced latte. What might end up being the best part of their dinner menu, though, is that Iconik is now the latest-open coffee shop in town.
I found a seat by the window and read a bit as I waited for my meal. The food came quick and was plated simply but well.
- The galbi steak bowl looked to be just the right amount to fill oneself up.
- The meat had a nice sear.
Brown rice, carrots, red peppers and perfectly cooked hunks of rib beef make up this simple rice bowl. The whole thing was covered in a nice, sweetly thick soy-based sauce which made it rich and filling and I could picture myself eating it on a cold day by a fire. Galbi is a Korean catch-all term to describe rib meat, and Iconik is aiming for a sort of heightened street food vibe that both does and does not make sense with a coffee shop in Santa Fe. It's simple, easy to prepare and is comforting.
The server suggested I come again to try the pani-puri ($5.50), and I decided that it made sense to visit a second time before judging the new menu. Two days later I returned for a late lunch. This time, I had a difficult go of finding a seat and the line stretched to the door. I sighed and waited for my pani-puri.
- It was a bit sloppy-looking, kind of tossed together.
- The portion definitely looked like an appetizer/tapas serving.
- There was a mystery red sauce on the plate.
Pani-puri is a simple street food from the Indian sub-continent. Iconik's is a fried semolina shell stuffed with potato, chickpeas and onion. Usually light on spice, they come with two dipping sauces. The shells were crisp and light, the filling mild if a bit bland. I have this problem with chickpeas. They don't really excite the palate much. The mystery sauce, which I was told is made from tamarind, literally tasted like nothing. The green sauce was cilantro and mint-based and added the right amount of bite to the dish, but overall the pani-puri wound up forgettable.
I've always liked Iconik's bagels and grilled cheese sandwiches, so I am hopeful that the menu will continue to evolve and improve.
Overall, the additions are welcome—a cafe open after 6 pm could only be a positive thing for Santa Fe, and I hope that Iconik succeeds with their expansions in this regard. Check it out before the laptop crowd gets wind of the new hours, though, and it becomes difficult to grab a seat.