As I write this, my friend Angelo is visiting from New York City for family reasons. It's been ages since we've seen each other, but since we're both fully vaccinated and feeling better about responsible forays into the real world, we hit up Cafecito (922 Shoofly St., 310-0089) in the Baca Street Railyard for hugs and brunch.
Not to split hairs, but I first visited owner Anders Paglayan's spot in the former Opuntia location within the Trailhead Compound when it opened in 2019. At the time I was wildly unimpressed with the sandwich I sampled, and took the eatery off my to-do list in the hopes it would improve over time. Then, of course, 2020 happened, and not only was I making a point to not set foot in restaurants for the good of my fellow human, I was spending my to-go bucks at restaurants I knew I loved and wanted to stick around (as if my $25 order was the one thing standing between a locally owned New Mexican joint and the terror of the COVID-19 economic slowdown).
Turns out this was a really hasty move for several reasons, not least of which is the Cafecito croissant (dubbed the medialuna). Now I'm thinking a mile a minute things like: New restaurants have growing pains! One imperfect experience shouldn't color opinions forever! The bright and airy Cafecito location is comfortable and big enough for responsible levels of social distance! Our server was not only masked, kind and courteous, she was fast and helpful!
In other words, Cafecito went from the "skip it" column to the "we can't get back there soon enough" column, and I'm going to just go ahead and recommend it to anyone reading as a "get there now" sort of thing—but only if you promise to be safe.
My companion—who, by the way, is a highly sought-after pizza expert and consultant—said he was missing the flavors of the area. He grew up here and longs for chile, as we all do. There's a little bit of that on Cafecito's menu, though its style is really more informed by Paglayan's Argentinian background. Still, my buddy zeroed in on chilaquiles with house-made tortilla chips, green chile, roasted potato and provolone over fried eggs ($13.50). Arriving piping hot with a beautiful green salsa topping, it not only looked gorgeous, it tasted divine. I struggle with chile that emphasizes heat over flavor. At Cafecito, at least with this dish on this day, that wasn't a concern. Yes, purists, it had a spicy kick, but also that deep tang of well-roasted green—the kind that makes New Mexico famous and makes former residents say things like, "Why did I ever move?"
For my own meal, I sampled Breakfast the Argentinian Way: scrambled eggs with avocado and provolone slices instead of meat, a fresh croissant and a side of dulce de leche. I wasn't familiar with the latter item as a breakfast item, but when in the Baca Street Railyard….It was brilliant, frankly. The croissant was laminated to a crispy, flaky perfection and, unlike most other croissants I've eaten in my life, at least outside of France (which is for sure a flex), it was served warm. I assembled a makeshift breakfast sandwich with the eggs, cheese and avocado, and the medialuna's soft and chewy inside added strong yet pleasant butter tastes and textures. Even better, the scrambled eggs were obviously not made from some half-gallon carton of the stuff emblazoned with the Shamrock Foods logo—these were literal eggs the kitchen had to crack and scramble and cook. They were also seasoned ever so slightly, but well enough that I didn't need to salt or pepper myself.
Our server told us the restaurant makes baked goods daily; the croissant I'd eaten had been baked that very morning. And though we didn't get a chance to try the empanadas ($3.65 apiece or $13 for a sampler with a side salad), doing so has since become an obsession.
"They do a good job," our server said.
Too true. I even took one home, as well as a slice of the pasta frola dessert—a sweet tart made with quince—which was delicious even after a few hours in my fridge. I only wish I'd asked about a side of dulce de leche to take home. I could have eaten it with a spoon. I might still. And this isn't even getting into Cafecito's regular dinner service (they also serve rice pudding at night!) or the small but impressive beer and wine list.