New New Mexican

Capital Coal adds another menu to its micro-concept empire

If you’re not elote-ing at least once a month, what are you even doing with your life? (Alex De Vore)

Why, yes, my cover story Yes, Chef on Santa Fe chef Dakota Weiss from last November did win a first place award for food writing from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Top of the Rockies. And though I’d like to think it’s because I’m a talented little word…guy, that win probably had something to do with Weiss as a person, too.

In case you missed it, Weiss is kind of fascinating; here are some highlights:

  • California-born, New Mexico-raised
  • Started business school, phased to culinary school
  • Worked in a bunch of killer restaurants in America and abroad, learned bunches
  • Competed on Top Chef during season 9
  • Returned to California to open the Sweetfin poke chain
  • Met current life/business partner Rich Becker, who previously worked for Shake Shack
  • Diagnosed with breast cancer; kicked its ass
  • Sold her share in Sweetfin, moved back to Santa Fe to work for Coyote Café, left to open her own joints: Catch Poke and Capital Coal Neighborhood Eatery

In summary, Weiss has done a lot in the food world—including being one of the drivers behind the growing American obsession with poke in recent years—and she and Becker’s Capital Coal builds on the Sweetfin/Catch Poke idea that food done quickly needn’t be of poor quality. Think of it like a food hall, replete with numerous culinary concepts available under one roof, only with one staff making everything. And it’s growing.

Weiss and Becker, for example, shuttered their original Catch Poke location on Marcy Street a few weeks ago and rolled it up into Capital Coal alongside its salad, Asian fusion, spicy fried chicken, French dip, charcuterie, raw bar, popcorn and dessert concepts; and they’ll henceforth offer up a handful of Mexican and New Mexican-inspired dishes as part of the just-opened El 505 New Mexican Cuisine menu. The idea, Weiss says, is to both flex her muscle and to satiate customers who repeatedly ask for New Mexican dishes when dining at Capital Coal. Folks who’ve just stepped off the train at the downtown depot, for example, wander into Capital Coal looking for something New Mexican, Weiss says, and she doesn’t want to disappoint them. Plus, she says, the dishes should all be familiar to fans of local cuisine.

“It’s not breaking any barriers, it’s not reinventing the food—it’s offering a few things that we know people like and want,” Weiss says.

And it’s a strong start. El 505 kicks off with five dishes, including nachos with various meat options or calabacitas; stacked red/green/X-mas enchiladas with carne asada, chicken tinga or calabacitas; chilaquiles; Frito pie; and—perhaps most importantly—elote, that glorious corn/mayo/queso fresco/Tajin dish that anyone from Los Angeles thinks about pretty much whenever they close their eyes. With a price range between $8-$15, too, El 505 is affordable out of the gate, and we must never underestimate the comfy ambiance at Capital Coal, nor its incredibly clean interior.

And so, I had everything—and I mean everything—on the menu. Let’s break it down: Nachos ($15)

Served with a mountain of house-made chips, jack cheese and queso fresco, plus pico, lime crema and, in this instance, green chile plus ground beef, this dish is clearly for sharing. The ground beef was seasoned well and came in copious amounts, and the medley of pico and green chile was spicy but doable and rather complex in its borderline sweetness. The house-made chips were thin and crispy, but sturdy enough to bear the weight of the meat, cheese and other accouterments. This dish also came with thick-sliced jalapeño that was among the brightest and freshest I’ve tasted anywhere ever.

Stacked Enchiladas ($15)

Having sampled the red chile chicken tinga version, I can confidently say that Weiss’ take on red is on par with other local faves. And though it’s not thick in the way you’d find at Palacio or La Choza, the day I sampled Weiss’ it was both incredibly spicy (in the best way) and full of that earthy, cumin-forward flavor you want.

Chilaquiles ($12)

If I’m honest, this is the weakest dish in the new lineup. Weiss says she put it on the menu at the request of her staff, and though the fried egg was about the most perfectly cooked fried egg I’ve ever encountered, the thinner chips at Capital Coal struggled to maintain any semblance of crispiness. Weiss sautées them in a roasted tomato salsa and serves the dish with white onion, cilantro and more of those tasty jalapeños, but unless you plan to hit it hard and fast, you might wind up in the same boat as me—the boat where you feel your dish is a little too soggy.

Frito Pie ($9)

As a young lad trying to make friends while contending with my status as a New Mexico newbie, I would attend the summertime Little League baseball games in which my school classmates played. I hated every second of it, except for the concessions stand, from which I’d buy a massive Pixie Stick and a massive Frito pie. Weiss’ take on one of New Mexico’s favorite offerings tastes exactly like those of my youth and, like them, comes served right in the bag. The $9 price tag feels a little tough to swallow when one considers they can waltz into Five & Dime any old time and drop $6.50 on the gold standard, but that doesn’t come with an experience like Capital Coal’s dining room, service, etc. Of all the dishes, this one feels the most comforting and familiar.

Elote ($8)

As a son of Los Angeles, it’s heartening to see a Mexican treat like elote hit more Santa Fe menus, and Weiss’ version is something special. Served still on the cob, just like I’d get it in the streets when the bars shut down and I’d stumble my way home, the combo of mayo, queso fresco and Tajin already tastes so good, but the Capital Coal elote also comes with crushed-up Takis for a little extra bite and crunch. Spiciness and crunchiness alongside sweetness is no small feat without serving up something muddled, but each flavor shines in its own way without being too busy. Not only that, but the cob is so big, it could be a meal unto itself—if you can resist the enchiladas, that is.

Capital Coal Neighborhood Eatery

326 S Guadalupe St., (505) 772-0192

+Stellar ambiance; multiple menus

-So many dishes makes one wonder how they can do it all well


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