Santa Fe is a food town, there’s no denying that, but for every legendary eatery that opened its doors before Coronado even appeared in the state, there are those places that seem to be in a constant state of transition. Take a trip down memory lane and enjoy the “Oh, yeah!” revelations that come upon remembering that one place where you just ate used to be that other place where you feel like you just ate but, like, 10 years ago. Please refrain from losing your mind if we don’t know what such-and-such building housed in the ’50s, as we will only be going back so far.
Café San Estevan → Á La Mesa → Aqua Santa → Joseph's
(428 Agua Fría St.)
Café San Estevan was pretty awesome New Mexican fare served in a fancy style, and while we couldn't find the exact year it opened, we do know that in 2008, it became Á La Mesa, which itself only lasted a couple years before Aqua Santa took the space over. "We had two orders of these clams and mussels! I miss the East Coast no more," Yelp user Alisson S. said of Aqua Santa in March of 2011. Those are serious words, but it still didn't stop Joseph's from moving in, in 2013, and providing fancy-ass meals like lamb bone marrow with molasses-glazed oyster mushrooms, warm cambozola and toast. What? Are those even real words!?
The Railyard Restaurant & Saloon → Junction → Boxcar Bar & Grill
(530 S Guadalupe St.)
The Railyard Restaurant was such a brief blip in the history of Santa Fe food that hardly anybody who isn't my weird friend Liz (who worked there) even remembers it. Anyway, it isn't like they won many fans. Yelper Shenoa R. actually lamented, "I can't even give this place one star!" After that, the people who had owned and operated the Catamount moved in, following a rumored absurd rent hike in their original space on Water Street. From there, a lawsuit from the fine folks at BMI (those music licensing monsters who attack small venues for daring to book cover bands or playing the radio) occurred, and the owners sold the damn thing to some employees, whereupon it transformed into Boxcar. Try the beer-braised pork belly. No joke.
Evangelo's Mediterranean Café → Louie's Corner Café → Tomme → L'Olivier
(229 Galisteo St.)
What was once a fairly popular outdoor hot spot to cruise by in your lowrider changed hands to become Louie's Corner Café, which was apparently all about being dog-friendly. Not everyone liked that, however, as one reviewer stated, "Apparently this DISASTROUS place [is] not only done, but gone to the dogs." This was in 2011, shortly before it became Tomme, which was described this way by one yelper: "I hate to say it, but this place gave off a super-cool black and white hipster vibe." Apparently other people felt weirded out by this, too, and today, L'Olivier and its salmon in puff pastry and elk tenderloin are keepin' it real in the space.
Some Furniture Store (According to our Art Director) → JB's Family Restaurant → Weck's
(2000 Cerrillos Road)
Whereas we can't vouch for this space having been a furniture store and will have to take our art director's word on it, we do fondly recall the Carrows/Denny's-like atmosphere of JB's. We say fondly because, like a lot of people who were once teenagers and thought it was cool to sit around chain diners and drink coffee after coffee, we dug the lax attitude of the management. It sat empty for ages, but then, as mysteriously as it had gone silent, it became a breakfast/lunch place called Weck's that seems to please. "Holy breakfast, Batman! This place dominates with super service and a mega menu," says reviewer Eloy W.
Tecolote → That Dirt Lot
(1203 Cerrillos Road)
Who among us hasn't driven past the dirt lot that was once home to the best damn breakfast in town and thought, "Yeah, that dirt lot is totally better"? Thank God Tecolote moved to their new location on St. Michael's Drive.
Fabio's Seafood & Grill → Banana Café → Thai Café
(329 W San Francisco St.)
When I was a teenager in the mid-late '90s, Fabio's was the place for attractive young women to break into the restaurant world as bussers and hostesses. Alack alas, though, it was not meant to be. It became a Thai spot as Banana Café in 2002 and then, a few years later, the majorly similar Thai Café. They're the first Thai restaurant in the state to have earned the Thai Select Designation from the Thailand Ministry of Commerce, and we can't blame them—have you had the pad Thai or curry dishes here? Yowza! "I had almost given up on finding good Thai food in Santa Fe, but this place is the bomb!" says Bethany B. on Yelp.
Rudy's Mexican Restaurant → Carmen's Chicago Pizza → Honnel's Late Nite Burger → Taco Bell
(1201 Cerrillos Road)
Nothing is better for a small town like ours than when local restaurant after local restaurant shutters their doors and we are ultimately left with a fucking Taco Bell. Don't get me wrong—a 7-layer burrito can sometimes totally do the trick, but I think the vast majority of us can agree that there isn't a shortage of great burritos in Santa Fe. Not to worry, though, because this particular TB is apparently excellent, as yelper Gabrielle G. pointed out when she said, "The service was good. Friendly and fast. I got a chicken bacon chalupa. It was tasty and a good portion. BF ordered gordita crunch and snarfed it. Overall a successful late night food hunt." Wait a second…people actually write Taco Bell reviews?