Nothing compares to a companion of likely German lineage to help execute an ambitious plan in a short time window—focus and precision are essential. That’s why my friend Rob is the obvious choice to join my Summer Guide assignment: Spend a few hours in the Railyard (Market and Alcaldesa streets), down some drinks, maybe eat something and see what sort of mischief you can cause.
Rob and I live in Albuquerque, so the Rail Runner seems wise. We catch the northbound 4:41 train and settle into a mostly empty car before paying our reduced fare to the Santa Fe Depot. The travel is somewhat dystopian, with 70 mph gusts churning up a dust-and-wildfire-smoke mixture that blots out the sun and obscures the mountains one can normally see out the train’s east-facing windows.
“It looks like Mars,” Rob quips. He’s right.
We disembark at 6:07 and walk briskly to Altar Sprits—one of three planned stops before the much-maligned Rail Runner will bear us back south at 9 o’clock sharp. We meet another friend inside; she’s already working on her Spring Sour ($14), a gorgeous concoction that smacks the drinker upside the mouth with gin, then finishes with a bright lemon flavor.
The three of us repair to the naturally-lit room that faces the railroad tracks and find a table. Altar Spirits is fairly well packed on a Friday evening, and the maskless world we’re all living in now continues to feel odd. But the vibes are vibing, and the green and blue upholstered furniture feels right for the space. After a quick perusal of the cocktail menu and very little discussion, Rob and I each go for the dirty martini ($14). Altar’s vodka is troublingly drinkable: smooth, not peppery and well-suited for the job. We grouse about the child’s portion size of the evening’s first drink—the same size as the Spring Sour—but that doesn’t stop either of us from quickly reaching the bottom.
The Jack Rudy vermouth brined olive, whose advertisement on the menu had attracted us, is a massive disappointment. Those things are near-mythical, but the ones we get are soggy, and the brining is imperceptible: a rotten finish to a great cocktail.
The three of us knock back a quick glass of water and head across the tracks to Second Street Brewery. On the way, we note a -full SFR box, overhear a small group chatting about “stalking” and see a couple kids excitedly discussing the protest they’d just attended.
We’re in the Railyard, alright.
Second Street doesn’t fuck around on its IPAs. Our third companion opts for the 2920 ($7 for 20 ounces.)
Rob and I both order the Sloppy Sloth Neo-Mexicanus Hazy IPA (also $7 for the big fella.) It’s juicy and citrus-forward: We both get heavy grapefruit up front, and Rob detects some orange. It’s a cloudy, visually appealing beer with a silky mouthfeel and low bitterness, and we’d love another, but time is now short and we still need to eat.
My fish and chips ($13) turns out to be the best dish of the bunch. The fish is flaky, the batter is crunchy, the fries battle nobly against a withering malt vinegar assault, and the coleslaw is perfectly balanced. Rob is less pleased with a buffalo chicken sandwich ($13) whose baguette is too soft and whose flavors fall flat.
“It’s a bit of a mess,” Rob reports, then asks again why the house-music-adjacent tunes on the hi-fi need to be a thing. I agree, again, that they don’t match the more working-class, family atmosphere at Second Street that otherwise leaves us all a bit more comfortable than we’d been across the way.
Rob’s green chile cheese tots ($7) are damned good and make up for the sandwich disappointment, though our friend is nonplussed with the Railyard Chile Philly ($14), describing it as “a little chewy but not bad.” She gives it a six out of 10.
Off to Bosque Brewing Company—which is slated to transform at some point into Revolution Pizza—for some…Nope. It’s a few ticks past 8 o’clock, and Bosque is closed. The Railyard is sleepy, dear reader, and the fates seem to have conspired against the mayhem portion of our plan. But we’re not getting back on the train without consuming a third beverage, so we dip back into Altar, where a slurring lady is holding forth at the bar. (How did she strap into a buzz like that when we cannot?)
The crowd has thinned, but the staff seems haggard.
Given the dwindling clock, we all just order a can of Ex Novo’s Mass Ascension IPA and, when they finally arrive, get to chugging. I don’t remember what we paid for them, but it brought the evening’s final tally to about $135—affordable for a night out in Santa Fe, though we’d have spent more. The train ride back is unremarkable. Rob and I cap the night at my place with a couple more beers.
The Railyard is chock full of cool places—how could you quibble with the site of our newspaper’s annual Best of Santa Fe throwdown?—and one needn’t imbibe to get the full experience. Altar’s mocktail selections look fantastic; Sky Coffee roasts it right and even offers ice cream; and Opuntia’s Moon Bud white tea slams.
Do yourself a favor and explore the area this summer. Just make sure you’ve got time; the Railyard, like all of us, might need a nap.