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Detour well worth going out of your way

SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s in my neighborhood, so I notice changes in the restaurant space between Susan’s Fine Wines and Tiny’s in the old shopping center at the corner of Cerrillos and St. Francis. In recent years, it’s been occupied by spin-offs under the direction of the nearby Pyramid Cafe owner Ziggy Rzig.

Recently, he opened Detour Kitchen in the space, offering straight-ahead American favorites, including our local chile dishes. We dropped by recently and were pleased to enjoy a modestly priced dinner within walking distance – just right for a casual night out.

Calamari Person was my guest, so of course we started with that appetizer ($7.95), served with two dipping sauces – one slightly sweet and citrusy, the other a garlicky mayonnaise. She liked both, but criticized Detour’s deep-fry batter as too thin and not “puffy” enough. I liked it – it was not so much breading as a light crunchy coating on the very fresh squid rings.

Guacamole ($5.95) caught my eye on the list of appetizers and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a freshly made, a nicely chunky mix of avocado with chile, and finely diced tomato and onion, with just enough jalapeño to foil the avocado’s oily richness.

My guest was stuck in deep-fry mode that evening, and chose fish and chips ($11.95) as her entree. The fish was fresh, the chips were crisp and the batter had the same thin crunchiness as the calamari. Good, I thought. Too often with this dish, it seems to me, the fish plays second fiddle. We also appreciated the side of slaw, tangy with lime juice.

In keeping with its mainstream menu, Detour Kitchen offers several variations on the burger. I was quite taken with the slider trio ($9.95). The menu promised a beef, a lamb and a veggie version, served on small (and very fresh) buns with all the trimmings.

Each was good in its own right, although I will say the lamb mixed with herbs and grilled to perfection won the taste contest and totally eclipsed the little beef mini-burger alongside. The “burger” component of the vegetarian offering was a slice of grilled eggplant – a good choice since this bland yet meaty vegetable readily takes to surrounding flavors, in this case a generous slice of roasted red pepper.

Each little burger arrived with the full complement of garnishes: tomato slice, lettuce, a little onion. It’s worth noting that you can customize your mini-burger order, omitting any one of the three choices in favor of doubling up on another. I’d recommend jettisoning the beef in favor of two of those lamb burgers.

Detour Kitchen’s menu includes many varieties of tacos, including fish or eggplant with red chile, all of which looked intriguing for a return visit. More substantial entree offerings range across the wide melting pot of Americana: lamb shank “ossobucco” and penne Alfredo covered Italian contributions; salmon and prime rib “steak” are present, as are Cornish game hen with garlic mashed potatoes and cod Veracruz – with a wine-and-tomato sauce laced with olives and capers.

Stuffed from our meal, we nevertheless managed to sample one of Detour Kitchen’s desserts and the coconut flan ($5.95) was a very nice finale. It was generous enough for two, a classic flan with caramel syrup and lots of flaked coconut for both texture and taste. We cleaned the plate.

The service was good and we appreciated the generous spacing of the tables – an unclamorous meal is possible here, we surmised, even if the place might be crowded. At the unfashionable hour of 5 p.m., in any case, it was not. Detour Kitchen also is open for lunch, with substantially the same menu.

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