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Santa Fe’s Mucho, Boultawn’s offer fast and tasty fare

When a friend and I stopped by Boultawn’s for lunch recently, I was somewhat puzzled when I ordered a crepe at the counter and was told they were sold-out. How could that be?

That’s when I began to realize that much of their food was pre-made. That makes it a handy place to stop by for a quick bite or carry-out, but maybe not the best for appreciative dining. Still, it is one of the cheaper places you can grab a meal in downtown Santa Fe, ideal perhaps for a worker with limited time or a tourist seeking sustenance amid a busy sightseeing schedule.

My friend ordered a ham and cheese quiche ($5.75), which was quickly reheated. It was reasonably good – except, after several bites, she couldn’t find any ham and figured she had been given a veggie quiche instead. My sampled bites yielded a nice blend of spinach, tomato and egg in a flaky puff pastry. Since I tend to favor the filling over the crust, I was disappointed with the quantity of crust that resulted from the individual quiches being cooked in a muffin tin, but my friend was fine with it.

When my crepe dreams were crushed, I opted for a turkey and cheese panini ($6.95). Because I think of a panini as involving a pressed, grilled ciabatta or similar bread, I was surprised when the sandwich showed up encased in a pillowy white submarine-style roll, not toasted or grilled.

The generous pile of processed turkey meat was heated, along with a glazing of mild melted cheese. It was adequate, but nothing special, with only a couple slices of tomato and pickle, plus a leaf of lettuce on the side. I would have preferred more veggies to dress up the sandwich.

Seating is available both indoors and out, with food either handed to you at the counter or delivered to the table. While we ate inside, I noticed an annoying constant background chatter from a television screen positioned for the workers – not something I favor as background to a meal!

The somewhat unexceptional experience was saved, however, when I decided to try a scoop of the ice cream ($3.52), which I was told was made on-site. The server said Boultawn’s made its own ice cream, and he generously scooped an excess of the remaining chocolate raspberry flavor (the chocolate coming from rich chips) into a cup for me. Heavenly! I’m not sure I’d go back for a meal, but the ice cream would be worth another visit!

I decided to check out another quick, order-at-the-counter spot and headed later that week over to Mucho, which I hadn’t visited in the many years since it closed its downtown location. It advertises itself as “the gourmet sandwich shoppe,” and that’s not too far off the mark. Meals are a few dollars more than at Boultawn’s, but also more satisfying.

I noticed a brisk activity in preparing bagged sandwiches for delivery, but my order was still taken and processed quickly.

I tried the Mucho Turkey Plus sandwich ($8.25), which involved two slices of whole wheat (or multigrain) bread filled to the brim with processed turkey breast, crisp bacon, avocado slices, sunflower sprouts, lettuce and tomato. Both mayonnaise and a thin smear of cream cheese spritzed up the flavor. Even cut in half, the sandwich wasn’t easy to eat without the innards spilling out, but I didn’t care. It tasted wonderful!

I also tried the salmon salad ($9.50) and was surprised at how moist and tender the salmon was. Mucho offered a full fillet of the fish, and I cynically expected it to be dried-out. Not at all!

The salad itself was a mixture of greens (not just iceberg lettuce, but also some spinach and other types of lettuce) with cherry tomatoes, carrot shavings, onions, a few chunky slices of cucumber and substantial croutons. The balsamic vinaigrette I requested was quite good, and I appreciated the crackers on the side.

Both meals also came with a complimentary cookie – sugar with one and oatmeal-raisin with the other. Maybe they weren’t more exciting that your basic grocery-shelf cookie, but still, it was a nice touch.

There are tables and chairs where customers can eat inside, but I opted for carry-out, which seems to be the most popular choice here. It’s good to have this back on my radar – sometimes the home fridge contents just don’t fill the bill.

Boultawn’s Bakery & Cafe    2 1/2 stars

Mucho    3 stars