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Distinctive, stylish, cozy … and what a find!

SANTA FE, N.M. — We were looking this week for some kind of February tie-in with Black History Month and Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday, and maybe Mardi Gras upcoming. When told of our plan for a three-cushion bank shot, our mentor, The Good Doctor, simply laughed, shook his head and replied, “Good luck with that angle. Here, check this out.”

And with that he shot us over a link to the website of Rowley Farmhouse Ales. We checked it out with visions of prairies, Willa Cather and amber waves of grain, but nothing of the sort, judging by the photos.

And once we were able to uncover the address (1405 Maclovia St. might be more prominent somewhere on the site), we made a visit to the rather unprepossssing industrial building with one-bay truck dock in a mixed-use area just off Cerrillos Road that is all Patti Smith and zero Ms. Cather. Attached is a small, cozy and warm taproom bar, counter and tables, with a sizeable outdoor patio area. The Good Doctor and I convened for lunch in a freak snowstorm, ducked into the toasty atmosphere of the bar and eatery, welcomed by Jeffrey the bright, affable barkeep, brewmeister and part-owner.

A long lineup of taps across the counter reminded us that Rowley’s is a real ale house, with more choices than the next Democratic presidential primary. (Oh, by the way, the only rule in the place – check your politics at the door.) We sample a couple of snifters – “Wow. This guy is not someone trying to make Budweiser!” exclaims the Good Dr. after a few sips – make our pint selections and an app order of chicken wings ($9) billed as “Mary’s chicken wings (6) served Korean style with raw peanuts, green onions and cucumber salad.”

“Wow!” says the Good Doctor, a harsh critic, for the second time in 10 minutes. “I could eat this sauce off sawdust. And these wings (tender, juicy, meaty!) are just hot enough to require this ale. Superb.” When informed by Jeffrey that Rowley’s has been open for two and a half years, we are stunned.

Where the hell have we been?! Never mind. The menu has a definite Southern, New Orleans flavor, with offerings of Shrimp & Grits ($16), Chicken & Waffles ($16), Chicken Biscuit Sandwich ($14), etc., as well as several great-looking salads.

We settle on a bowl of Texas Chili ($9) made with slow-cooked local Sweetgrass Collective all grass-fed ground beef and flatiron steak (whew). A third “Wow!” for this classic, earthy red chili (Texas is “chili,” New Mexico is “chile,” right?), no beans or pork, of course, topped with cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onion, crackers and a savory aftertaste of what could be … sausage? No, bits of bacon (Zoe’s), and it is the subtle, pluperfect ingredient.

Had to have the Wild Gulf Shrimp Po’ Boy ($16) in honor of Mardi Gras, and po’ boy, are we glad we did. Flash fried (and very delicate) wild gulf shrimp, chopped lettuce, heirloom tomatoes (REAL tomatoes!) spicy remoulade sauce and served on a hoagie roll, you could do no better at Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter.

Oh, and the fresh, house-cut french fries served with sandwiches (or onion rings, or green salad) were declared “the best french fries in Santa Fe” by the Good Doctor, and we entirely concur. Killer fries, and even the house-made ketchup has a distinctive tanginess.

In fact, everything about Rowley Farmhouse Ales is distinctive, hand-crafted, stylishly presented and what a find!