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Get your sports bar fix at Boxcar, Del Charro

The Boxcar in the Railyard does “sports bar” right. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — It pretty much being the High Holy Days of televised sports – NBA playoffs, NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, MLB season in full swing-and-a miss, excellent golf, not to mention the Barclay’s English Premier League (wouldn’t it be funny if it were called Google Major League Baseball?), etc., I decided to get me to a sports bar. Two local non-franchise establishments came to mind: Boxcar in the Railyard, and Del Charro, just off the Plaza at Alameda and Don Gaspar.

I love a place where in about five minutes you hear the opening strains of “Gimme Shelter,” and as it so happens that’s exactly what I got in both places. Sports Bar Synchronicity – Catch it!

At Boxcar, the NHL was front and center on a BIG screen right next to the NBA (big props to Boxcar for NHL parity), MLB games everywhere and a relatively “younger” crowd and a comfy vibe. There’s a pool table on the upper level, and live music five nights a week.

There are over 30 beers, ales, etc. on tap and a wall of spirits, especially tequilas. Gastropub fare is the term for Boxcar’s sports bar appetizers. Having previously enjoyed their excellent Chicken Wings ($8) and just OK nachos ($9), I started with the Jalapeno Calamari ($11), a goodly portion of big, thick-cut calamari rings, tasty and tender, and jalapeño slices lightly fried in a rice flour batter.

Del Charro remains one of Santa Fe’s classic ‘local joints.’ (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The brilliant order was a half slab of Baby Back BBQ Smoked Ribs ($16/half, $29/full) from local Beeler farms (Boxcar supports local, organic, farms) with a mildly hot New Mexico red chile, and slightly too-sweet BBQ sauce, and choice of side. (We had two: excellent, crisp coleslaw, and overly crispy and spicy French fries. Both good.) The half-dozen ribs were impressively meaty and so tender that knife and fork did the job comprehensively, a stack of napkins unneeded. Service was great, music not too loud, and food way above sports bar average. Playoff bound.

I love Del Charro. First, it’s kind of like an episode of “Cheers.” Just about every weekday afternoon there’s the great former Mayor Sam Pick holding court, maybe with a glass of white wine, surrounded by cronies, bikers, Native Americans, a lawyer maybe, a few unsuspecting turistas. It is one of a few remaining “local joints.”

Also, love the location at Alameda and Don Gaspar and the south wall of high windows, the natural light, the view of street traffic and sky. Several strategically placed televisions don’t even intrude here, and it’s a cozy bar and seating area, and a fireplace when suitable.

Also, got to love Del Charro’s House Margarita ($7.50) served in a large shaker and offering the greatest “dividend” in town. (OK, so they use store-bought lime juice, lemon juice and a touch of orange, but who doesn’t? We’ll get to that later … ). I stuck with Mr. Palmer ($2.50, free refill) and an order of Chipotle Chicken Wings ($8.75, seven wings with celery, carrots and ranch dressing), which were meaty, pretty, pretty spicy on the Larry David scale, and five of the seven were “drums,” not “tips.” Extra base hit.

Having enjoyed a burger in the past from the half-dozen offered (their New Mexico green chile cheeseburger has been excellent, I recall), I made the mistake of ordering the Blue Corn Chicken Enchiladas ($8). What I recall is that everything seemed to be mushed together on a too-small plate – enchiladas, rice, refried beans, smothered in melted cheese and topped with way too much lettuce and tomatoes. And it was cold. And it was on a plate that sat atop another plate, but off-kilter so that every time I tried to eat, my plate would list either to port or starboard depending on point of attack. At a certain point I gave up. Strike three called.

However, my compadre’s Santa Fe Tostada ($8.75), slices of grilled chicken breast atop mixed greens with avocado, pico de gallo, olives, pepperoncini with lemon thyme or ranch dressing in a lightly fried tostada shell, was a stand-up triple.

And I was able to get the NHL game on in my little area and without objection from anyone around.

Love these two spots, for their entertainment and snack value and also for other, very different reasons, and we’re happy to have ’em. Play on!

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