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Santa Feans get another Bite

John and Bonnie Eckre are reopening Santa Fe Bite in the space that was Tecolote Cafe off Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe. Photo shot Thursday July 25, 2019. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe Bite is returning to its namesake city.

The beloved restaurant famous for its green chile cheeseburgers is re-opening on St. Michael’s Drive, in the former location of Tecolote Cafe. Owners John and Bonnie Eckre and their new managing partners are aiming for a mid-September opening.

For Bonnie Eckre, she said the new space makes them feel like they have “finally found a home.”

“It’s kind of crazy to move three times,” she added, referring to the restaurant’s former downtown location at Garrett’s Dessert Inn and the Eckre’s longtime operation as Bobcat Bite on Old Las Vegas Highway.

“But I don’t know, I just feel like this is going to be our home.”

She spoke to the Journal Thursday afternoon, shortly after they announced the reopening on the restaurant’s Facebook page, while setting up the new spot with Angela Mason. Mason, a former lead server who had been at Santa Fe Bite since its opening, is the new front-of-house manager. Mason is partnering with the Armando Rivas, a chef and kitchen manager at the old Santa Fe Bite.

In addition to the new Santa Fe location, the Eckres franchised their concept to different owners, some former customers, in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill at 3407 Central NE. It opened Monday, featuring the same menu.

The hotel diner, which opened in 2013, closed in October 2018. Prior to that, the Eckres had Bobcat for 12 years. That eatery on the edge of town had been around through various owners since 1953.

In September 2018, John Eckre told the Journal that they were closing because they felt the diner didn’t fit with the new hotel ownership’s vision. John also said back then that he and his wife wanted to step away from the restless restaurant business, which they had been involved in for more than 20 years. At the time, they were considering selling the business and recipes to a new owner.

Bonnie said they were approached by brokers in Denver and Texas, but she said those options didn’t feel right. Around the time of the diner’s closing, Mason and Rivas had approached them about continuing elsewhere.

“For somebody to say, ‘Oh I could buy this and I’m going to take it and set it up,’ when I have two very important people who knew our business, who know who we are, they know us. For John and I, I’d rather give that opportunity to my guys who made Santa Fe Bite possible.”

Bonnie said having Mason and Rivas as managers allows the couple to have a more manageable work schedule, no longer having to put in 16-hour days.

Santa Fe Bite is reopening in the space that was Tecolote Cafe off Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The group has a 10-year lease on the 5,500 square foot, 150-seat St. Mike’s property, with two 5-year renewal options. This allows them to focus on the future of the business, “doing what we do best…instead of wondering in the back of our minds, ‘are we going to be here next year?'” said Bonnie.

Both Bonnie and Mason said they feel the new space is an opportunity to expand and improve service. They will serve breakfast daily, rather than just on the weekends. John has been learning how to brew coffee, and with more space they plan to brew in-house. Mason noted that with expanded bakery facilities, they also want to add a new array of breakfast pastries and dessert items.

Other than that, Mason said much of the restaurant’s menu and atmosphere will remain.

“Still just the same great burgers, great friendly service, happy people, as its always been,” she said.

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