RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Santa Ana Café underwent a $3.24 million renovation to capture New Mexico’s essence through its food, decor and head chef Patrick Mohn.
Mohn said the changes from the renovation have allowed him to connect even more to the café.
“It’s easier to connect because it has evolved much like I’ve evolved. When I was first starting out as a chef, I was cooking carne adovada, making tamales; now the tamales may have a blue corn masa, or they may have truffle wild mushrooms. So, what we’re doing is it’s evolving the way I think of food,” Mohn said.
His personality can be seen from end to end of the restaurant’s new menus.
“Much of the food is inspired by something that I’ve eaten, and I’ve really loved,” he said.
One dish is inspired from his childhood. The Waldo Gulch Benedict is made with blue corn pancakes, something Mohn ate as a child.
“This has always been a dream of mine to run this place. I have been a sous chef here before (and have) worked here and I love the connection to the indigenous cuisine while incorporating a lot of the New Mexican, Spanish colonial stuff. Growing up in that type of cuisine, I wanted to make my mark in it, but also elevate it,” Mohn said.
Mohn wants to reintroduce people to the possibilities of what could be made with the “three sisters” of squash, beans and corn.
With this in mind, Mohn built the menus to encompass ancient cuisine with a modern twist, he said.
“We talk about marrying the modern aspect of everything, along with the ancient cuisine; that’s really what the place looks like,” he said.
The renovation itself had this same approach.
“First, when you walk in, you should feel the expanse because, much like New Mexico, the views go on forever, but there are great points of interest when you look at the chandeliers, when you look at the beautiful pottery and baskets at the end of the dining hall there. You have to sense that this is a very big place, like New Mexico is,” Mohn said.
This experience continues all the way to the back, where the buffet area has been modernized, he said.
“Santa Ana Café is first and foremost steeped in Native American culture, indigenous food and obviously so since we are on the pueblo. But the investment in remodeling in, and modernizing the kitchen equipment and dining room, buffet area, the stuff like that, is that modern approach to pre-contact food,” he said.
The buffet area includes heated and iced tables to ensure food is always served at safe temperatures.
“This improves the quality of the food and allows us to offer more variety and feel comfortable that it is always going to be at safe temperatures,” Mohn said.
One thing Mohn worries about when going to a buffet is how long food has been out and it is being maintained at the correct temperatures.
“Honestly, besides the fact that it is extremely beautiful, this is much safer for people to eat,” Mohn said.
Another feature added was a new year-round outdoor patio, equipped with ceiling heaters, fans and the ability to become enclosed with plastic walls.
“This space being as big as it is but also enclosed like this is very versatile, you know, it’s summer through winter,” he said.
Mohn believes this outdoor space is perfect for large groups and team-building exercises.
“So, when we have big groups that come in and they want to do team-building and stuff, this is the perfect space for us to do, like, a guacamole competition,” he said.
This space is also used year-round for activities, Mohn said.
“You can tell by the view, in the summertime, when you’re out here for breakfast, or even dinner, you’re going to have all these great activities just right outside of you while you’re eating,” he said.
The café is at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.