Summertime is music time in and around Santa Fe. And if you are in the mood for a funkadelic music scene with great atmosphere, an historic slant and New Mexico roadhouse food, join the leagues of fans who swear by The Mine Shaft Tavern and Cantina.
Located in the former mining town of Madrid, pronounced “MAD-drid,” about 30 miles southwest of Santa Fe and northeast of Albuquerque along the Turquoise Trail, you can bet The Mine Shaft Tavern and Cantina will be rocking. In what appears to be a wooden shack, these two venues are seemingly woven together by wooden planks and pathways.
Established around 1895, the original tavern burned down in 1944 on Christmas Day. The current space was completed in 1947 and is the oldest run tavern in Santa Fe County. Throughout the decades, the Mine Shaft has been the local drinking hole, as well as a well-known biker bar, a creative artist’s sanctuary, a mandatory stop for tourists and – if only the walls could talk – so much more.
As you walk into the restaurant, you are greeted by a solitary pool table where pool sharks and novices can get their game on, though we bypassed the restaurant in favor of the Cantina, where live music was pulling us in.
We went on a rainy Saturday afternoon for a Celebration of Life of Santa Fe’s beloved Betsy Scarinzi, lead singer and songwriter for The Hollyhocks, who passed away in 2021. This lively afternoon featured The City Different’s top musical talents including, Felecia Ford, Tiho Dimitrov and Chef James Campbell Caruso.
Luckily, the Cantina was under a big tent to protect us from the rain and there was a cast of local characters, people of all walks of life and dogs on leashes meandering about solo. Though a sign at the front says no dogs, this personifies Madrid as a place where rules are made to be broken. I liked the irreverence.
Some people had brightly colored hair and dreadlocks. Others wore cowboy boots or flip flops, skirts or shorts or pajama bottoms with a sport coat, cowboy hats or baseball caps and the requisite turquoise jewelry. There were cowboys, regular folks, musicians and music lovers sipping on a beverage, grooving to the sounds and noshing on bar food. The Mine Shaft is clearly a “come as you are and stay as you are” kind of place.
With a full bar, they also offer an array of 12 New Mexican microbrew beers on tap and a small but acceptable wine list. One of their signature cocktails is a Madre Mule ($14), made with mezcal, muddled lime and ginger beer in a classic copper cup. Or dive right into the Madrid scene with a hand-shaken Mad Chile Margarita ($10) with agave tequila, orange liquor, triple sec, muddled cucumber and jalapeño, fresh squeezed lime and simple syrup poured into a glass lined with lime and Chimayo chile salt. My dining companions enjoyed a few La Cumbre Elevated IPAs ($6) and La Cumbre Slice of Hefen ($6), while I sipped on a glass of 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon ($6).
The menu has ample bar food options. From pizza to sandwiches to a kid’s menu where everything is $9.50 to the Mine Shaft’s famous and award-winning Mad Chile Burger, barflies and music lovers will find something to minimize hunger pangs.
With 10 appetizers, a group can share a pound of traditional Chicken Wings ($15.95) served with your choice of three sauces, or dig into a basket of fried Hatch Green Chile rings ($9.95) with ranch dressing. We played it safe with a plate of Cheese Nachos ($10.95). The tortilla chips seemed to be made in-house and are topped with scarce black beans, a generous dousing of pickled jalapeños and a bit of erratically placed melted cheese. The nachos were then topped with chopped tomatoes and a heaping scoop of sour cream and guacamole. It had been decades since I have had nachos and they were sloppy, but good.
We also ordered Guacamole with Chips ($7.95) because you can never have enough guacamole. Though the serving size was surprisingly petite, the fresh avocado was mixed with chopped tomatoes and diced jalapeños.
My friend and I felt obligated to try the pizza, which is made in-house “from flour to fire.” With four pizzas – Cheese ($12.95), Margherita ($15.95), Green Chile Pepperoni ($14.95) or a Greek pizza ($16.95) – you can also build your own. The menu states that 5% of profits from the Greek pizza goes to a local cause and though the bartender did not know of this, nor did she know which charity the pizza sales went to, we decided to go Greek.
A very thin crust is layered with a not too heavy basil pesto and topped with artichoke hearts, cherry tomato halves, red onions, sliced pepperoncini peppers and crumbled feta. The abundance of vegetables gives this pizza a super light and healthy feel.
Our other dining companion was compelled to order Mac ‘N Cheese with green chile and bacon ($13.95). The macaroni dish was a bit dry under the layer of melted and somewhat hardened cheese, but on a cold, wet day, it was a belly warmer and he ate it all, including the side salad with blue cheese dressing.
The Mine Shaft’s award-winning burgers come five different ways and with three different meats. They proudly source local meat including New Mexico Wagyu ($16.50) and New Mexico Buffalo ($16.50). Additionally, they have Black Angus Chuck ($13.95) and a Morning Star veggie burger ($12.50). But the main attraction is the Mad Chile burger ($15.50-$18.50) with Hatch green chiles and a battered and fried whole Hatch green chile. If you are looking for a unique spot to spend a summer afternoon or evening while listening to music, drinking a bit and snacking on pub grub, treat yourself to a magnificent drive along the famous Turquoise Trail and head to The Mine Shaft for a good time.