Diners and dives are my favorite places to scope out and, when we first moved to Santa Fe, my husband immediately recognized The Pantry on Cerrillos as one of these places that we hold near and dear. He had an uncanny ability to sniff out great restaurants from merely driving by and we have been fans ever since I took that first bite of their Chile Relleno Omelet.
Father and son, Stan and Michael Singley, bought The Pantry in 2001 and together they have expanded the Pantry’s footprint with a location downtown, The Pantry Rio, as well as The Pantry Dos, on the eastside of town in Oshara Village near Rancho Viejo and the Santa Fe Community College. Having visited both spin-offs, I prefer Pantry Dos, which, since opening in 2019, has become such a treasure for locals – as you won’t find any tourists at this location.
Like the scratch cooking The Pantry is known for, The Pantry Dos was built from the ground up. Bright and airy, with pop music playing lightly in the background, there is a cool vibe that exudes beyond the walls of the building. The overflowing parking lot and people waiting outside for a table indicate you have landed in a hot spot. Every Sunday morning, there is an agua fresca stand manned by two adorable kids serving up free glasses of horchata, agua de mango and agua de fresa (strawberry) to customers waiting outside for a table inside.
Once you step inside the modern but industrial chic space with polished concrete floors, exposed ceilings and generous natural light from many windows, the walls are sparsely decorated with New Mexico posters and a picture from The Pantry from way back when. For those who need to see weekend sports, there is a TV in the corner of the bar when you walk in. Patio diners will find a generous covered outdoor eating area.
While the menu is sprinkled with classic Pantry staples, The Pantry Dos menu feels a lot more ambitious in that it brings in new dishes to really make this a stand-out restaurant for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A menu features breakfast on the front and lunch and dinner on the back.
Breakfast includes the Chile Relleno Omelet ($13.95) that stole my heart; Traditional Breakfast ($12.75) of two eggs and your choice of meat, which could be carne adovada; Breakfast Burrito ($11.95) and Tup’s Burrito ($12.95), which features corn tortillas filled with scrambled eggs and vegetables topped with one of the best red chiles in town – that happens to be gluten-free. Most of the breakfast plates come with Pantry fries and toast. When the kitchen is not too busy, I like to request “extra crispy” on the Pantry fries for an outrageous fried potato experience.
Or choose from Blue Corn Cinnamon Pancakes ($8.95), Belgian Waffle ($9.50) or a favorite Cinnamon Roll ($6.50) for a sweet start to your day. Avocado lovers will dig the Avocado Toast ($11.75) plate which comes with two eggs and Pantry fries or fruit.
Even though we arrived at brunch time, my dining companions and I were all in the mood for lunch. To start, we tested the Chips and Dips ($11.95) and let me say that house made tortilla chips are an impressive way to commence any meal and these were outstanding. Thin and crispy, these tortilla chips were sprinkled with a bit of seasoning salt to make them almost addictive. Three dips include homemade spicy salsa, guacamole and a white chile con queso that was also quite spicy and really good.
On previous visits, I have had the Vegetarian Tacos ($11.25) which are filled with diced calabacitas and black beans for a wholesome vegetarian meal. But, looking to expand my culinary horizons, I opted for a House Specialty – Fish and Chips ($17.75) – and was surprised with what arrived. A bountiful plate of four big pieces of cod are covered in a tempura batter and deep fried until golden delicious, this felt more like a British pub than a Santa Fe diner. Served with french fries, this may be one of few items on the menu that isn’t made in-house. But these fries resemble McDonald’s fries which makes them totally acceptable. An apple-cabbage slaw is served on the side but it lacked flavor and needs a little help from the talented kitchen to make this a signature slaw worth serving and eating.
My dining companions both had the Reuben Sandwich ($13.95). This hearty sandwich is made with so much love it showed up shaped like a heart. Delicious rye bread is buttered and grilled and filled with corned beef, sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese along with a layer of Thousand Island dressing for just the right amount of sweet to offset the savory, briny, cheesy sandwich. A side of fries tops this sandwich off.
The lunch and dinner menu is filled with salads and soups, New Mexico Classics like Enchilada Platter ($13.50); House Specialties and Sandwiches and Burgers, such as a BLTA ($12.25), SF Chicken Sandwich ($13.25) and The Pantry Burger ($15.25). Prices range from $4.50 for Chips and Salsa to $23.75 for a Grilled N.Y. Strip with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables.
Something that has always impressed me about The Pantry is that the owners lead by example. Michael Singley is one of the hardest working restaurateurs in town as he greets and seats guests, busses tables and moves tables. He is always in motion. This sets the tone for the employees to follow and it’s apparent that the staff loves their work and they have fun and they are always smiling. This energy is contagious and perhaps one of the reasons why Pantry Dos has already established itself as a locals favorite. Fresh and homemade food with great price points served in a warm space with happy employees makes for an unbeatable combination. The Pantry has been Santa Fe’s meeting place since 1948 and Pantry Dos is where the real locals meet and eat since 2019.