The night after Thanksgiving, I ventured to the Plaza with friends to see the holiday lights come to life. This is a breathtaking moment every Santa Fean should experience, but after waiting outside for an hour, we found ourselves shivering and in need of a steaming cup of hot chocolate.
So we hit up the Plaza Café and, after a 30-minute wait, received our hot chocolates to go just as the lights turned on. It was a crazy busy restaurant scene on a crazy busy night. The Plaza Café is a staple in my restaurant repertoire as they have the best Greek salad in town – those caper berries. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Plaza Café is an easy place to go when you don’t know what you want to eat. The menu is diverse and filled with consistently good comfort food.
But the original Plaza Café is at the world-famous Santa Fe Plaza and parking is going to be a challenge no matter what time of year you venture. And the wait time likely long. However, there is another Plaza Café that awaits you on the south side. Positioned far away from the tourists – though we love them – the Plaza Café Southside is bigger than the original location, more contemporary with a different vibe and serves the same great food you and your family have enjoyed at the original location since 1905.
This year, the Razatos family celebrates a 75-year milestone. Leonardo Razatos’ father bought the Plaza Café in 1947 and Razatos is now the second-generation owner of both locations along with his husband, Giuliano Marcheschi.
Located in the San Isidro Plaza, the Plaza Café Southside is near Lowe’s and Regal Cinema. Nestled within a cluster of restaurants, this location opened in 2009, after previously opening in 2003 elsewhere along Cerrillos.
We ventured for brunch one Sunday so we could choose between breakfast and lunch, and started with a gorgeous plate of Blue Cornmeal Piñon Pancakes ($12.95) for the table. Topped with orange-butter and plenty of cinnamon maple syrup to pour over two pancakes, we gobbled these down and liberally poured the syrup to coat each bite.
If you are into sweet and savory combinations, you’ll want to try one of the newest seasonal specials, Green Chile French Toast ($10.95 half order/$12.95 full order). Surprisingly, this dish was created by a customer who bought a loaf of the homemade green chile bread and made French toast at home. Razatos says, “The combination of sweet, spicy and savory is an amazing experience that has a little zing. This dish is really taking off!”
One of my dining companions stayed the breakfast course and ordered the gargantuan plate of Breakfast Blue Corn Enchiladas ($15.95). Stacked blue corn enchiladas are topped with scrambled eggs and served with a heaping side of hash browns, red and green chile and a flour tortilla. This savory breakfast hits all the notes and promises to keep you full all day long.
Because I am such a fan of the Greek salad ($16.25), I ordered one for the table because this is the dish that keeps me coming back to the Plaza Café. Razatos told me this salad is inspired by the authentic Greek salad served in Greece with tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, red onion and feta cheese.
“Our interpretation has a bit of lettuce with hearty chunks of chopped vegetables. And we add fresh herbs in with the salad mix which adds fresh flavors.”
The herbaceous vinaigrette seals the deal, while the caper berries will capture your attention and the pita triangles can be used to scoop and sop up the salad.
The New Mexican Chopped Salad ($15.95) is another winning option for vegetarians or those seeking a vegetable-packed meal. Mixed greens are topped with a colorful and tasty combination of avocado, tomato, roasted corn salsa, green chile, apple, cilantro, garbanzo beans and a cumin vinaigrette. The depth of flavor in this simple but significant salad will have you craving it on the regular.
If you prefer protein, you can’t go wrong with the Crispy Fish Tacos ($18.95) which always satisfies. Strips of Alaskan cod are fried until golden brown delicious and placed in two corn tortillas with cabbage, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, avocado and a creamy chipotle salsa. A side of tender rice and beans make this a well-rounded meal and my dining companion proclaimed that “though there are only two tacos, they are substantive and seriously satisfying.”
In addition to a big menu, the Plaza Café Southside offers seasonal specials including Pumpkin Posole ($15.95). This chorizo- based cream soup with hominy and green chile is topped with a dollop of sour cream and crispy pumpkin seeds. Of this spectacular and spicy dish, Razatos says, “We invented it years ago as a seasonal special – 20 years before pumpkin spice lattes were in vogue. It was a mash up of two different soups – vegetarian posole and harvest pumpkin soup – and it has evolved over the years by adding green chile and pumpkin seeds. As soon as the weather turns cooler, people start calling to ask when we will have it.” And now I understand why. This is a singular soup that, once you have had it, will have you calling the restaurant next fall as well.
Upon entering, the dessert display greets you and you’ll be easily swayed to treat yourself to dessert. Everything is homemade but don’t feel committed to eating dessert in the restaurant. We took pie home for later and thoroughly enjoyed dessert for dinner.
My personal favorite is the Coconut Cream Pie ($8.50). What helps this interpretation stand out is the creative and naturally gluten-free coconut macaroon crust. A thick layer of sweetened coconut and egg whites are the base for a not-too-sweet coconut custard and whipped cream. If you love coconut, you’re going to flip for this pie. Razatos told me this pie has been around long before gluten-free was a thing. But this pie is so sensational, even nongluten-free diners will be entranced.
One of my dining companions doesn’t like coconut and ordered the Caramel Apple Pie ($8.50), which is another top-selling dessert. Thinly sliced apples are tossed with a generous amount of cinnamon to make this all-American pie a winner. A gooey caramel topping coats a double pie crust – on the bottom and the top – adds just the right amount of sweetness to play with the sweet and tart apples. A light hand of sugar makes these pies truly satisfying without feeling guilty.
When you crave the traditional Mexican and New Mexican dishes the Razatos family and their staff have been making for 75 years, head south on Cerrillos away from the hustle and bustle of downtown to the newest, coolest addition, the Plaza Café Southside where parking is abundant and the friendly staff welcome you home at every visit.