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‘New’ Jalapeño’s food is good, service friendly

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe has seen some interesting restaurant changes, including new locations for three long-time local favorites: the Bobcat Bite (now known as The Bite), the Guadalupe Cafe and Jalapeño’s, the restaurant that moved into the Guadalupe’s former headquarters.

I haven’t had a chance to visit The Bite or Guadalupe’s new space in the old Pink Adobe. I hope those moves go as well as Jalapeño’s.

Based on the recommendation of a friend, I stopped in for breakfast. Even though the owners have redecorated, I felt a wave of longing for the old Guadalupe Cafe, one of my favorite breakfast spots, because of their luscious house-made muffins, wonderful espresso drinks and good green chile. Could the new kid measure up?

Of course, Jalapeño’s isn’t new. The family that operates the restaurant has done a food truck business for years and more recently operated a sit-down space near Albertsons and the Cancer Center off St. Francis Drive. I’d eaten at the Southside location and enjoyed it. It’s closed now, and Jalapeño’s is concentrating all efforts downtown.

Although fall temperatures had arrived, a few guests still sat on the patio. My friend and I joined another handful of customers inside. The old restaurant space has a different, fresh Mexican-style look, complete with bright red, green and yellow walls hung with Day of the Dead Mexican folk art.

We were promptly welcomed and seated at a table by the window looking out toward Old Santa Fe Trail. But it took awhile for a waitress to bring our coffee, and when mine arrived, it was lukewarm. My friend, who wanted decaf, had to wait even longer for a pot to brew, but his was nice and hot.

Then came a sweet touch, a basket of mini-treats, one tiny pumpkin muffin and two half-dollar-size cinnamon rolls. They were obviously fresh from the oven, so hot that they adhered to the waxed paper at the bottom of the basket. The waitress said that, because the servings are large here, they make the pastries small to leave us room to enjoy our breakfast. Fine, but the muffin was too small to share. A second would have been gracious and not added much to the overhead.

I ordered a mango smoothie ($4.95), cool, creamy, not too sweet and plenty for two. You can also get strawberry or pineapple and can add protein powder to make the drink a meal.

Food choices include more than the average breakfast place. They serve natural Taos Farm eggs and organic coffee. Each of the four breakfast burritos comes with choice of white, wheat or spinach tortilla (non-white costs 75 cents extra) and can be served hand-held or smothered. You can order morning quesadillas with eggs and meat or veggies, migas, breakfast tacos, breakfast enchiladas —— and probably every other Mexican-inspired breakfast dish you may have heard of. In addition, you can get a gringo breakfast of eggs, pancakes and meat, French toast, granola and yogurt parfaits. The only things obviously missing was Mexican versions of eggs Benedict and oatmeal.

My friend loves to start the day with huevos rancheros, so that was his choice ($10.25). The eggs arrived cooked as requested atop a yellow corn tortilla with good, fresh breakfast potatoes and a light coating of mild green chile. The dish comes with choice of tortilla or sopaipilla and pinto, refried or black beans. The black beans were excellent and the sopaipilla fresh, hot and not too greasy. He was satisfied.

I thought my breakfast quesadilla was better, and a better deal for the money ($10.95). For starters, it was nicely plated with the garnishes of guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream and fresh lettuce and tomato lined up in well-tended rows instead of arriving in those annoying little plastic cups. The quesadilla itself was a feast of scrambled eggs and mild roasted peppers, sliced mushrooms, pretty green spinach leaves cooked soft and zucchini. Melted cheese kept it together on the grilled tortilla, although the juice dripped onto the plate. The serving was three thick wedges. I ate one and saved the others for the next meal. Next time, I’ll order the half-plate with fruit for $9.25.

If you’re dining with little ones, Jalapeño’s has a kids’ menu for every meal. Like breakfast, lunch and dinner, it offers an abundance of options. The fare includes tacos with all sorts of fillings, sandwiches and burgers, fajitas, burritos including mole, seafood and chicharrones. You can have a specialty plate, a burger, a seafood bowl. Prices, a bit higher than at the old location, range from $7 to $18.

If you come with a group, note that an 18 percent gratuity is added both for parties of five or more and if you request separate checks. Service was warm and friendly, but slightly disorganized. The kitchen was a bit slow, especially for breakfast and considering the restaurant was far from busy. But overall, our experience was good, and I recommend Jalapeño’s and wish them well.