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Fantastic Focus on the Taste Buds

SANTA FE, N.M. — Sunrise, open about six months, is a classic mom-and-pop place and a welcome addition to our food-crazy town. Thanks to the recommendation of a buddy who works at Tia Sophia’s (another great spot for breakfast and lunch), a friend and I decided to visit Sunrise one morning. Before we’d even finished our eggs and chile, we were talking about coming back for lunch.

Longtime Santa Fe residents will remember the restaurant’s St. Michael’s Drive location as the home of the Green Onion, a sports bars dating to the time when customers could watch John Elway quarterback the Broncos. The Onion’s booths and tables, or close facsimiles thereof, remain, but the smoky ambiance has given way to bright yellow walls and windows that let the light in. Like the old Onion, the place isn’t much to look at either outside or in. But don’t let that deter you.

The restaurant consists of two dining rooms and a third space that would be great for private parties or board lunches. The bulletin board announcements capture some of the flavor of Santa Fe, with everything from a flier about the upcoming Buckaroo Ball to notices of pickups available to haul away anything that needs hauling.

WHERE: 1851 St. Michael’s Drive
FOOD: New Mexican and American. No liquor.
SERVICE: Friendly and efficient.
PRICES: $3.50-$12.50
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.

The diverse, affordable breakfast menu reminds me of another popular breakfast place, The Pantry, with an assortment of chile dishes, pancakes, waffles, French toast and egg creations. You can order breakfast anytime. The day of my visit, the breakfast special was two eggs, toast, potatoes and a pork chop – all for $5.99!

My friend and I enjoyed hot, fresh coffee while we studied the menu. The what’s-for-breakfast decision comes easy for him if huevos rancheros pop up on the menu. He only has to consider “red or green?” and “toast or tortilla?” I like the way Sunrise prepared this dish. Whole pinto beans sit on one side of the plate, two fresh, cooked-to-order eggs on a corn tortilla topped with chile (green this time) and melted cheese in the center, and potatoes on the other side. The potatoes, pieces of multiple sizes, cooked slightly crisp and nicely seasoned, get a big thumbs up. None of those pre-frozen triangles of hash browns or little potato pucks here. If you’re real potato fan, try the “Sunrise Plate,” which uses potatoes as the base, topping them with a pair of eggs, a bit of cheese, and your choice of chile.

We also tried the spinach omelet. The fluffy egg whites (you could request whole eggs) surrounded a filling of sautéed fresh spinach leaves, chopped onion, diced tomatoes and a bit of cheese. Like many Sunrise egg dishes, this comes with toast or biscuits and gravy, my choice. The biscuits and gravy were average, but the side of red chile I ordered with the omelet was a winner. Spicy but not overpowering, it added some a nice layer of complex flavors to the bland egg whites.

You can also start your day here with an egg-based burrito with an assortment of options including grilled veggies. On the heartier side, you can breakfast on a ribeye or chicken fried steak served with eggs, potatoes and toast for about $8. Regular and fruit-stuffed pancakes, menudo, oatmeal with bananas and raisins, and a breakfast quesadilla add to the fun. The lunch and dinner menu feature a large assembly of New Mexican options as well as burgers, sandwiches, a Navajo taco and some blue-plate inspired specials. The six-ounce rib eye and enchilada plate served with rice, pinto beans and a sopaipilla – all for just $12.50 – sounds like a bargain.

Vegetarian demo

Santacafe is hosting chef Rocky Durham in a series of dinners designed to show that there’s more to vegetarian cuisine than tofu. Durham will present meatless meals using French, Italian and Middle Eastern themes. The first in the series, the French Bistro Végétarien will be offered Monday and Tuesday. Please contact Santacafe for more information.

Cutline – The Sunrise Family Restaurant on Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe.