For a miniature vacation from the “big city” without hauling up to Santa Fe or out toward the eastern or western reaches of I-40, you can’t get much better than Placitas.
Quaintly tiny like Madrid yet with a twinkling view of the Albuquerque metro laid out below, it’s near and far in all the right ways.
So, too, is the Placitas Cafe, a regulars’ joint with home-style comfort and sass in equal measure. Why have pancakes when you can eat monkey cakes? Why wait for a server to refill your coffee when you can choose your own mug and refill from the beverage table?
Most mornings, the Placitas Cafe will have a bustling parking lot — always a good sign for any diner or cafe. Sometimes in small towns you have to wonder if the only reason diners are busy is there ain’t much else around. No matter spare the restaurant options in Placitas, that doesn’t change the fact that this spot is weirdly wonderful.
Start with coffee by choosing a mug from the coffee station’s drawer and fill it to the brim, then peruse the font mish-mash of a menu that makes graphic designers cringe and the rest of us smirk a bit.
Breakfast decisions go in one of two directions: Huevos Rancheros ($8.25) for savory or Monkey Cakes ($8.45) for sweet. This is a Huevos plate worth the drive, with whole beans.
One-of-a-kind dishes at any restaurant get my attention; at lunchtime the deep-fried and zesty Special Green Beans ($4.95) deserve yours. They’re crunchy while still tasting fresh and served with a dipping dish of ranch dressing.
As your chosen side, they put a green and mostly healthy spin paired with the Green Chile Cheeseburger ($9.35), oozing cheese and fiery chiles. Despite not being entered in any local or state contests, the burger is near perfection. The 90 percent lean patty is tasty but sensitive to losing juiciness from overcooking — be gentle with it!
Go big with a plateful of Buffalo Enchiladas ($11.25), with all-natural and lean buffalo meat mingling with chile and cheese in a spectacular cacophony.
Many meals come with a side dish, where options abound from the usual (fries, chips), to the special (grilled tomatoes, coleslaw), to the sassy (“nothing” is actually a listed option). Quirky additions include lemon, no bun, “advice” and “chile not so hot” — for a $5 surcharge.
If you’ve reached your sass tolerance point, settle in for a little bit of sweet luxury to end the meal: Dad’s Buttermilk Pie ($3.95). There are not enough mouth-watering words in English to describe this silky dessert, browned on top and barely holding together under the weight of the custard.