SF’s Hottest Food Scene is South of Downtown »Albuquerque Journal


The Golden Land Cafe, in the Plaza del Sol Mall, featuring pork buns and poke bowls, is the latest addition to the growing restaurant scene on St. Michael’s Drive. (Mark Oswald / For the Journal)

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Sometimes, despite – or instead of – the best-laid plans from city planners, big developers, and designs created at city hall, good things can happen to improve or rejuvenate neighborhoods in a more organic way.

As reported in last Sunday’s Journal North by quintessential local food writer Molly Boyle, St. Michael’s Drive in Midcity Santa Fe has become somewhat of a restaurant mecca.

Yes, this St. Mike’s – the busy thoroughfare dominated by car dealerships, bank branches, malls and a large old empty Kmart store.

City officials have been talking for years about somehow converting St. Mike’s into an attractive, pedestrianized boulevard with a sleeker urban streetscape, buildings that combine small convenience stores with local life. upstairs, more and better landscaping, apartments and maybe less traffic.

Nothing really happened to achieve any of these goals, which in the recent past were offered under the brand name of the ReMike Project. But restaurateurs have jumped where others may fear stepping in.

Perhaps the Afro-Caribbean restaurant Jambo Café started the trend. Jambo isn’t technically on St. Mike’s, but it’s in a large mall at the busy St. Mike’s / Cerrillos Road intersection.

In a city where catering to downtown tourists and affluent northerners has been the key to many restaurants, Jambo has become a smash hit despite its location in Midcity. It obviously attracts people from all over Santa Fe – and tourists too, after news of its great food spread around the world. The lesson learned – build it (a good place to eat at reasonable prices) and they will come.

Following a trend of large cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Nevada, malls with much cheaper rents and more parking than locations in more fashionable areas of the city have subsequently become a plethora of Tasty, varied and interesting dining options along the St. Mike’s Corridor, from Cerrillos to St. Francis.

“With rents lower than those offered by downtown landlords, St. Michael’s is a haven for novice restaurateurs and mom-and-pop restaurateurs,” Boyle wrote. “Block of houses, they offer a more interesting range of dining options than any other area of ​​the city.”

A few of the choices include Loyal Hound, with its “high” pub food; Coffee House Sagche, combining New Mexico and Guatemalan classics with its coffees of unique Guatemalan, Colombian and Mexican origin; the venerable Santa Fe Bite, who moved to downtown St. Mike’s and now offers Belgian Liege Waffles in addition to his world-famous green chili cheeseburgers; Mampuku Ramen (try the curry ramen with brisket); Anthony’s Grill in St. Michael’s Village West, a pandemic-era hit with do-it-yourself stir-fry and excellent cornmeal crusted catfish; Liu Liu Liu’s upscale Taiwanese cuisine, hidden next to a barber shop; and the new Golden Land Café, near Smith’s supermarket in Plaza del Sol (Boyle loved the “shrimp and basil soup with rice noodles, nappa cabbage, straw mushrooms and bok choy in a rich broth and tasty, served with sriracha “).

Old restaurants such as Chow’s Asian Bistro, Felipe’s Tacos, Pizza Espiritu and Los Potrillos, the excellent Mexican restaurant, should not be forgotten on the St. Mike’s Strip.

So far, all of these delicacies have been brought to the neighborhood without any sign of gentrification, unless good food at generally very reasonable prices is considered gentrification. Either way, there should soon be plenty of new customers in the neighborhood, as a few older office buildings in St. Mike’s and Pacheco Street are being renovated to provide workspace for approximately 400 National Laboratories. Los Alamos.

Developers with big ideas might soon follow the smell of all this great food, although it remains unclear how all of those car dealerships and convenience stores can ever be driven out or converted to fit into a boulevard of. European style or a true hipster mecca, although we really wanted it to happen. The Desert Kmart offers something a blank slate for planners and builders, so stay tuned.

Restaurants are a sign of cultural dynamism and make neighborhoods more pleasant and lively. The recent surge of new restaurants in Midcity bodes well for the area, regardless of what the city ultimately decides to do with the empty city-owned campus that anchors one end of St. Mike’s hallway.

For now, just enjoy what’s on the menu of St. Mike’s booming restaurant scene, and hope it gets bigger and better.

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