Tecolote Cafe’s Triumphant Return

Lynn Cline - December 15, 2015

"Great Breakfast, No Toast"

When I moved to Santa Fe some 20 years ago, Tecolote Cafe was one of the first restaurants I visited, and the Atole Pinon Pancakes left a lasting impression. I returned often to savor other delicious dishes—Huevos Rancheros, Corned Beef Hash and Huevos Yucatecos, corn tortillas stacked with eggs, green chile, black beans, Swiss and feta cheese, pico de gallo and fried bananas. For years, Tecolote was a favorite breakfast spot until one dark day—on April 13, 2014, to be exact—it shuttered its doors because of a dispute with the landlord.

Longtime patrons were shocked by the news and truly mourned the closing. For more than three decades, they'd been enjoying breakfast at the Tecelote with a bottomless cup of coffee, which Alice and Bill Jennison opened in 1980 with a mission to “serve excellent food at a reasonable price, while making one feel at home.” This they accomplished with great success, becoming a Santa Fe dining institution beloved by locals and visitors alike—no easy feat in a city with dozens of fine New Mexican restaurants.

After Bill died in 2010, and Alice in 2012, their daughter, Katie, and her husband, Matt, took over running the restaurant. When news broke about Tecoloe's sudden closure, the couple promised to re-open in a new location as soon as they could. It took a while but last July, the cafe rose like a phoenix from the ashes, in a larger space in St. Michael's Village, better than ever, and longtime diners cheered.

Since then, the eatery's fame has spread far and wide. The Food Network just included the cafe's Atole Pinon Pancakes on their list of the 'Best Breakfasts in the Country,' saying “Evergreens thrive at Santa Fe's 7,000-foot elevation, and the Jennison family makes good use of the trees' plentiful pine nuts. They add them to the crunchy, blue-cornmeal hotcakes at their avian-themed restaurant (tecolote means “owl” in the Aztec language Nahuatil.) They roast the rich nuts and then sprinkle them into each pancakes while it's cooking.”

Tecolote serves breakfast and lunch from 7 am to 2 pm six days a week, closed only on Mondays. In addition to morning fare like Steak & Eggs Benedict, Scrambled Eggs & Chorizo the Santa Fe Omelet with cheddar and green chile sauce and the Sheepherder's Breakfast—a scramble of potatoes, eggs, jalapeno, red and green chile and melted cheese—the menu also features chicken fried steak, Frito pie, and traditional an enchilada, taco or tamales plate (or try a combo plate), pork chop verde and more. Burger lovers can choose from the Tecolote Burger, made with bacon, green chile and good old-fashioned American cheese, the Tortilla Burger, smothered in red and green chile, and other patty offerings. If you're eating light, choose from an array of salads, including Garden, Chef and Cobb, or Alice's Tortilla Soup and Green Chile Stew.

Tecolote also offers some killer specials, including the Hoot'n'Holler Burger and the Ring'O'Fire Quesadilla, both made with one of the world's hottest pepper, the Ghost Pepper. Cinnamon rolls as big as a plate are baked fresh daily, along with the muffins and biscuits in the famous Bakery Basket, served with whipped butter and strawberry preserves. People are passionate about their Bakery Baskets, which long ago gave rise to the restaurant's motto: “Great Breakfast, No Toast.”

In addition to its delicious fare, Tecolote is also known for its owls, although Bill named the restaurant after a town, not a bird. Over the years, people have brought owl statues, paintings and other gifts to Tecolote, and the collection is displayed in the new location, as it was in the former space.

Find the new incarnation of Santa Fe's treasured Tecolote Cafe at 1616 St. Michaels Dr., and visit their website at tecolotecafe.com.