Graduating from high school in Santa Fe, George Gundrey couldn’t get out of the then-sleepy town fast enough. After years, though, in California’s Bay Area, he was just as excited to return to Santa Fe, with his wife and daughter to accompany him. (They have two girls today.) His initial work was as manager of the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. Over the two years in that job, he became friends with many of northern New Mexico’s finest food purveyors. When a restaurant space, operated for years by his aunt as Diego’s, became available in DeVargas Center, he jumped at the chance to create the Atrisco Café and Bar. He became a customer, in a big way, of the market farmers he had worked with previously.
NEW MEXICAN COMFORT FOOD
Atrisco specializes in the foods of northern New Mexico. You’ll find enchiladas, tamales, tacos, rellenos, rice, beans, and posole, of course. If you can’t decide among those dishes, an Atris-combo plate allows you to enjoy all of them. Burritos or sopaipillas can be stuffed with roast beef, ground beef, chicken, carne adovada, a mix of vegetables, or local lamb. On Mondays, George serves chicos, a time-honored horno-roasted sweet corn specialty rarely seen today. The corn kernels are mixed with whole beans in old New Mexican style; the red and green, a balance of flavor and heat.
Other choices include meat loaf or a burger with green chile, or a Southwest-seasoned chicken salad. I pick up bowls of green chile stew here frequently. I sometimes eat the stew “in,” but it travels especially well. There are bowls of both chiles, which can be outfitted as you like with beans and other garnishes.
With the holidays coming up, keep in mind that Atrisco makes trays of to-go foods for 1 to 100. In addition to those trays of enchiladas, tamales, and flautas, I always stock up on quarts of both red and green chile when visitors come to town.
Weekend brunch here is on my regular restaurant rotation. A couple of my friends are partial to the huevos rancheros. My order is most often the breakfast enchiladas, plump with a scrambled egg filling, and crispy hash browns on the side.
Atrisco’s half-dozen margarita varieties all are made with 100% agave tequilas. The basic house version is excellent, but the upgraded Platinum, Silver Coin, and Rio Grande Gold offer even more pizzazz at a reasonable price. The Swirl has loads of local fans. It’s a frozen margarita with a streak of sangria swirled through it. The sangria’s available on its own too. Locally brewed beer is offered on draft.
A TALENTED FAMILY TREE
Running successful restaurants seems to be in the DNA of George’s family. His grandmother operated the Central Café in Albuquerque’s Atrisco neighborhood a couple of generations ago. His mother and father had a restaurant, The Mayflower Café, in the space where Café Pasqual’s sits today. After they split up, his mother—Georgia Maryol—bought Tomasita’s, which came with its famed namesake cook, Tomasita Leyba. Georgia moved the restaurant to the Railyard in 1979, where it remains one of Santa Fe’s most successful eateries. George now owns it too, as well as a newer Tomasita’s in Albuquerque. His aunt and uncle, Ann and Jim Maryol, opened Tia Sophia’s, named after the grandmother. More recently, it was taken over by George’s cousin, Nick Maryol. Business is still booming there too.
As mentioned previously, George more-or-less inherited the Atrisco space, which had been Diego’s, owned and operated by his aunt, Toni Maryol. My family has many stories about meals in all of these Santa Fe institutions. One of my favorites was when my then 4-year-old grandson told Toni that he wished he could have a sopaipilla as big as his head. A few minutes later, a crackling golden orb, the size of at least two footballs—and definitely larger than his head—was presented to the tyke.
It’s that kind of hospitality that runs in the family. George and his wife Sally, along with a friendly staff, offer it regularly to Santa Feans and visitors alike.
193 Paseo de Peralta, in DeVargas Center
Open daily lunch through dinner except Wednesdays
Story by Cheryl Alters Jamison
Four-time James Beard Foundation Book Award-winning author Cheryl Alters Jamison is the host of Heating It Up on KTRC and is now the “queen of culinary content” for SantaFe.com. Find new stories about the Santa Fe food scene each week on SantaFe.com.
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