Why I love getting my car's oil changed across the street from one of Santa Fe's best breakfast spots...
It's a good day for me when I have to take my car in for an oil change. That's because my mechanic's shop is located across the street from The Pantry, one of the best places in town for a hearty breakfast. I have to be there at 8 a.m. for the hour-long procedure, which gives me a great excuse to just drop off my car and walk over to The Pantry for classic diner food as well as regional specialties.
I make sure to bring my appetite because the biscuits with country sausage gravy are a great way to start the day, as are the Blue Corn Cinnamon Pancakes, Breakfast Burrito (try it with carne adovada), Huevos Rancheros and the Buenos Dias, a decadent pile o'Pantry Fries topped with chile, cheese and two eggs cooked to order.
While I haven't yet tried them, the Breakfast Steak, a grilled 6-ounce strip loin, with two eggs looks great, as does the Chicken Fried Steak smothered with country gravy and served with two eggs. And the Fresh Corned Beef dish, a pile of Pantry Fries topped with the restaurant's signature corned beef and two eggs, looks dangerously delicious.
Those with a sweet tooth have plenty of options served hot off the griddle, including Stuffed French Toast, which is coated with corn flakes and filled with cream cheese, blueberries and strawberries; Belgian Waffles; Buttermilk Pancakes; and the Cakes and Eggs Combo, which comes with bacon or sausage.
There are lighter dishes, too, among The Pantry's omelette offerings, including the Durango, made with ham, mushrooms, green onions, cheese and sour cream and topped with green chile; or the Chile Relleno, stuffed with said chile and topped with your choice of green or red.
If it's crowded, I'll grab one of the swiveling bar seats at the old-fashioned counter. But I often luck into a full table in the front dining room where the action inside is just as interesting as the action outside along Cerrillos Road. The back dining room is the largest room in the place, decorated with colorful art that honors New Mexico's history. It's always crowded, but the wait for a table is rarely long.
The Pantry is known as Santa Fe's Meeting Place, where you're sure to run into longtime friends and make new ones over the delicious fare. George Myers founded the restaurant in 1948, then on the way outskirts of town, and ever since it's been the place where business owners, politicians and other locals have started their day with a cup of coffee and a plateful of goodness. Over the years, new owners have come and gone, and it's now run by the father and son team of Stan and Mike Singley. Stan was the longtime manager of Luby's Cafeteria and Mike is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu-Scottsdale.
In case breakfast time is too early for you, The Pantry also serves lunch and dinner with an entire section on its menu devoted to “Comfort Foods.” Not every restaurant can serve three square meals a day and do each one right, but The Pantry's got it down. From the Green Chile Stew served with pork, to the Frito Pie, Carne Adovada Plate and Tortilla Burger, served in a tortilla with pinto beans, chile and cheese, the traditional northern New Mexico dishes here are just right. (The Travel Channel featured this burger in a program about the best New Mexico green chile cheeseburgers, and program George Motz said it was the only burger in America that he'd eat with a fork.)
The “Anglo” options are great, too, including the Patty Melt, Triple Decker Club and Classic Reuben along with classic comfort foods, including Meatloaf, made with The Pantry's own recipe that combines house made ground beef and pork, and served with veggies and mashed potatoes, of course. You'll also find an open-face Hot Turkey Sandwich, Grilled Pork Chops and Santa Fe Brisket, featuring slow-cooked, shredded brisket sauteed with onions and tomatoes.
The Pantry's portions are generous, and I usually end up with a to-go box for my leftovers. But if you can leave room for dessert, do. You won't be sorry when you try the Tres Leches Cake and Choco Flan.
But don't take my word about the food here. A simple search online reveals a staggering array of five-star reviews: “The breakfast burrito is a thing of beauty -- Smothered with a fabulous red chile and gobs of cheese, it was crazy delicious,” says on TripAdvisor reviewer. “A must stop for breakfast while in Santa Fe, ” says another on Yelp. And from Google reviews, “Out-foxtrot-standing. Food was great. Haven't found a place that had chicken fried steak and eggs since I was in Colorado Springs...I wish we were here anther day to go again.”
So that's how I've turned the routine of a timely oil change into something other than a chore. And now, I'm wondering whether my mechanic might agree to an oil change during lunchtime, or even late afternoon...there's so much more on the menu I've yet to try.