Looking for a place that combines good classic food at reasonable prices with cheerful and efficient service? How about adding in a nearly incomparable view out over the Jemez, and a terrace for enjoying it when days are warm? What if it had that in-short-supply perk of easy parking too? Museum Hill Café is just the spot.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!
While I find those attributes impressive, Museum Hill Café has other pluses. It sits amid a wealth of art. The café’s bookended by two state museums — the Museum of Indian Art & Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art. Those institutions are flanked by the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. I always pick at least one of these extraordinary spots to visit before or after lunch at the café. Some days, I add in a stroll through our inviting Santa Fe Botanical Garden, just across the street.
That stroll might be especially beneficial after lunch anyway. Choose among starters, salads, sandwiches, New Mexican favorites, specialties like beef bourguignon and crabcakes, and a delectable selection of desserts.
Weldon Fulton, the genial host, is going into his thirteenth year of operating this gem. He fashions the menu around dishes he personally enjoys. Weldon first recommended the corn custard appetizer to me, a generous square of quivering custard blanketed with a mildly spice green sauce. It could make a light meal with a salad on the side, or maybe a cup of the day’s soup.
MENU CLASSICS at Museum Hill Café
Either the Cobb salad or Greek salad makes a generous meal, and both are loaded with vegetables, cheese, and more. I think
Reuben’s Reuben is one of the tastiest sandwiches in town. For the meat, Weldon uses pastrami, rather than corned beef, for its greater seasoning and tenderness. It’s piled on toasted Jewish rye with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing.
There are burgers of Angus beef and of Beck & Bulow’s excellent local bison. Sandwiches and burgers come with crispy French fries or sweet potato fries, or some of each. Don’t miss the delectable chipotle mayo for dipping those fries.
The salmon here is particularly good. Weldon gets the fish in almost daily from Above Sea Level. It’s then marinated in paprika and olive oil and grilled perfectly. Crabcakes are mostly made of the crustacean, with very little bread filler.
This is likely the only place in town to find duck flautas, served with a mango sauce for dunking them. Seasonal specialties rotate in and out, such as the current beef bourguignon with mashed potatoes, for these chilly days. There are always choices for vegetarians.
Weldon’s staff tempts guests with a tray of the day’s desserts. I usually succumb to the lofty coconut cream pie. For folks who are gluten-free — though delicious for those who eat everything — the choices usually include a chocolate-almond torte and a clementine-almond cake.
WINE A LITTLE
Wines from around the world are a moderately priced $10 per glass and $30 for bottles. If you want to hear more about the wines, check out “Wine Wednesdays” on YouTube, a collaboration between Weldon and Santa Fe wine wizard Jill Cashman. The café offers a small but well-chosen list of mostly local beers.
For Sunday brunch, a pianist plays. Museum Hill Café’s always convivial though, whatever the day.
Museum Hill Café
710 Camino Lejo (on Museum Hill)
11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday
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.