The Iconic Pantry Celebrates 75 Delicious Years - SantaFe.com

Any restaurant turning 75 years young must be doing a lot of things right. One of Santa Fe’s most beloved restaurants, The Pantry, has just reached that major milestone. Its combination of food quality and prompt friendly service, at easy-going prices, remains true to founder George Myers’ original vision. I spoke recently with Max Myers, George’s son, and a previous partner in the business with Stan Singley and Stan’s son Mike, about The Pantry’s legacy and longevity.

The Original Idea

Taco salad with chicken at the Pantry.
Try the taco salad with chicken at the Pantry.

George arrived in Santa Fe in the mid-1940s. World War II was in the rear-view mirror, and the world seemed fresh with possibility. George and his sister, Max’s aunt Wanda, had been working in the Midwest, where she met some contractors who had been involved with building Los Alamos a few years earlier. They talked about the area favorably but complained about the dearth of classic American fare in the Santa Fe area’s restaurants. 

George had learned to cook during a stint with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a government work program for young men of that era. Both he and Wanda decided to make the move to New Mexico, with the idea of opening their own dining establishment. Wanda helped set up the business but eventually moved on from it.

As the site for the new venture, George chose a location well outside the southern Santa Fe city limits, which then ended at Cordova Road. He bought a big tract of land, with the El Rey Motel as just about his only neighbor. The property sprawled along the then two-lane highway, Cerrillos Road.

George built the cheery cube of a building with his own hands, including raising the state-of-the-art steel trusses to hold up the roof. Everything came from Alpine Lumber, also still in business today. Patrons could pull right up to the front door until some years later when the road was expanded to four lanes.

The cool 10-stool counter is original to the café. What is the back dining room today was initially an apartment for George, and eventually his wife, Delores, and growing family. These days, the comfy room is dominated by a striking mural of New Mexico. It was created by noted French artist and illustrator Jacques Liozu, who spent time in Santa Fe in the mid-20th century.

Eventually the thriving business became more than George wished to handle. In the mid-1950s, he leased it out to George and Franny Bernsten. It went through another half-dozen management changes before George Myers’ son Max and business partner Stan Singley took it back over in 1998.

Max, who is now president of Santa Fe-based Century Bank, reminisced that his first official job was as a Pantry busser, dressed in a white shirt and black bowtie. He attended church with Stan, who went on to manage the popular Luby’s Cafeteria, prior to the two pairing up to run The Pantry. Stan now owns the business with his son, Mike, who became a partner after his graduation from culinary school.

Great Eats at The Pantry

Chicken fried steak at the Pantry Restaurant.
Chicken fried steak is still a staple on the menu a the Pantry.

Some of the early menu classics sound familiar today — meatloaf, chicken-fried steak, and mashed potatoes, for instance. Over the decades, some items fell out of popularity. You won’t find the calves’ brains with scrambled eggs, today. Max waxed nostalgic recently about another former breakfast item, an old Midwestern morning favorite, fried cornmeal mush with maple syrup.

I happen to love this dish from my own childhood, and think if they’d call it polenta, it would sell well once more. The traditional American diner favorites have been joined in more recent decades by loads of red and green chile-fueled local specialties. It’s very common here to see chile topping that meatloaf or CFS. I’m partial to the green on both.

The Pantry serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but offers the morning menu all day long. The choices are extensive, from house-made corned beef over their signature fried potatoes, to blue corn cinnamon pancakes, omelets, burritos, and avocado toast. My go-to dish for nearly four decades has been the breakfast sandwich, a mountainous mix of scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, potatoes, and a hefty layering of green chile, all spilling from a flour tortilla.

Later day options include burgers, steaks, tacos, enchiladas, sandwiches, salads, and more. You can order beer, wine, or an agave margarita to accompany a meal. If you’re not completely stuffed, the tres leches cake will melt in your mouth.

Prices are painless for the quality of food consistently delivered with a smile. You might have a bit of a wait for a table here, but the staff keeps everything moving efficiently. If you look around, you’ll likely see someone you know in the mix of friends, families, and business associates meeting up here. It’s that kind of place.

Congratulations to the Myers and Singley families for creating and maintaining this local treasure. Along with other partners, they now own a variety of other Santa Fe restaurants too, including the Pantry Rio, Bourbon Steak, and Baja Tacos. The flagship, though, is still going strong as ever. Here’s hoping for another 75 years.

Read more about all three Pantry locations here.

Story by Cheryl Alters Jamison 

Exterior of the original Pantry Restaurant.The Pantry 
1820 Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe

505-986-0022
Open daily 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Pantrysantafe.com

 

 

This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead

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