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Food
‹‹ V.15 No.3 | January 19 - 25, 2006

Restaurant Review

Sophia's Place

A surprising place for ingenious ingredients and udon soup

North Valley adobe and a clear blue sky ... kind of makes you hungry, doesn’t it?
Wes Naman
North Valley adobe and a clear blue sky ... kind of makes you hungry, doesn’t it?

The Great Pumpkin would be proud of Sophia's Place. Of all the things that can be made out of pumpkin, they have managed to find the one unique recipe that no other place has exploited throughout the holiday season: homemade pumpkin brownies.

They are moist and cake-like and more pumpkin-y than overspiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, like so many Thanksgiving-through-Christmas lattes, cookies and pies. And the rest of the menu ain't bad, either.

Sophia's is a true Mom and Pop place, both inside and out. That's why people like it so much. Good old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising can be worth more than a million-dollar ad campaign when it comes to good eats, and not more than 10 minutes after I sat down at a table, I heard one cowboy-hat-sportin' man at a table of four tell his dining companions that Sophia's home-style supper was even better than what he got at home.

Sophia’s innards are eclectic New Mexico at its finest.
Wes Naman
Sophia’s innards are eclectic New Mexico at its finest.

Everyone within earshot chuckled, but I couldn't help but hope he didn't tell his wife that when he returned from lunch. Who knows what his supper may look like after he did that?

I ordered one of the daily specials—shrimp tacos ($8.95). Before the meal came I had plenty of time to admire the surroundings, which was eclectic New Mexico at its finest. The walls were laden with chile peppers in effigy, Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls and artsy corn husk dolls. A hanging rainbow trout "welcome" sign near the door especially appealed to my Midwestern roots.

My food was speedy, mostly organic and hotter than a night with David Hasselhoff's personal trainer. The small flour tortillas were warm and handmade, the salsa was the spicy sort that can't be captured in any jar and the shrimps were grilled in red chile.

My side dishes were sweet—fluffy rice and slow-simmered pinto beans. And yes, my personal pet peeve with the salad on the same plate as my food was tweaked yet again, but as in times past, the unique vinaigrette house dressing was an opportune trade-off. You can't always get what you want (at least that's what The Big Chill taught me).

I also had some leisure time to really explore the menu, and what I found were the usual suspects with one menu anomaly. There were tacos, burritos, sandwiches, soups and salads, and, wait for it ... udon noodle bowls ($8.95 or $6.50 for a half order). Huh? That's what I said. But after talking it over with the staff at Sophia's, I understood that they strive to be both organic and vegetarian-friendly, and what better way to show their love than with udon, bean thread or rice noodles in Asian broth, with a meat or vegetable option package?

I was taken in by the "recession special"—two Nathan's hot dogs and a soda for $4.50. I then asked if Sophia's offered a "gas prices make me broke" special. They do not, but I'm hoping that the idea stuck.

As a companion to the superb pumpkin brownies ($3.50), they bake a mean chocolate cake with that drippy-looking fudgy icing ($2.50), and with a cup of Taos Mountain coffee or tea, why not skip the carpool and stay for dessert? I'm pretty sure that the cowboy hat guy was thinking the same thing. At least he didn't knock his wife's baking. That sort of thing could get around.

The Alibi Recommends:

Sophia's house salad with jalapeño ranch dressing

Spicy eggs Benedict (made with organic eggs and Sage Bakery bread)

Grilled fish sandwich with garlic mayo

Pumpkin brownies

Pancakes with real maple syrup and piñon butter

Carnitas with red chile