Ghosts From the Past--I have a soft spot for the old Café Broadway building (Broadway at Iron SE). More to the point, I love how it feels; like eating lunch in an old adobe mansion, surrounded by the quiet, halcyon decay of its overgrown patio and South Broadway locale.
But the space is haunted. Not with ghosts, but with failed restaurants. When a new venture opens at 606 Broadway SE, it rarely has the chance to stretch out and get comfortable before it's out of business again.
Who's next? And can anyone end the curse? It's becoming a familiar refrain, one I milled over again as Film Editor Devin O'Leary, Calendars Editor Amy Dalness and I pulled up to the latest attempt, Restaurant El Sol.
The restaurant looks exactly as it always has--bright interior walls, corrugated tin accents and a crumbling wooden breezeway. Even the staff is original. We were more than a little surprised to be greeted by Maria Yu, the ex-owner of Café Broadway. She looked overjoyed to be behind the register again and says she's partnered up with one of her old cooks, a wizard at traditional New Mexican fare. The specter of past failures didn't seem to faze her one bit.
El Sol serves barbacoa, pollo and asada, served a few ways (burritos, tortas and tacos). The exceptionally tight menu seems incongruous with such a large building; but idiosyncrasies have always been a part of this place's charm. We left our order with Maria at the counter and sat ourselves in that same, gloriously pitted old patio.
I ordered the barbacoa burrito as a litmus test. I’m no purist, but it kills me to see restaurants trying to pass shredded beef off as barbacoa. (You’re crazy if you think we can’t tell the difference.) What I received was the real thing: cheek meat cooked low and slow until creamy, dotted with fat and mixed with diced white onions and cilantro. It was served with a side of warm, smoky salsa that was gooood--and only $2.95. In fact, everything on the menu is inexpensive.
As Amy pointed out, there's not much in the way of options for vegetarians outside of the usual heart-stoppers like enchiladas, bean and cheese burritos, green chile cheese fries and nachos. If you're on a diet, don't eat here. Then again, would it kill you to live a little? Restaurant El Sol is open from 11:30-3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. They've even revived the old Café Broadway flamenco show on some Saturdays (but not all). Call 243-8648 to find out when the next one is scheduled.