Have Fork, Will Travel
24 Hours in Jemez Springs
By Ty Bannerman
A trip to the Jemez Mountains is the perfect get-away for Burqueños fleeing their city in any season. However, when cold winds and snowbanks preemptively ruin picnic plans, it's good to know that the tiny town of Jemez Springs has several options for warming your bones with good food and drink, no matter what time of day you arrive.
Highway 4 Coffee
17502 State Highway 4
The least aesthetically interesting of the Jemez Springs options, this cafe is a bare and bright little place. But sometimes you want a low-key joint for a low-key breakfast. The coffee is plentiful and cheap and goes nicely with the case full of croissants, tarts and danishes. Torn between the piñon tart and the chocolate croissant, I chose the latter and was rewarded with flaky, buttery bread on the outside and thick, smeary chocolate on the inside. The cafe also offers Wi-Fi, and since cell phone reception is spotty in town, it’s the perfect opportunity to contact your loved ones and brag about your mountain idyll.
Jemez Stage Stop
17607 State Highway 4
Eating at this cottage by the town acequia was a peculiar experience: The worst of all Christmas songs played over speakers at a way-too-loud volume, and a big-screen TV above the fireplace ran an old ’70s cowboy movie. Somehow, a keening paean to world peace as soundtrack to the cinema verite of cowboys endlessly murdering cowboys (dagger to the neck, buried up to the head in ants, and of course guns guns guns) combined into a delicious surreality that made me glad I stopped in.
The food was pretty good, too. Blue corn blueberry pancakes offered plenty of fresh blueberries and plenty of pancake. Just one should feed all but the most gluttonous appetite (the “small” pancake is the size of a plate and the “plate-sized” pancake is the size of Guatemala). It came with peppery sausage that soaked up the syrup into a savory, greasy sumptuousness.
Los Ojos Restaurant and Saloon
(No address listed, but you can’t possibly miss it.)
Los Ojos has been letting people cozy up to its fireplace since the ’40s, and in many ways, it feels like the restaurant never really left that bygone era. My eyes were drawn to the array of stuffed animal heads on the walls: black bear, mountain lion, bighorn sheep and an elk that looks like it could have flattened the entire town of Jemez Springs back in its trampling days. The dust of ages lies over them all, so an antihistamine may be in order before venturing inside.
Fortunately, the beer selection has kept pace with the modern world. O’Dell’s Cutthroat Porter and 60 Shilling Ale are on tap next to Miller Light and Budweiser. The food isn’t spectacular (the New Mexican options are heavy with velveeta-like yellow cheese), but the burgers are tasty, warming you from the inside while the fire works from the outside. Get a Famous Jemez Burger with olives and Swiss cheese, or follow the bartender’s suggestion and order the Los Ojos special, which is kind of like a green chile cheeseburger exploded on a tortilla.
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