As we checked out of our Socorro motel at 6:00 a.m.—so that we could catch the sunrise at Bosque del Apache—I asked the desk clerk if there was a spot to pick up some breakfast and a good cup of coffee on our way. She gave me a wide-eyed look and said, "I wish!" Surely the local hotel clerk who has lived here all her life must be mistaken. Our East Coast tourist mentality made us sure that we would find an adorable little café or something along the way. Or there would be a nice little cafeteria there. Open at 6:00 a.m. With fresh coffee. And yummy homemade baked goods.
Eight hours later and unwilling to eat from a vending machine, my husband and I were far past mere hunger as we careened down I-25 toward Las Cruces. We saw the exit ramp for Truth or Consequences and snapped out of it. Off the highway and into town we went where we were greeted by ... fast food, lots of it. Pizza Hut, KFC, a couple of dilapidated diners advertising big beef burritos. Our vegetarian hearts sank, but ever the optimists, we continued driving into the town center. Lo and behold, on one of the corners was a brightly colored corner café, sort of a hippie-looking joint, and the sign said "open"!
Serendipity had led us to the White Coyote Café at 113 Main Street in T or C. The White Coyote describes itself as "innovative and healthy dining," and it most certainly is. Indeed, the White Coyote Café is so darn pleasant that even if "healthy" food isn't your usual gig, you will just be glad to hang out in that space. And you really will love the food.
The menu is varied, with specials listed separately. My salad was generous and tossed with a marvelously subtle dressing, and the Santa Fe wrap was filled with fresh veggies, avocado and an herb-infused cream cheese—just enough to complement the veggies. My husband had a quesadilla and the only exceptional vegetarian French onion soup that I have ever tasted (vegetarian French onion soup is really tough to do well).
Our Euro-accented waiter was soft-spoken, quick on refills of iced tea, and a transatlantic snowbird of the type that I only dream about becoming. During the time we ate, the other diners ranged from a multiply-pierced young lady and her mom to a pair of pastel polo-ed friends also on their way to Las Cruces. No hurries, no worries.
This isn't exactly a restaurant review, since we only ate one meal there. However, our experience at the White Coyote Café typified the best of what I hoped to find on our trip to New Mexico. In many ways, New Mexico is amazingly unsullied by the heavy hand of man, and the small towns still have individual character.
For all of the good things that 24-hour convenience brings, our New Jersey lawmakers are in the tough spot of trying to protect what is left, cultural and natural. New Mexicans still have the chance to be proactive. The natural beauty of New Mexico cries out for a delicate touch by "civilization" that complements and provides a respite from the landscape. Perhaps too much has already been brutally imposed in the name of progress. But by searching out and frequenting establishments such as the White Coyote Café, New Mexicans might just be able to prevent the insidious monotony of ever-encroaching strip malls and chain stores. There is power in your wallet. New Mexicans and the tourists who visit must spend their dollars thoughtfully.