Alibi V.26 No.51 • Dec 21-27, 2017 

Restaurant Review

Europa Brings European Charm to Los Lunas

The farm-owned cafe offers simple fare with a comfy vibe

Almond pastry and Caramel Machiatto
Almond pastry and Caramel Machiatto

It’s surprising to find a European café on a farm in New Mexico. Then again, the place is called Peculiar Farms for a reason.

Europa Coffee. Tea. Bakery opened two months ago on the eastern edge of Peculiar Farms, right off of Highway 314. The small café resides in what was previously the Peculiar milking shed, and it still looks like a modest farm shed from the road. Inside, though, it’s since been decked out with spindly little café chairs and displays of European candies.

I visited Europa around noon on a cloudy Saturday with a couple friends in tow. We hemmed and hawed over the menu for a long time (it’s a pay-up-front establishment), getting in the way of some other, more decisive customers in the small space. The menu is fairly limited at the moment, and mostly consists of pre-prepared things—though there are a couple hot entrées that change every couple of days, depending on what ingredients are available. We chose a couple savory pastries (all imported unbaked from France, then baked in-house; $3 each) and the “French picnic plate” ($7.50), which came with focaccia and several different kinds of meats and cheeses. Though the cooler full of kombucha, sparkling vinegar drinks and other unusual concoctions was tempting, we all decided on lattes ($3.25) instead.

We chose a table outside, where there’s a stage for nighttime performances and play equipment for kids. Right behind the stage there’s acres and acres of grass with a few dozen Hereford cows lazily chewing their cud. Behind that is another pen with about a hundred small, black Panorama cows milling about. There’s also a flock of seasonal visitors: Hundreds of migrating cranes have chosen the field as a landing pad, and are now stalking around on their long legs and eyeing the cattle with suspicion. Even with the highway just a stone’s throw away, it’s impossible to forget that you’re eating at a farm. It’s lovely.

We nursed our coffees (imported from an Italian roaster) as we watched the cows flicking their tails and living their quiet cow lives. The pastries we sampled (one tomato and olive, the other leek and cheese) were fantastically buttery and flaky—I nearly went back for another. Although I find it a bit odd that a New Mexico farm café would import nearly all of their food from Europe rather than use local ingredients, I suppose there is something to be said for the French knowing how to make a good pastry.

Although I find it a bit odd that a New Mexico farm café would import nearly all of their food from Europe rather than use local ingredients, I suppose there is something to be said for the French knowing how to make a good pastry.

The French picnic plate came out, and the teenage waiter told us that the café has actually been quite busy since it opened. “It’s not usually so empty this time of day,” he told us. “This place has become kind of a local hub, actually. The community was really ready for a new coffee shop—that’s not a Starbucks.” Los Lunas is a small farming town, so I can definitely see how a European café could be an exciting addition to the scene. I imagined this young man with a headset and a green apron on. I figured he was pretty happy to be working here rather than at a Starbucks, too.

The picnic plate was simple but tasty, served alongside several little bowls of pickles and fat, salty olives. It’s a good plate for sharing, but it’s light—most of the plates at Europa are small and not good for particularly hungry people. But it’s more of a café and market than a make-from-scratch restaurant: As long as you’re not expecting a three-course meal when you show up, it’s a perfectly good place for breakfast or lunch. And an even better place for picking up European chocolates, preserves and other imported foods you wouldn’t normally find outside of an IKEA.

I imagine the menu at Europa will expand in the spring, when the growing season allows them to offer more fresh ingredients. For now, you can still buy cuts of fresh beef (cows are always in season) in the café, and enjoy the bounty that the European import trade allows. If you were wondering where to get marzipan and stroopwafels for stocking stuffers, look no further.

The atmosphere is what sold the place for me. Being able to sit outside and then wander down the lane to pet the cows was magical; running into one of the owners of the farm and chatting with him about the café and his plans for the future of the farm was delightful. Even after we finished eating, the three of us ended up spending well over two hours at the place, talking and watching the cranes arrive in packs. I could see what the waiter meant about this being a community hub: It’s quiet and peaceful there, and has a way of encouraging you to sit and take your time. Whether you’re a Los Lunas resident or simply passing through, Europa is a great place to take friends or family for a long morning of shooting the shit and catching up. Of course, you may find yourself falling quiet and just appreciating the place, too.

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Europa Coffee. Tea. Bakery.

2105 Hwy 314 NW, Los Lunas
Hours: Mon-Wed 7am-2pm, Thu 7am-5:30pm, Fri 7am-9pm, Sat 7am-5:30pm, Sun Closed
Alibi Recommends: Savory pastries, French picnic plate