I fell in love for the first time at the age of six. The four stray kittens, found abandoned on the side of the road, slowly climbed the walls of their cardboard box and hobbled around my aunt’s basement, still unsteady on their feet. Shakily making her way through the world along with the others in her litter was a calico kitten, her face split evenly between long black and orange fur. At that young age, I acquired a lifelong companion—whom I, with characteristic cleverness, named Calico. She lived for more than 20 years with my family and me. “I love my cats because I enjoy my home,” Jean Cocteau once wrote, “and little by little, they become its visible soul.” I loved Calico deeply because, to me, she felt like my home and my childhood.While I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a “cat person” in the purest sense, I can say, without hesitation, that I am an animal lover and have had the privilege of knowing and loving a number of remarkable cats. As such, I was unabashedly excited when Gatos y Galletas opened its doors down the street from my house. This isn’t your average cafe—modeled after the cat cafes that became popular in the early aughts in Asia, most notably Taiwan and Japan—Gatos y Galletas serves up food and drink that is best enjoyed with the myriad of feline friends that live on site. Each of the 8-12 cats that populate Gatos y Galletas at a given time are available for adoption through F.A.T. Katz, a local no-kill rescue organization. Gatos y Galletas is owned by Julia Grueskin, who studied cooking at the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas. She has devised a menu that will change with the seasons and is entirely vegetarian, with many vegan options. A great deal of the ingredients are sourced locally. Menu options include breakfast burritos and tacos, massaged kale salad, gazpacho, black bean soup, banana waffles and an array of both vegan and traditional baked goods. Coffee—sourced from local Red Rock Roasters—pairs well with any dish; alternatively you may engineer your own fresh juice blend, sip lemonade or indulge in a cup of tea. The food is healthy, local and ethical, the staff are kind, the coffee is rich. Perhaps, however, if you are like me and crave the kind of affection that you can only get from a cat, equally important is the companionship of the feline residents there, who will sidle up to you on a vacant chair, lounge in a pool of sunshine by your feet or nap in a quiet corner nearby. Their simple, earnest presence makes one feel at home.On an overcast Sunday morning, I made the short walk through EDo to the Central and Edith area where Gatos y Galletas has established itself. I ordered coffee, a breakfast burrito (vegan!) and spring rolls with peanut sauce to share with my partner, filled out a waiver and paid the extra $3 to enter the cat room—technically Gatos y Galletas, for health and permitting reasons, occupies two spaces, 414 and 412 Central, one space is strictly the kitchen and store face, the other houses the cats. The sum on this occasion was around $16. We made our way to the cat room and sat down at a metal table already occupied by a large black cat, his tail twitching like he was plotting something. The food was served quickly through a window joining the spaces, in disposable containers per health regulation—unattractive, yes, but at least they’re compostable. The vegan breakfast burrito rivaled even my personal favorite at Winning—the generously-sized warm tortilla was wrapped around well spiced tofu, sweet potato, onion, bell pepper and green chile—simple, hearty and delicious. The cats starting warring as I took the last bite—the dining experience, on this particular occasion, was not quite as relaxing as I expected.The spring rolls with peanut sauce were equally straightforward and satisfying—nothing unexpected, but still standing head and shoulders above average. The translucent wheat-and-water wrappers were tenderly folded around tofu, cucumber and carrot. The peanut sauce, which does cost $2 extra, was wrapped inside with the vegetables. The wrap itself was unexpectedly tough, but the other elements minimized this disappointing one. The peanut sauce was spicy, the vegetables crisp. The cats relaxed and my partner and I finished our drinks on one of the overstuffed couches strewn with cat toys.A second visit to Gatos y Galletas proved the perfect way to pass a Sunday morning. I ordered tofu and veggies with chimichurri and a slice of banana bread and took a seat near the window, looking out on Central. My partner had another breakfast burrito and a side of cucumber-lime sorbet. My chimichurri dish was comprised of sweet potatoes, tofu, carrots, cauliflower, celery and brown rice, served warm, with a vinegary-sweet dose of chimichurri on top, adding complexity to the simple, whole foods of the dish. The banana bread was dense and minimally sweet—which is a gold star in my book—and as such, deeply satisfying, hitting all the right pleasure spots without feeling overindulgent. My partner was equally pleased with his selections and his analysis definitely included the word, “exquisite,” particularly in regards to the sorbet, which was bright and refreshing.After the meal, we all—cats included—gazed out of the windows, content, and lazily watched the world go by. Aside from the delicious, fresh and rotating menu and the kind people that serve it up, I think what I like best about Gatos y Galletas is the way it invites its guests to linger. Whether you find yourself curled up on a sofa, at a table with a good book, maybe even cross-legged on the floor surrounded by new cat friends, it is so easy to make yourself comfortable there, because, well, it really does feel a lot like home.
Gatos y Galletas414 Central SE(505) 243-9955Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 10am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-9pm, Sunday 10am-6pm, closed TuesdayVibe: Cozy cat lady’s houseAlibi recommends: breakfast burrito, cucumber lime sorbet