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Thursday, March 8,2012

Santa Fe in Longmont

By Clay Fong

Back in high school, a friend of mine worked at a Washington, D.C., beverage emporium called Georgetown Coffee and Tea.

Smart aleck that he was, he’d respond to customers who asked if the shop carried coffee by proclaiming, “Why, that’s our middle name!” For those who asked if he had tea, he’d turn around and feign surprise at a conspicuous stack of the beverage.

Despite my friend’s inherent snideness, I’ll admit I appreciate a business with a name that unambiguously identifies what it offers. Such is the case with Longmont’s to-the-point Santa Fe Coffee & Burrito Co. This welcoming breakfast and lunch spot features caffeine ranging from classic diner coffee to espresso drinks and hearty, New Mexico-influenced meals.

The cozy space, formerly occupied by Swanky Franks, is unpretentious and comfortable, and thankfully, the management has resisted the temptation to go overboard on clichéd Southwestern bric-a-brac. Friends Maureen, Cynthia, Doug and I recently piled into a comfortable upholstered booth underneath tasteful photographs for breakfast. The gentlemanly proprietor promptly filled our mugs with old-school Farmers Brothers coffee. Due to his attentive yet unobtrusive service, he never let me see the bottom of my cup during the meal.

Doug ordered up the Santa Fe skillet, an $8.25 blend of bacon, chorizo, potato, bell pepper and onion. Generously proportioned and presented piping hot, as any self-respecting skillet should be, this breakfast’s ingredients, including eggs, were all perfectly prepared, no mean feat given the differing cooking times of each element.

Cynthia’s $8.25 breakfast burrito arrived freighted with chorizo. More than enough for two meals, there was plenty of sausage, and it wasn’t the grease sink that one would expect it to be. Like the skillet, the eggs, tortilla and high-quality meat were balanced in terms of taste, although the texture was a touch dry.

Maureen enjoyed her $7.25 Huevos Rancheros, topped with a not-too-spicy green chile that tasted as if it had been enriched by chicken broth. Regardless of the ingredient composition, this Southwest gravy was one of the smoother and more flavorful versions I’ve had in recent memory. Equally laudable were the home fries, which Maureen dubbed the genuine article. Indeed, these spuds lived up to the ideal described by iconoclastic food writer John Thorne in his book Serious Pig. Golden crisp on the outside, these potatoes conveyed buttery flavor and darn near fluffy insides.

My selection of the $7.50 enchilada and eggs was an exercise in unfussy balance. The tangy red ranchera sauce served as a mellowing influence on the compelling richness of the cheesy enchiladas. Attention to detail was also evident in the preparation of the eggs, which I had ordered sunny side up. Sides of Spanish rice and smooth, not-too-salty refried beans rounded out this dish.

My only service quibble arose when I went to pay the tab at the register, and noticed a board listing the day’s specials. We hadn’t been informed by the staff of these selections, which included a chicken-fried steak sauced with both gravy and green chile. In retrospect, that was probably just as well, since I was likely better off having something healthier than fried beef. That concern aside, this eatery certainly lives up to the promise of its name, and delivers on both the bottomless coffee and lip-smacking, reasonably priced Southwestern fare.

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