Café Pasqual's is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. It’s been an integral part of the Santa Fe dining scene since Chef/Owner Katherine Kagel opened the corner spot in 1979. The tiny eatery (It seats 48 in close proximity.) is popular with locals and on the lists of savvy travelers hungry for the world cuisine Pasqual’s is famous for.
At the corner of Water and Don Gaspar Streets, the popular Café Pasqual’s often has a line out the door. It’s the perfect place for breakfast or lunch as you wander the downtown area. Ask how long the wait is, put your name on the list and explore shops and galleries until your appointed table time.
The festive dining room decor at Cafe Pasqual's evokes Mexico — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Café Pasqual’s serves an ever-changing menu of dishes from around the globe.
“The menus are in constant motion, from specials to sides to actual entree changes as the seasons evolve, and as our interests in new dishes evolve,” says Kagel.
Here’s what really makes Pasqual’s shine: almost all the food, including the meat, is organic, sustainable and often biodynamic. Kagel calls this approach, “Never, ever,” meaning that no chemicals, antibiotics, hormones or anything artificial is ever used in her food. If you believe that you are what you eat, your body will thank you for fueling up here.
Just about everything here is made from scratch. The eclectic breakfast menu offers New Mexican favorites such as breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros alongside the Mexican-inspired Huevos Motuleños. You’ll also find cheese blintzes and corned beef hash.
Lunch is a mix of salads, sandwiches and international plates. Kagel is excited about her "El Jefe" Cubano Sammy inspired by the movie Chefs. It’s got the usual elements of that popular sandwich with a twist: New Mexico green chile.
Cafe Pasqual's sits on the corner of Don Gaspar and Water Streets — Photo courtesy of Kitty Leaken / Cafe Pasqual's
Dinner, by reservation, is a more formal meal. Candles are lit; wine glasses appear on the tables, and soft jazz permeates the air. The menu is a meeting of the world - from Asia to the Yucatan and South America, to Europe and back to the USA, the seasonal menu is mouthwatering.
Save room for dessert, which includes ice cream, churned in-house daily, or the in-house baked goods. From bread to cake, it’s all made in Café Pasqual’s small kitchen daily.
The cozy interior - with its colorful murals by Oaxacan artist Leovigildo Martinez and colorful papel picados and piñatas hanging from the ceiling - evokes Mexico. They share the overhead space with recycled papier-mâché pieces created by artist Rick Phelps, including a paper chandelier. His whimsical globe covered in cows eating grass is, says Kagel, “to show the need for grass-fed cattle,” which is on the menu.
Mouthwatering smoked trout hash — Photo courtesy of Kitty Leaken / Cafe Pasqual's
Tables are close together here. You may get to know your neighbors by the time your meal is over. Café Pasqual’s attracts a genial crowd, and this can be fun. If you’re dining alone, try the community table. Friendships and even marriages have begun there.
“I have photos of two, now grown, babies named Pasqual,” says Kagel.
They were sent by parents who met at Pasqual’s. She suspects that there may be more out there.
While waiting for your table or after your meal, check out Café Pasqual’s gallery in the building next door. Among the collection on view there are Leovigildo Martinez’s paintings, Phelps’ paper creations and handmade micaceous clay cooking vessels from northern New Mexican potters.
Micaceous clay cookware made by Jicarilla Apache potter Felipe Ortega is in Pasqual's gallery — Photo courtesy of Kitty Leaken / Cafe Pasqual's
When Kagel opened Café Pasqual’s, she was continuing a café tradition that had begun at 121 Don Gaspar Street since 1923. Over the years, her restaurant has developed a loyal local following.
Insider tip: If you arrive when the restaurant opens for breakfast, you should be able to get a table immediately. According to Kagel, there are almost always spots at the community table during the day. If you don’t like waiting, opt for dinner, but reserve your table well in advance. Prime dining times fill up fast, especially in season.
Cafe Pasqual’s is a must-eat for people with adventurous palates, those who love the idea of fresh and local foods as well as vegetarians, vegans and others on special diets. If you’re a fan of delicious, healthy food, put Pasqual’s on your Santa Fe dining itinerary.