Just Plain Good Eats at Santa Fe's Café Fina

Off the beaten path, and worth the trip

By Billie Frank,

You probably won’t find Café Fina on your own. The eatery's located on Old Las Vegas Highway, about 15 minutes from the Santa Fe Plaza, just north of where US 285 merges with I-25.

Located off the beaten path southeast of Santa Fe, it's a hangout for what owner Murphy O’Brien calls “a big neighborhood.” The regulars come from Eldorado – a large subdivision with over 2,500 homes – as well as the nearby towns of Lamy, Galisteo, Pecos and Glorietta.

Café Fina is contemporary and casual. Order at the counter, and food is delivered to your table. Grab your utensils, a glass of water, some napkins and head for a table in one of the two dining rooms. If you’re dining alone or want to meet some local folks, then opt for the community table, where many of the regulars like to sit.

Welcome to Cafe Fina — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

Brunch, served daily, offers tempting fare that O’Brien calls “modern comfort foods,” such as migas (scrambled organic eggs with strips of corn tortilla sautéed with mild salsa and local asadero cheese); cloud cakes (ricotta pancakes with fresh berries and real maple syrup); and more lunch-centric dishes such as a grilled chicken sandwich, a Rueben or Santa Fe’s ubiquitous green chile cheeseburger.

Cafe Fina's popular brunch dish "huevos motulenos" — Photo courtesy of Cafe Fina

What’s new at Café Fina? Last fall, the eatery introduced dinner service on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. O’Brien partners with local chef Chris Galvin, who came to Santa Fe decades ago to work at the infamous Coyote Café under Chef Mark Miller.

Galvin's long list of local restaurant credits includes Andiamo – the Italian restaurant she opened in the 1990s – and the popular Bumble Bee Baja Grill, where she worked with "Bumble Bee" Bob Weil.

The menu at Café Fina is still evolving, but Galvin says that, at the moment, she’s envisioning a core menu that will feature Galvin’s succulent fried oysters, the green chile cheeseburger and the enchilada offered with either chicken or veggies.

Other dishes will be changed seasonally or perhaps even more frequently, if they aren’t selling well or the ingredients aren’t available.

Try the succlent fried oysters with wilted spinach and new potatoes — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

“I've wanted to work with Chris for years,” O'Brien says of the talented Culinary Institute of America graduate.

Galvin's eclectic dinner menu combines quality ingredients with a well-developed flair for flavors. The result: simple, well-prepared dishes to please the palate.

Pair the creative cuisine with wine, offered both by the glass and the bottle, as well as a selection of mostly small production beers.

Want to get out of the city for a good cup of coffee and some in-house baked goodies combined with a bit of Wi-Fi? Café Fina is a great choice. In warmer weather, the patio’s open, and well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome.

Looking for an off-the-beaten-path café with just plain good food and friendly service? Take a ride on Old Las Vegas Highway and discover Café Fina.

The colorful Cafe Fina sign greets you from the highway — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins