Market Value

The atmosphere at Tesuque Village Market (138 Tesuque Village Road, (505) 988-8848) would be worth the trip alone, but as I sat on the patio one recent evening doing the math in my head, it occurred to me I hadn’t been since I was a kid. It’s weird—when you visit or live in any major city, time spent in the car is the norm; when you’ve been in Santa Fe for some time, though, something takes over your brain that makes any drive longer than a few minutes feel harrowing. I sucked it up, though, with a dining companion, and in fewer than 15 minutes from my front door, we were sipping waters and perusing the massive menu. I don’t know what I was so worried about.

The menu is massive, too, by the way; a packed two pages across breakfast and dinner items ranging from the B.A.B.S (that’s big-ass breakfast sandwich to you, and available on English muffin, bagel or green chile cheese bread; $17) to any number of deli sandwiches ($11-$21 and including things like grilled cheese, a reuben, a few vegetarian options, like the black bean veggie burger and a classic BLT) and entree items.

On any given restaurant show, say one wherein Gordon Ramsay visits to yell, a menu this large would be presented as a bad thing, the type of unfocused situation that leaves one wondering if the kitchen can do even a few things right, let alone oh-so-many. At Tesuque Village Market, it makes a kind of sense. Sure, the prices can be a little daunting ($15 for a tuna melt is nuts, I’m sorry), but this place is the only game for miles, and it’s gotta have a lot of things for repeat visitors. It does indeed boast the titular market with various and sundry items for the home pantry; it’s got a full bar and a rustic feel both indoors and out. I shudder to use the word “funky” in the way my mother might, so instead we’ll call it delightfully homespun and charming in a woodsy sort of way. Hell, they even accommodated us with an indoor table when a passing rainstorm sputtered to life.

Which brings us to the service: A+, TVM—A+. Not only was our main server laid back but kind and attentive; he handled a slight issue (I’ll explain in a moment) quickly and courteously and without myself or my dining companion feeling like we were bad people.

The plan was simple: We ordered one New Mexican dish (huevos rancheros, over easy, green; $16) and one of the market’s famous pizzas with mushrooms ($19 base, $3 for the topping). The huevos could not have been better, from the kitchen’s understanding of what over easy eggs actually are (gimme that slightly runny yolk, restaurants everywhere!) to the option to have it served with fries. Regular readers will no doubt be familiar with my theory that fries in or on New Mexican food is only ever a good thing, and when I used those crispy little potato spears to pierce my eggs, sop up the yolk and stuff everything into the included flour tortilla to create my own little nighttime breakfast taco...well, let’s just say it was a fantastic combo. Chile-wise, the day we visited, the chile was more about flavor than spice, though it’s always better to get a flavorful batch with little spice than the other way around. I’ll fight you on that.

The pizza, however, was a different story. Tales of its excellence have been sung from the arroyos of Tesuque to the hallowed halls of SFR’s offices in Midtown and beyond. Our first try was a dud, however, and disappointingly so. Somehow this thing had been both under- and over-cooked, making the crust a burnt cracker-like affair and the bottom a doughy mess. Now, there’s no way on Earth every kitchen can cook something perfectly every single time, and beyond that, I am loathe to send food back in a restaurant after years spent working in them myself. One thing I do recall from those days, however, is that servers mostly just want their customers to be happy, and no diner has a right to say nothing and be mad later. Of course, there’s a nice and deferent way to approach it. At TVM, the manager (who was also working the bar and the floor, mind you) addressed our pizza immediately, re-firing it, letting us take it to go and explaining that something had gone awry with the restaurant’s cheese delivery. Satisfied that supply chain issues have made things tough for everyone, we kept the pizza for later and moved on to dessert.

Hear me now: TVM’s tres leches cake and key lime pie are among the best desserts I’ve had in my life, location irrelevant. The graham cracker crust of the pie was sticky and chewy, just how you want it, and the tres leches contained so much hidden sweet leche within its body that I’m still thinking of it now. Whoever made the whipped cream for these items deserves a raise.

The following day, I conducted an experiment with the pizza: Pulling two slices out, I heated one up in the office toaster oven and ate the other cold. In both cases, a marked improvement from the previous night. The sauce’s flavor notes were a symphony from the cold slice, while the heated one’s generous mushroom portions came alive with taste and texture. I get it now. I totally get it now.