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Meals with a Mountain View

The Organ Mountain Cafe stands out for freshness and flair that belie its road stop presence.

By Vivian Savitt


Set in a century-old ochre-colored structure, the Organ Mountain Cafe outside Las Cruces existed in previous guises as a mercantile company and various bars. Owner Nancy Abernathy, an artist and former teacher, began restoring several properties in this colonia in the 1970s, including her present home. Today, open one year, the cafe offers homemade meals throughout the day, as well as live music.

Breakfast features a slew of choices, including omelets, huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, French toast and cowboy steak. While I chose the Traditional Breakfast ($6.75), my companions shared a veggie croissant, pancakes and a cinnamon roll. Everything arrived warm and ready to eat. Many dishes are garnished simply with a slice of honeydew melon. Our drinks included Red Rock Roasters coffee and Bigelow tea.

The red potatoes on my breakfast platter, served "home style," prove how uncomplicated food can shine. Prepared on a grill with only salt seasoning, the diced potatoes were neither too crunchy nor too tender. They lent a savory note to the perfectly poached eggs and well-cooked, yet moist, sausage patties.

The cinnamon roll, baked off the premises, was nonetheless soft, fresh and not too sweet. Although the egg/vegetable filling in the croissant was fresh, my companion pronounced the croissant itself as " nondescript." The buttermilk pancakes ($5) were a three-stack rise of made-from-scratch fluffiness.

On a second visit, for dinner, a subdued, romantic light streams through the purple-flowered window curtains. It's Tuesday, meaning the featured special is Chili, Beans and Cornbread ($6.75). An eight-ounce ribeye steak is always available at dinner and includes a salad and one side ($10.99). Six different sandwiches ($6.95-$7.95) are served as well as salads and a Kid's Menu ($3).

My bowl of chili and beans is presented in Fiestaware accompanied by a homemade corn muffin specked with green chiles. The sauce, from a puree of red Hatch chiles, offers a punch, not a wallop. Just the way this gringa likes it.

A confetti of dried cranberries brightens a hefty and crunchy mound of mixed salad greens in Bill's Walnut and Goat Cheese Salad ($7.25). The toasted walnuts delighted me and my vegetarian friend who requested that the poultry be deleted from this treat, normally served with diced chicken breast.

We heralded the Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad ($7.25), garnished with bleu cheese, mandarin oranges and dried cranberries, as another definite winner. And we found the ample wedge of Ham, Green Chili and Cheddar Quiche both attractive and flavorful. Most nights, a quiche and homemade soup are featured items on the specials board.

My threesome succumbed to one dessert with the usual justification of "sharing" a fattening indulgence. Although the lemon meringue pie arrived appropriately tall and frothy, it lacked the intense citrus flavor I prefer. My companions, however, enjoyed the pie's unusual custard texture.

The cafe is composed of two uncluttered dining areas–one raised. Sanded concrete floors provide a complementary rustic touch to the simple furnishings. Antique quilts and rugs, displayed on walls dramatized by high ceilings, suit the cafe's westerly coziness.

The wait staff is pleasant and helpful. Occasionally, Abernathy's husband works a shift.

Lunch, served from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., includes wraps, a choice of six salads, chili bowls and 14 sandwiches and burgers. Sandwiches include Portabella Mushroom topped with spinach, tomato and brie, as well as a Beef Philly grilled with those indispensable additions–onions, peppers, mushrooms and provolone cheese. Choices of breads range from focaccia to rye, hoagie rolls to multigrain slices.

Dinner is served from 4-7 p.m. Nightly specials reflect the lure of true comfort food, including meat loaf and mashed potatoes, spaghetti with garlic bread, and beef stew with a biscuit.

Abernathy plans to seek a beer and wine license in the future for her diverse clientele. NASA rocket scientists and base security guards in camouflage fatigues mix with locals and office workers from White Sands Missile Range. NMSU students also frequent the cafe, mingling with East Coast consultants and occasional tourists from Japan or Europe.

In the space adjacent to the cafe, Abernathy is putting in a museum that highlights the history of Organ. She expects to open it soon.


The Organ Mountain Cafe, 373-3000, 16151 Hwy. 70 E., is open Mon-Fri. 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Live music Fri. 5-6:45 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Reservations are welcomed. Groups may call one hour in advance to have orders waiting for them on the table. Major credit cards accepted. The cafe is located approximately 11 miles east of Las Cruces in the village of Organ. It's the back of the cafe that sits on the highway. When you see it, be prepared to turn left immediately at Old Organ Main Street; the entrance is located on the north side. At dark, the cafe's lighted wagon on Hwy. 70 serves as your landmark of where to turn left.


Vivian Savitt has also written for the AAA Travel/Restaurant Guide.



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