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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   October 2008

 

Warm Welcome

Josephina's Old Gate Cafe in Mesilla serves up breakfast, lunch and a delightful change of pace.

 

For a rich taste of history, a delicious meal and some warm hospitality, head to Josephina's Old Gate Cafe, housed in the adobe compound on the east side of San Albino Catholic Church near Mesilla Plaza. For 35 years the site was the home of Josephina Biel, an outgoing and community-minded lady famous for opening her home and heart to family, friends and countless visitors and tourists.

The adobe complex, with its elegant gate that's a popular subject for local artists, also contains Josefina's Historical Inn, Old Gate Antiques and a day spa. It's now owned by Biel's daughter, Kathleen Foreman, and her husband, Bob. And the welcome is just as warm.

On a recent afternoon, a girlfriend and I decide to make a day of it--shopping and gallery hopping in Las Cruces and Mesilla--and hit upon Josephina's as the perfect break for our midday meal. Lining up with the lunchtime throng, we choose from the simple menu card and the whiteboard that lists the daily specials.

The aroma from the soup pot fills the room, enticing our appetites, as does the sight of all the fresh baked goods — from muffins and scones to brownies, from cookies and lemon and raspberry bars to decadent pies and cakes — displayed in countertop cases and the nearby fridge. Already hungry from walking, it's hard not to go overboard with our ordering.

There are a variety of classic deli sandwiches ($8) to choose from — turkey and Swiss, ham and cheese, roast beef and provolone and homemade chicken or tuna salad--all served on freshly baked bread, as well as the soup of the day in a cup or bowl, and salads.

The line moves quickly, and we order and pay, grabbing cold drinks from the fridge. Our smiling cashier, a beacon of welcome in spite of facing a hungry mob, says our food will be brought to the table soon. Looking to take advantage of the fine weather, we choose a table on the patio, under a large sunscreen awning and refreshingly cooled by overhead misters. Sipping our iced tea and soda, we hardly have time to catch up with each other in conversation when the food arrives.

My companion's house salad ($5.95) includes fresh grapes and strawberries, fresh baby spinach and a smattering of cottage cheese. She's chosen the chicken-salad option, which turns out to be a delightfully fresh-tasting, obviously homemade rendition. The greens are dressed lightly in a soy-ginger vinaigrette that we unanimously and simultaneously declare "perfect!" The slice of French bread Parmesan toast on the side adds a satisfying crunch.

I've chosen one of today's special sandwiches, the "TBM," a grilled tomato-basil-mozzarella sandwich, made with all the fresh ingredients of a traditional Italian caprese salad, but in a sandwich. My meal is a "Half and Half Combo" option ($7.95), and the accompanying simple side salad, drizzled with the house poppy-seed dressing, is another winner.

We pronounce our meal to have been ample and satisfying, while being light and virtuous enough to allow room for us to indulge in a shared dessert. While the server clears our plates and refills my iced tea, I run in and snag a piece of the deep-dish homemade apple pie that we heard calling our names from the fridge display. This moist, generously sized treat turns out to be especially rich with cinnamon and topped with a crumbly mix of oats, nuts and brown sugar. Perfect crust.

For those who don't have time for a sit-down lunch, a grab-and-go refrigerator is stocked with appealing take-out options. We spotted an ample serving of chicken pasta salad ($5.50) and a summer squash salad ($4.50).

An established Mesilla lunch spot, Josephina's also serves breakfast on Friday and Saturday mornings. Lighter morning options include pastries--like muffins and scones, the former moist and chockfull of fruit, the latter appropriately crumbly--the yogurt parfait ($4.95) and the fresh fruit cup ($3.25). Satisfy a more substantial appetite with the quiche of the day ($7.95) or the "egg cup" ($6.95). There's even a down-home posole ($5.25). Wash it all down with some of Josephina's excellent coffee or a delightful little pot of hot tea.

Whether for breakfast or lunch, Josephina's Old Gate Cafe offers a delicious change of pace. Though service is expeditious, there is nothing hurried about the experience. If you can, allow some time to stroll the plaza or gaze upon the beauty of the historic San Albino church. And as you pass by the elegant old gate out front, adorned with Josephina's name, give thanks that a tradition of welcome and delicious hospitality lives on.

— Donna Clayton Lawder

 

Josephina's Old Gate Cafe, 2261 Calle de Guadalupe, 525-2620. Tues.-Sat., 8 a.m.-3 p.m., lunch every day, breakfast Fri. and Sat. Call ahead for group reservations and take-out.

 



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