Down in the Valley
You won't go home hungry from the Mimbres Valley Cafe, an oasis of down-home good food in a friendly atmosphere.
Whenever I am passing through Mimbres, for business or pleasure, enjoying the scenic hills and valleys from a drive on Hwy. 35, I try to plan it around mealtime so I can enjoy the friendly atmosphere and down-home good food at the Mimbres Valley Cafe. Out there in the quiet that is Mimbres, serving seven days a week — only breakfast and lunch on Monday and Tuesday, with dinner, too, the other five days — the cafe is always a welcome stopping point.
"Don't go home hungry," the quaint establishment seems to call, warm light beckoning from behind the adobe wall. One time my dinner companion and I, weary and hungry from a day of hiking, both went for that evening's special, a Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner. It was a cozy, tasty meal — memorable to this day — and it wasn't even close to Thanksgiving.
The cafe's everyday menu is simple and hearty, a blend of American and Mexican. Their bodacious burgers satisfy — my personal favorite is the mushroom burger ($6.25) that comes absolutely smothered in fungi. The south-of-the-border fare includes tacos, burritos, enchiladas and chimichangas. I tend to go for the chile relleno plate ($8), which comes smothered in red or green and with both beans and rice. There are "American Dishes" like chicken-fried steak ($9), grilled chicken breast ($9.25) and pork chops ($10), too, all accompanied by vegetable, salad, mashed or baked potato and a dinner roll. A children's menu offers tykes a downsized "Junior Hamburger" ($4), plainer stuff like the grilled cheese sandwich ($3.25) and fun items like chicken drummettes or nachos ($4.25 each).
Today I hit the cafe at lunchtime. I'm in the mood for a salad but feeling pretty hungry, too. Not a problem. The cafe's fajita salad can fill that double bill.
The menu says the salad comes topped with either chicken or beef, and I really prefer the poultry, but my server tells me she's out of chicken today. Hey, this is ranching country — when in Rome and all that — so beef will be fine.
A couple enters and sits down at a nearby table where some tall iced teas already await. They must have called in their order ahead of time. They've barely sugared and stirred their teas when the server greets them and delivers their burgers and a basket overflowing with hot, pleasantly fragrant onion rings.
But even without calling ahead, service is speedy here. That's good news for the local working folks sitting at three other tables who obviously are counting on an expeditious lunch.
My own meal comes up pronto — and what a heap of salad it is!
The base is a hearty bed of greens, fresh and crisp. A goodly pile of steak strips covers it, along with a generous amount of sauteed onions and peppers. There are plenty of diced fresh tomatoes scattered about, adding color and cool, fresh flavor — tasty even though tomato season certainly has passed.
There are generous dollops of guacamole and sour cream and the whole lot is liberally topped with shredded cheddar cheese. The lettuce does not appear to be dressed with any kind of vinaigrette, and I forgot to inquire about such. Instead, I dump the ramekin of fresh salsa on top and dig in.
The beef is well seasoned, juicy and still hot from the saute pan, adding nice warmth to a salad meal on a chilly day. The salsa adds another kind of pleasant heat, and I soothe my overexcited tongue by grabbing a bit of the guacamole and sour cream onto each forkful.
The couple at the next table, having dispatched their burgers and onion rings, now is sharing a slice of the cherry pie for dessert. The cafe serves up apple, cherry and peach pies ($4) — go la mode for an extra $1.50 — as well as pecan and cream pies ($4.50). Sundaes ($3.75) and banana splits ($5.25), too.
Though I will occasionally indulge in dessert at lunch, after my mountain of salad, I simply do not have the room for sweets today. Someday soon, though, I hope to work up an appetite with a hike in the hills here, then settle into the cafe for a hearty dinner followed by a slice of pecan pie — la mode.
— Donna Clayton
Mimbres Valley Cafe, Hwy. 35 N., Mimbres. Open 7 days. Mon.-Tues. 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Wed.-Sun. 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. 536-2857.