For Saturday lunch, Spirit Canyon Lodge & Café in Lake Roberts is the place to sample German food.
Story and photo by Peggy Platonos
The Spirit Canyon Lodge & Café complex nestles among a small cluster of houses in the wild splendor of the upper Mimbres Valley. It's about 32 miles from Silver City along Routes 15 and 35, and 23 miles from the junction of Routes 152 and 35 in San Lorenzo. Whichever direction you're coming from, the drive takes you through spectacular scenery.
Spirit Canyon owner Fran Land (left) and her cook, Inge Hand, hold up a German Sampler. It takes two plates to hold a single portion.
(Photo by Peggy Platonos)
The café at Spirit Canyon is unusual in several ways. It is open to the public on a regular basis for just one meal a week: Saturday lunch, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. And it serves German food — a specialty cuisine not readily available in this area.
Spirit Canyon owner Frances Land says the German food became a specialty at her café pretty much by accident. ÒIt entered the menu eight or nine years ago when Inge Hand joined me as cook. She used to cook at Grey Feathers Lodge, and had introduced German food there. She suggested it here, and I said, "As long as you're cooking it, that's fine." I'm sure if Inge happened to be Italian, we'd be doing Italian food."
A native of Berlin, Germany, Inge married an American serviceman and the two now live in retirement in the central part of the Mimbres Valley. Her husband helped build Grey Feathers Lodge (more recently known as the Breathe Inn) and that was how Inge's professional cooking career began: "I always enjoyed cooking, and one day they asked me to cook at the lodge."
Frances says of the German Sampler on the Spirit Canyon menu, "It offers a taste of GermanyÑnot fancy, but family-style."
For the German Sampler, café customers can choose two meat options from a revolving selection that may include on any given day three or four of the following: bratwurst, grilled pork chop, roast pork, schnitzel (a thin breaded and fried pork chop), sauerbraten (marinated roast of beef), stuffed cabbage leaves, or roladen (rolled beef with a sausage and onion filling). Frances says people are welcome to call ahead of time to see which meats are being offered on a particular day, or even to make a request. A ÒMiniÓ Sampler is also available for $14.95, offering one meat selection with the same side dishes as the full-size sampler: usually a combination of potato pancakes, spaetzle noodles, red cabbage, sauerkraut, marinated cucumber salad and applesauce. The full size sampler costs $16.95.
In addition to the German samplers, Spirit Canyon Café patrons also have the option of choosing from a dinner or lunch menu.
Dinner menu selections include grilled salmon, orange glazed chicken, steaks, pork chops, bratwurst (served with a potato pancake, red cabbage and cucumber salad) and a veggie plate. Catfish, Inge says, will soon be on the menu again, back by popular demand. Prices range from $12.95 to $16.95.
The lunch menu includes several types of burgers, BLT or grilled cheese sandwiches, and a chicken-breast salad, with prices ranging from $4.50 to $7.95.
Desserts at Spirit Canyon Café are memorable. "Inge does from-scratch stuff like coconut cream pie, peanut butter pie, and chocolate swirl cheesecake," Frances says. "I sometimes make a chocolate frosted chocolate cake, and we usually have mixed berry pie, our one commercial pie. We've served it for many years and don't really feel we can improve on it."
When Frances Land bought the Spirit Canyon property 14 years ago, the main building was a large single-family home. A business and tourism expert, with 20 years of experience as a university professor teaching business, marketing and advertising, she decided to use the property to create an income. Reserving a section as her private living quarters, she converted the main building into a lodge with four bedrooms, each with a private bath, and each having access to a common room and a small kitchenette and dining area. A second building on the property, which had been built by the previous owner for his mother, is now a two-bedroom, two-bath guest cabin, with a full kitchen. ItÕs tucked behind the building that houses the café and it offers a spectacular view of rolling plains, hills and sky from both the fenced-in patio and the living room windows.
The previous owner did have a small diner on the property and catered to fishermen trying their luck in nearby Lake Roberts. But the diner was located in a double-wide trailer, and the current café building was used as a workshop for cabinet making.
For many years, Frances kept the Spirit Canyon Café open seven days a week. "But I had people I could hire, and that seems to have dried up out here," she explains. "And the tourist business has fallen off in recent years."
"And we're getting older," Inge comments. She is 72 years old and Frances, who has always done much of the work in the lodge and café herself, is 70.
Frances occasionally opens the café for groups of eight or more, by special arrangement. And if lodge guests want a meal, she will usually oblige.
For more information about Spirit Canyon Lodge or Café, call Frances at (575) 536-9459. And in the winter, it is always advisable to call first, to check on weather conditions.
Send Mimbres freelance writer Peggy Platonos tips for restaurant reviews
at email@example.com or call (575) 536-2997.