Double Your Pleasure
Mesilla's Double Eagle and Peppers Café make a delicious duo.
Tradition and innovation go hand-in-hand at the Double Eagle Restaurant in Old Mesilla.
Originally built as a private residence in the late 1840s just after the Mexican-American War, the well-preserved hacienda-style adobe building that houses the restaurant is recognized by the US Department of the Interior as the oldest structure on the historic old Mesilla plaza. It was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places by Robert O. Anderson, who purchased the property in the early 1970s.
It was Anderson who converted the building from a private residence into a restaurant, and named it the Double Eagle after the $20 gold coin minted in the mid-1800s. In 1984, he sold the business to the current owner, C.W. "Buddy" Ritter, and his wife, Margaret.
Ritter expanded the restaurant's culinary horizons and carried out major renovations in the building. Today, the Double Eagle's formal, fine-dining, white linen-clad tables meander through a warren of rooms clustered around a glass-roofed central courtyard that has acquired a life of its own and even a name of its own: Peppers Café.
Whereas the Double Eagle portion of the building is sedate and sophisticated, the courtyard where Peppers Café exists is bright, airy and vibrantly colorful, with small tables nestled in amongst a forest of small palm-tree-like plants called cycads. The chairs are brightly painted with traditional New Mexico folk symbols, the work of local artist Priscilla Sandoval.
The food at Peppers Café is as refreshingly free-spirited as the décor. Though a fifth-generation New Mexican, Ritter insisted on pushing past the traditional boundaries of Southwestern cuisine, and came up with a menu that includes a freewheeling assortment of familiar Southwest dishes with unexpected departures from tradition.
"Buddy was really a pioneer in 'fusion' food," says long-time general manager Jerry Harrell. "He brought in West Coast ideas, and introduced Mexican food with a West Coast twist."
Where else will you find Green Chile Cheese Wontons with Pineapple-Jalapeño Salsa, or BBQ Chicken Breast Quesadilla served with chopped jalapeños and sour cream? Or how about a Chicken, Chile & Cheese Egg Roll with Pineapple-Jalapeño Salsa?
If you have room after indulging in one or more of these taste-tempting appetizers, you can move on to a Chile Relleno Burger, a Cactus Roasted BBQ Brisket Sandwich, or a lunch entrée like Seafood Stuffed Chile Rellenos or Shark Tacos Baja. Or try the Enchiladas Especial with your choice of fillings — mushrooms and caramelized onions, spinach and prosciutto, sautéed garlic shrimp, fajita beef or fajita chicken.
These examples illustrate the creative handling of traditional Southwestern dishes that you can expect to find at Peppers Café. There is much, much more to choose from, including such non-Mexican entrées as Salmon Crepes and Beer Braised Beef Carbonnade.
If you have trouble making decisions, you will find the menu a challenge. And heaven help you if you visit Peppers Café for dinner, because you will be faced with the additional temptation of a selection of the aged steaks that have made the Double Eagle famous.
All the steaks served at the Double Eagle are aged on the premises in the restaurant's own dedicated beef aging room. This is a special refrigerated room where the temperature is kept at 34 to 37 degrees, the optimum level for natural enzymes to break down the collagen in the meat and make it tender.
Although Peppers Café and the Double Eagle Restaurant are both open seven days a week, the café serves lunch and dinner, while the restaurant serves dinner only.
As you might expect, the menu for the Double Eagle is classier… and more expensive. Steaks range in price from $22.95 for an eight-ounce top sirloin to $45.95 per person for Chateaubriand Bouquetiere for Two. Seafood options include shrimp, scallops, salmon, sole and halibut, each offering a choice of two different preparation styles, ranging in price from $22.95 to $26.95. Roasted Pork Tenderloin and several chicken dishes cost $20.95, and Duck Breast with Red Chile-Pomegranate Sauce is $26.95. All the entrées are à la carte except the Chateaubriand; side dishes cost $3.95 each.
Peppers Café is a bit easier on the wallet. Appetizers (called "tapas" on the menu) are the same for lunch and dinner, ranging in price from $3.95 for a cup of soup to $10.95 for the Fajita Nachos Grande. Lunch and dinner salads cost $9.95 to $11.95. Burgers are $9.25 to $11.95 regardless of the time of day — oh, wait, there's a burger that costs $24.75, but that's the World's Largest Green Chile Cheeseburger that weighs in at one and a quarter pounds. The prices for lunch entrées run from $8.95 for Salmon Crepes to $14.95 for BBQ Baby Back Ribs. Peppers Café dinner entrées, excluding steaks, cost $10.95 to $15.95.
Steaks on the café's dinner menu cost the same as on the Double Eagle menu, but only the smaller cuts are offered. The most expensive is the six-ounce filet mignon at $36.95.
Well, we haven't mentioned the array of award-winning margaritas or the deliciously decadent desserts available in both the café and restaurant. But we must mention the Double Eagle's Champagne Sunday Brunch Buffet, served each week in the Isabella Ballroom. There are two seatings — one at 11 a.m., the other at 1:30 p.m. The buffet is touted as "the finest Sunday Brunch Buffet to be found in the entire Southwest." The cost is $24.95 for adults, $10.95 for children 6 to 12, no charge for children 5 and under. Reservations are recommended.
The Double Eagle, with Peppers Café nestled inside, is located on the plaza in historic Old Mesilla. The telephone number for both establishments is (575) 523-6700. There is a website — www.double-eagle-mesilla.com — where full menus for both Peppers Café and the Double Eagle can be found.
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