If you're looking for a spot for a casual bite to eat in Santa Fe where you'll find locals gathered, look no further than the Chocolate Maven. The cafe is a popular spot for breakfasts, especially brunches on Sundays, and it also offers lunch, and on designated days, High Tea.
The Chocolate Maven Bakery and Cafe is situated in a large warehouse. It's a bit off the beaten path and not in the downtown Plaza area, but that makes it free from congestion and the feeling of being in the center of the tourist trade.
The Maven is a wholesale production bakery and inside the cafe, large glass windows provide a peek into the bakers as they do their work. Like the Boudin Bakery on San Francisco's Pier 39, watching the bread rise and the sweet rolls go in the oven is part of the experience while sipping soup or having a sandwich. The bakery makes artisan breads, cookies, pastries, as well as having a full menu.
Entering the cafe, you'll find the bakery case where the day's goods are on display. One wall contains packages of fresh cookies, and tables are covered in the latest baked pies, tea cakes and more. Pastries are self-serve.
Many visit the cafe to watch the bakers at work while grabbing a bite but go early to get a seat. If there isn't enough seating in the bakery view room, there is additional seating upstairs, or in fine weather, on the outdoor patio. The decor is simple and clean, with crisp linen tablecloths and bright yellow walls.
The focus is where it should be: on the food.
We had brunch at the cafe one Sunday morning, having chosen the cafe because it sources a lot of its produce from the Santa Fe Farmer's Market. The cafe also has vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free alternatives, always a plus. My companion tried the Eggs Copanhagen ($14), which contained two poached local free range eggs, house-cured Atlantic salmon and hollandaise sauce on an English muffin made in house.
There were also breakfast smashers, a Maven specialty of red potatoes smashed and crisped on the range. The dish was very good, with the eggs poached perfectly and the salmon delicious.
I tried the Country Breakfast, a combination of eggs any style, breakfast smashers, toast and a choice of sausage, bacon, ham or veggie sausage or bacon ($12). The house made sausage contains green chile. Everything was good, nothing fancy, but definitely delicious. The flavor of the foods were the star of each plate.
The Sunday brunch was leisurely though there were a lot of diners, and the service was excellent. The Chocolate Maven is on our must visit list for when we're in Santa Fe, and not just for breakfast. Lunch offerings include a wide array of sandwiches, salads, small plates and rustic pizzas. The only drawback is it is impossible to get out the door without getting an empanada or cupcake or two, so if you're watching your calories, you might want to resist the temptation. If you're not, it's a must visit kind of place.
Chocolate Maven Bakery & Cafe
821 W. San Mateo Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
Monday - Friday: 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Breakfast: Monday - Friday 7 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.; lunch 10:45 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
High Tea: Tuesday - Saturday 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.