Coffeehouses - Late Night Haunts

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  Located one block south of the Plaza and open until 3 AM Monday through Saturday, the Atomic Grill attracts a cross section of Santa Fe residents and tourists, especially in the wee hours of the morning. The restaurant is a popular after-hours spot for people spilling out of the bars at the 2 AM witching hour; some folks need to sop up the booze with a meal, others are just plain hungry, and many simply aren't ready to stop partying               


Atomic Grill
105 E. Water St. 820-2866

 You can't drink here after 11 PM, but before then you can choose from a selection of up to 96 beers and a half-dozen wines. Or try a hot drink -- a cappuccino, perhaps, or maybe an eggnog latte during the holiday season. The arty, warehouse-style restaurant offers live, mostly acoustic music on summer weekends. The Atomic Grill is open Monday through Friday from 11 AM to 3 AM, Saturday from 7 AM to 3 AM and Sunday from 7 AM until midnight. (See our Dining link)

Aztec Street Coffee House
317 Aztec St. 983-9464

The Aztec Street Coffee House is about as close as you can get to an old-fashioned, European-style cafe. It's one of those increasingly rare places where you can buy a single cup of coffee, get your one free refill and spend the rest of the day reading, writing, composing, consulting, ciphering or contemplating your navel without pressure to buy more, eat more, drink more, say more, do more or leave. The minimalist, unpretentious -- some call it downright funky -- atmosphere attracts a clientele that runs the gamut from working and starving artists, musicians, filmmakers and writers to students, local business people, New Agers, conspiracy theorists, tub-thumpers, gadflies, barflies or anyone looking for what many patrons claim is the best cup of coffee in town. You can even buy the house blend by the pound.

The Aztec also serves a wide variety of food, including homemade oatmeal with real maple syrup, fresh breakfast burritos, bagels, scones and pastries (many of them homemade) starting at 7:30 AM Monday through Friday and 8 AM on weekends. In the afternoon it's homemade soups, stews, bruschette (open-faced grilled sandwiches), hummus and tabbouleh, fresh tamales, hot entrees and daily specials until closing at 9 PM Sunday through Thursday and 10 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. This is a place where vegans and meat eaters can rendezvous without compromising their principles or their palates.

It's also a happy meeting ground for smokers and nonsmokers, though not necessarily in the same rooms. The patio, however, is the equivalent of international air space and is open to both camps. Evenings at the Aztec feature a Sunday open-mike session called "Open Unplugged" for music, poetry, performance or any other variation of the spoken -- or nonspoken -- word. Monday nights bring classical music, and Thursday is reserved for live acoustic sounds. The cafe also runs an art show on its adobe walls, showing the work of local artists and changing the exhibit monthly.

Casa Sena Cantina
Sena Plaza, 125 E. Palace Ave. 988-9232

You're just about to bite into your almond-crusted salmon while your partner is slicing into honey-glazed New Mexico pork loin. Suddenly, your waiter breaks into song. If it's Broadway, it must be Casa Sena Cantina. No, that's not the number he's singing. It's a dinner club where the wait staff also entertains -- and we don't mean by spilling soup in (other) diners' laps. Adjacent to Casa Sena (see our Dining link) in peaceful and pretty Sena Plaza, the Cantina is a dinner club whose wait staff doubles as musical comedy performers usually after, though sometimes during, your meal. There are two seatings nightly -- at 5:30 PM and again at 8 PM. The 5:30 seating is usually a condensed Broadway musical such as Sunset Boulevard, Phantom of the Opera, Little Shop of Horrors or Follies, while the late show is always The Best of Broadway -- a selection of songs from a variety of Broadway shows.

The performance begins about an hour after you arrive, probably around the time you're having dessert and coffee, and lasts approximately one hour. Prior to the show, piano music plays in the background as you dine on any of a variety of innovative New Mexican and Southwestern entrees, which range in price from $12 to $18 la carte. There's no additional charge for the entertainment; it's included with your dinner. But do leave some extra cash in the tip bowl for the performers in addition to a gratuity for serving your dinner -- in view of their talents and effort, it's more than fair to supplement their nightly income. Casa Sena Cantina is open seven nights a week, 364 days a year, closing only on Christmas Day. Walk-ins are welcome, but we strongly recommend you make reservations, especially during the summer and on holidays. For Indian Market weekend (see our Events link), people often book months in advance.

Dana's Afterdark
222 N. Guadalupe St. 982-5225

The owners of this fairly new late-night cafe describe their popular establishment as an "alternative coffeehouse for the uninhibited." To understand what that means, you need only show up one evening (but not on Mondays, when it's closed) anywhere from, say, 10 PM to 4 AM. You may well find yourself playing Battleship, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, even Chutes and Ladders next to, or possibly with, gay couples, health gurus, movie stars, operatic sopranos, prolific authors, purple-haired and tongue-pierced high school students, wealthy matrons, willing patrons and -- well, I'm sure we've left someone out. Dana's is in a quaint, early 20th-century adobe house in which each parlor has its own distinct ambiance. The main room is bright and cheerful and features a glass case displaying such goodies as Snickers pie, Milky Way mousse pie, Black Forest cake and other rich, gooey desserts. This room also has a large (and loud) espresso machine, where Dana's many coffee drinks begin, and more than 40 varieties of tea that the owners will blend to taste (yours, not theirs) and suspend in a porous bag on a long toothpick in cups big enough for a swim.

Another room has several couches, a huge coffee table, the previously alluded to game corner and an 80-year-old piano that patrons are welcome to play. A third room has low lighting and distressed Mexican furniture and is a great place to watch who's coming and going from the cover of relative darkness. There's a large patio in back, a small porch in front that is often crowded with smokers, and a resident dog, Sissy, who likes to investigate but can be somewhat aloof -- don't take it personally. Located throughout the cafe are strategically placed works of art, many of them for sale.

The cafe undoubtedly caters to the gay community, but as you'll note from our description above -- or simply from a visual sweep of the premises -- the clientele is diverse and eclectic, drawing night birds of all species. Dana and his partner, Rody, take pride in serving "comfort food" including a wide variety of sandwiches (roast beef, ham or turkey and Swiss cheese, mozzarella and red bell pepper, for example), Frito pies, soups and other simple entrees as well as the desserts mentioned above. The cafe is open in warm weather from sunset to 4 AM and in cooler weather from 6:30 PM until about 1 AM on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday and to 4 AM on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The owners may expand their hours to include Sunday brunch starting in 1998.

Downtown Subscription
376 Garcia St. 983-3085

Though Downtown Subscription is primarily a daytime establishment, the coffeehouse/international newsstand stays open an extra hour and a half or so every other Wednesday evening for poetry readings sponsored by a Santa Fe-based cultural education /literary organization called Recursos de Santa Fe. Poets are chosen based on work they have submitted. Most are local, though some come from other cities and occasionally even other states. Readings start at 7 PM and last until approximately 8:30 PM. You might want to show up early because the readings get crowded -- sometimes with up to 80 people, many of them sipping cappuccino, hot Mexican mocha made with ground Ibarra chocolate, tea or any number of other hot or cold nonalcoholic drinks, perhaps accompanied by a lime bar, rugelach, Aunt Helen's sour cream coffeecake or maybe even a sandwich. There is no cover charge for poetry readings. Downtown Subscription's regular hours are from 7:30 AM to 7 PM daily. The cafe, which is extremely popular among locals, sells magazines and newspapers from around the world with up to 2,500 titles in stock at any one time.

Java Joe's
College Plaza, 2430 Cerrillos Rd. 471-5637
Rodeo Plaza, Rodeo Rd. 474-JAVA

There are two Java Joe's -- they have the same owners, but their ambiances are as different as day and night. In fact, it's the nights that set them apart. The Cerrillos Road location stays open some evenings until 9 PM -- two hours later than its Rodeo Road sister -- for open-mike sessions, poetry readings and occasional live music. Check the calendar in the local papers for details. Located just south of the intersection at St. Michael's Drive, behind Austin's Steaks and Saloon at the southern end of a large strip mall called College Plaza, Java Joe's on Cerrillos Road is an odd mixture of coffeehouse, coffee store and seller of handmade clothing and assorted knickknacks. Somehow, the combination and location work, probably because it's outside the downtown area and attracts mostly locals who live, work, shop or attend school nearby. They can choose from any of four different blends of coffee daily or a wide variety of black, green and herbal teas. Java Joe's also offers juices, Italian sodas and soft drinks, fresh panini sandwiches on focaccia bread and a selection of homemade muffins, scones, cookies and desserts, including to-die-for tiramisu. The lighting is conducive to reading, socializing or simply sitting back and people-watching through the cafe's glass facade. Java Joe's on Cerrillos Road opens daily at 7 AM and generally closes at 7 PM Monday through Thursday and Saturday -- except for special events (check the newspapers) when it stays open until 9 PM. On Fridays, the cafe stays open until 9 PM for open mike. Java Joe's closes Sundays at 5 PM.

Tribes Coffee House
139 W. San Francisco St. 982-7948

You might call Tribes Coffee House the Superman of Santa Fe cafes. By day, it's like mild-mannered Clark Kent -- a clean, well-lighted and extremely tame place for downtown workers and tourists to have lunch or a long, lingering cuppa. Come nighttime, it dives into a metaphorical phone booth and emerges in tights and a cape, ready to kick butt with live music ranging from bluegrass, country, folk and jazz to Celtic, Middle Eastern (including belly dancing), Native American, reggae and other ethnic sounds. Situated in a narrow covered walkway between San Francisco Street and Palace Avenue in downtown Santa Fe, Tribes is a hidden treasure that even many locals might not know exists because of its discreet location. But word of mouth travels quickly in this town, and Tribes is earning a reputation as a hip and increasingly popular nighttime venue for an interesting cross-section of Santa Fe -- everyone from adults looking for an alcohol- and largely smoke-free place to dance to the under-21 set because it's one of the few happening night spots in Santa Fe available to them.

On nights when there's live entertainment, a $5 cover charge will get you in the door. The rest of the time, the price of a cup of coffee, tea, chai -- or a dish of authentic hummus, falafel or homemade soup -- is your ticket to a five-minute or five-hour sky-lighted escape from the world. You may feel a bit exposed in the daytime because of all the windows, so if you're truly looking to escape, bring a newspaper to hide behind or wear dark glasses. Tribes is open 8:30 AM to 6 PM Sunday through Thursday and 8:30 AM to 11 PM Friday and Saturday.

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