Return to Taos

Return to Alley Cantina of Taos New Mexico Southwest

I love Taos. And I was psyched to be in Taos New Mexico again. It had been 10 years. The last time was a quick stop between something else. In that brief visit, it was the californication of stores selling cheap Chinese trinkets and the put-together Boomers in a Southwestern motif that stood out. I lost faith for a minute there. This trip promised more quality time. I’m pleased to see the edginess again.

In March we arrived in Taos, NM with mountain bikes, climbing gear and backpacks en route to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and Columbine-Hondo Wilderness. A century ago, Kit Carson and Buffalo Bill walked through this town, settled over 1000 years before. Today there’s the guy in a Nissan full of dogs, hippies who live in rammed earth sunships and gutter punks who can shred the slopes.

Coffee Spot… Always on the search for the right kind of coffee in the right kinda place, we found the Coffee Spot. Where other cafe’s in Taos might appeal to what I would call the socially ‘pretty’, this cafe is for real people. Beards, tattoos, piercings, bikers, snowboarders, hippies, smokers (outside). What some snob on Yelp called, ‘the unbathed, transient, and downright ugly.’ Yeah. My peeps. For our part, we fell in love with the beautiful cashier, asked the muscular barista what a cubano was, and got the right answer. This place is art, with indoor and outdoor seating!

Mud ‘n’ Flood… When you’re following the adventure, hit the local gear shop for info. And if you’re visiting Taos, this is THE gear shop. Elana and her daughter were as courteous and knowledgeable as they were attractive. They never noticeably tired of us, though we returned 5 times in 2 days. Yeah. We’re that good. Elana was able to offer the help we needed to make the most of our visit and to fix my thermarest when I ran a burning log through it. (Mmhm. Did I mention I was that good?)

Taos Valley RV Park… We’d been on road or trail, on the rock or in the creek for a week. We couldn’t walk in any establishment without others recognizing us by smell of everywhere we’d been. I knew this place was exactly the place to rent a campsite, discuss weather with the gentlemen at the desk, then wash our funk down the drain.

Eske’s Brew Pub… Reputedly the oldest brew pub in New Mexico! Understand that given only a short time in Taos, this is the one place to eat. Known for their green chile burrito smothered in Wanda’s stew with turkey. A perfect chile beer. It was our good luck to be here the day after St. Patrick’s day, so we began with the seasonal corned beef tacos in soft corn tacos. Phenom.

Alley Cantina… 400-year-old bar. It used to be more nondescript at the back of this alley in the darkest, seediest corner of the Taos plaza. Now there’s shops, lights, neon. What the hell? I was disgruntled, but on further inspection pleased to find a terrific pit of weeknight camaraderie. And one hell of a bartender who knew how to navigate guest politics. I challenged someone on whether to order a bourbon ‘straight’ or ‘neat’. The bartender smiled and said, “Either way, I won’t give them ice.”

Hotel La Fonda… For the 4 hours we slept there, Hotel La Fonda was awesome. We rented a campsite? Yes! But we also rented beer, whiskey and a random final round–What was that?–at the cantina. When we stepped into the rainy alleyway, we had only 5 hours until the morning flight. With a disdain for taxis and no horse …or bicycle to be found, someone sprung for a room across the plaza. And people have been springing for rooms there since the 1820s. You cannot walk through the adobe, beneath open wood beams without thinking of 200 years of history.

It is important to acknowledge the more porcelain of patrons. Even disgruntled Yelp reviewers. They pay the bills for the real people who work 3 jobs to make a go of it in this amazing small town. And it is these historic, independent places and people that inspire my adventures and keep me coming to Taos.

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