The Shed: The Legend Continues
When thinking of Santa Fe, it’s easy to visualize azure skies, crisp mornings and The Shed. Located in Seña Plaza on Palace Avenue, across the street from St. Francis Cathedral, it has a prime location one block from the historical plaza. For almost 60 years, The Shed has been serving the best chile Hatch, NM can grow. Originally, it was only open for lunch. Lines were long, they can still be long, but the waiting is pleasant in the Prince courtyard where both residents and visitors alike wait with anticipation.
Reluctant Medium Rachel Blackstone and her friend Chloe Valdez, are
frequently found sitting at the bar enjoying both the margaritas and the food. Rachel prefers the house margarita (she thinks they’re the best in town), but Chloe gets the pomegranate version claiming it is healthier. It is certainly pink. Whether you chow down on green chile chicken enchiladas or one of Chloe’s favorites, garlic shrimp with calabacitas, all entrees come with garlic bread—not sopapillas. It’s tradition.
Seña Plaza dates back to 1692. After the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico, Captain Arias de Quiros was hailed as a hero. For his contributions he was given land just north of the cathedral. He farmed most of the property and lived in a small house, which no longer exists.
Later, Don José Seña built a 33-room hacienda, situated around a large courtyard. He and his wife Doña Isabel had 11 children and they occupied all but the building on the north side of the courtyard which housed the livestock and servants. The structure was so large that it was temporary home to state government after a fire burned the capitol building in 1892.
There are two other haciendas, with courtyards, in Seña Plaza: Trujillo Plaza which housed the office of the Manhattan Project during WWII and the L. Bradford Prince home which is where The Shed is located, hence Prince courtyard.
William Penhallow Henderson, artist and builder, remodeled the large structure in 1927, enlarging the courtyard, adding a second story to the back of the U-shaped hacienda. In Chris Wilson’s book The Myth of Santa Fe, he writes: “To unify the old and new portions, he developed a stylized vocabulary of light stucco heavy posts and lintels, and a Territorial style brick dentil coping.”
Fast-forward to the most recently completed century. The Carswell family
moved to New Mexico from Illinois, after a stop in Carmel. The artsy family learned New Mexican cooking from their Hispanic neighbors and decided to open a restaurant circa 1952, with an official opening of July 4, 1953. The location was in Burro Alley. It was literally the shed where both burros and wood was kept. There were 22 seats in this first incarnation.
In 1960, The Shed moved to its current location. As time and space has allowed, it has expanded to nine dining rooms, the bar and the anteroom where customers can wait. The entry includes a tiny kiva fireplace which puts out a surprising amount of heat.
Low-down: Watch your head as you enter the purple front door. We’re taller than our forefathers of the 1600s, so duck!
The Shed has garnered a slew of awards, although fans don’t need them to know what we like. These include the James Beard Foundation’s “America’s Classic Award” in 2003. The Food Network’s “$40 a Day” show with Rachael Ray, has featured it and New Mexico Magazine gave it their 2011 “Best Eats” nod.
The reasons for this are many. The colorful restaurant–with original art–is just plain fun, the staff is congenial and adds to the enjoyment, and then there’s the food. Red chile is ground fresh each day and the red chile sauce reflects this. Just try the carne adovado or the pollo adobo. The guacamole is smooth as butter, and of course, there is the award-winning Shed burger. The restaurant also has veggie options.
Don’t forget dessert. Our Reluctant Medium loves the zabaglione, a luscious Italian (yes, Italian) custard with cointreau and white port. Decadent. But oh my, then there is the mocha cake and the lemon soufflé. One can’t go wrong choosing any one of them.
The heart and soul of The Shed, is the three generations of Carswells who have put their all into the restaurant. Today Courtney Carswell and family continue the tradition of New Mexican cooking, blending the old and the new, the Mexican and Pueblo Indian cuisines. The queues show how successful this is. See you in line!
For more information on The Shed: http://sfshed.com/Restaurant.html
— G G Collins
Ghost Story of the Week
La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa has probably the most famous of the Santa Fe ghost stories. Julia Staab who died in her prime at 52 reportedly haunts the hotel. It has been the subject of television shows such as Unsolved Mysteries and Celebrity Ghost Stories, and in print at The Dallas Morning News.
Abraham Staab had the three-story Staab House built in French-inspired styling which included a mansard roof and a ballroom on the top floor. It would become the hub of society in 19-century Santa Fe. But it would not last. The couple’s eighth child was ill and finally succumbed. Julia was never the same and took to her room, which became room 256 when the house was converted to a hotel.
During a construction project, a befuddled crew came to work one morning and found their building materials in disarray. An enlightened worker began leaving roses for Julia. The mischief ceased.
Other encounters have been more personal including sightings of a transparent woman in a long dress and hood. One man reported a woman’s image in the mirror of the men’s room. And in the basement, which retains its earthen floor and stone walls, an employee of the hotel has noticed a fragrance cloud of orange and rose blossoms.
Visitors to the six-acre resort still ask for room 256, but there was the case of one man who checked in, and returned to the front desk in minutes demanding another room.