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Martha's Black Dog Coffeehouse, Socorro, NM

Nine years of ecstasy

Sadly, Martha's Black Dog Coffeehouse closed permanently on July 31, 2005. Its ninth birthday would have been August 8.

I'm not completely sure why it's closed now. It certainly was not a lack of business: she had a huge core of fiercely loyal customers who smoothed out the inevitable fluctuations in business from students and out-of-towners. Basically the building needed structural work, she couldn't work out the terms with the building owners, and there weren't any other suitable locations available.

At this point, on Day 2 of Life Without Martha, I'd just like to celebrate a very long and distinguished run in the Socorro restaurant scene. I ate roughly five meals a week there for the entire nine years. I once calculated that I've spent a five-digit amount there. I don't regret a penny of it. Martha Rimmel served me more great meals than any other cook I've ever known. Beyond that, I've learned a tremendous amount about food and cooking just from talking with her over the years.

The hardest part of parting is that I have never eaten such healthy food in any other period of my life. She catered to vegetarians and vegans as well as to us carnivores, and it was all nutritious. (Well, maybe the Dog Overboard, a nice variant on the Genocide by Chocolate theme, wasn't totally healthy, but in my opinion chocolate is an important factor in mental health.)

Below is an old review, to give some idea of what we're missing now.

Five years at Martha's Black Dog: an appreciation

I am writing this on August 8, 2001, the fifth anniversary of Martha's grand opening.

I can give this place no higher compliment than to say that in this five-year period I have probably eaten there more times than all the other restaurants in the world combined. Yes, Socorro is a small town, and there are surprisingly many other decent restaurants here, but none of them can really compete.

What keeps me coming back virtually every day is that they consistently deliver all four of the Big Four: flavor, nutrition, texture, and appearance. I personally don't care that much about appearance, but Martha wants food that looks good too.

For example, take salads. In my years in California I was exposed to real salad greens, and Martha's is the only place in town that doesn't use Iceberg lettuce. She gets the best grade of greens, with romaine and radicchio and the other premium types, and they're always fresh. I often eat the large garden salad with no dressing at all, just because the greens taste so good. But she has several other salads that I love: the Patsy, with smoked turkey and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette; the Godfather, a sort of Italian chef's salad with good salami, ham, Havarti cheese, and artichoke hearts; a really consistently fine Caesar, with or without anchovies; and the Greek, with olives, fresh tomato, and a good grade of feta.

Or consider soups. The soups are always at least pretty good, but quite often they are unbelievable. If you see Portuguese Vegetable Stew, or Jamaican Peanut Chicken, or Hungarian Mushroom, don't miss them. Great soups, with body, texture, complexity, and harmony.

There are some pretty high-quality breakfasts. I'm quite fond of the waffles, and the Hair of the Dog Burrito is a nice take on the breakfast burrito, with the option of chorizo, chopped ham (it's a Mexican Hairless if you leave out the meat).

The sandwiches, even the breads, the pasta of the day---I could go on and on. The menu runs five pages, and there's a whiteboard that announces daily specials that aren't on the menu.

A lot of the regulars just come for coffee and desserts. Martha's coffees and coffee drinks are world-class. The desserts range from fairly light and innocent (like baklava and housemade cookies) to dangerously rich and fattening choices like Dog Overboard (for serious chocolate binges), Chocolate Beyond Reason (a little lighter but still quite rich), and the distinctive housemade cheesecake.

They stock a wide variety of higher-quality soft drinks like Way 2 Cool and Reed's root beer and ginger sodas, and a selection of wines and beers.

Vegetarians please note! Martha's is the most flexible place in town for special diets. She has a wide range of options whether you're ovo-lacto or pure vegan. Although I am carnivorous, I often find myself eating vegetarian choices just because they're so good. In particular, the Mediterranean Plate is my favorite power lunch for days when I'm going to be singing (I'm in the New Mexico Symphony Chorus), because it provides plenty of nutrition without dairy to mess up my vocal chords: a big dollop of housemade hummus, pita bread, dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), artichoke hearts, two kinds of olives, and some mild fire-roasted red pepper. (The plate comes with a nice chunk of high-quality feta cheese, but I opt out on singing days.)

Just a few general warnings:

Location: Drive along the main drag (I-25 Business Loop) until you see signs pointing west to ``Historic Plaza.'' Turn west and immediately turn into the large parking lot on the south side of Manzanares. You can't miss the large sign on the building right there. Phone: (505) 838-0311.

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in the Black Dog, I'm just a happy customer.

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See also: Shipman's favorite Socorro (NM) restaurants
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John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 2005/08/02 23:20:57