New Mexico History Museum

CANCELED: Chow Down at the Cowden Cafe

September 01, 2010


Note: This event has been canceled while the Cowden Cafe's operators, owners of the historic Plaza Cafe, deal with fire damages to that restaurant's kitchen. The event will be rescheduled and, in the meantime, the Cowden Cafe is open for business 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday-Sunday. Show your support for the Plaza Cafe by dropping in to the Cowden for lunch or a snack.

The lecture accompanying this grand-opening event is also being rescheduled. Author Michael Pettit, a great-grandson of the Cowden family ranchers who founded the legendary JAL Ranch, is planning to talk about "Historic and Contemporary Family Ranching in New Mexico."

The History Museum’s Cowden Cafe, operated by the owners of the famous Plaza Cafe, celebrates its grand opening Sept. 12, with a ranch-style barbecue and live Western music by Sid Hausman, plus a free lecture about the Cowden Ranch. Take a break from the Santa Fe Fiesta to enjoy a $9.99 buffet. Tap your toes and feast on barbecue chicken, brisket, fruit cobbler and more on the café’s second-floor terrace from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm.

At 3:30 pm in the History Museum Auditorium, author Michael Pettit will talk about “Historic Ranching in Southeast New Mexico and Contemporary Family Ranching in New Mexico.” Pettit is a great-grandson of the ranchers who founded the legendary JAL Ranch. Its legacy was detailed in Pettit’s book, Riding for the Brand: 150 Years of Cowden Ranching (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006), which won a New Mexico Book Award for Best Southwest History. The lecture is free with museum admission. Sundays are free to NM residents.

From 1883 to 1915, the JAL Ranch (for which the southeastern town of Jal is named) was the open-range home to 40,000 head of cattle and a part of New Mexico history that included the likes of Oliver Loving, Charles Goodnight, skirmishes with Comanches, and tales of gutting out the pioneer life in dugouts and covered wagons. At its peak, the JAL occupied much of what is now Lea County, east and south into Texas.

“These were family ranchers; they weren’t lonely cowboys,” Pettit said. “Theirs is the story of generations of ranching, where the women and the children were critical to its success.”

Sid Hausman, who will perform during the Cowden Cafe barbecue, is a Tesuque-based singer-songwriter, illustrator and ranch wrangler who performs at cowboy poetry gatherings and folk festivals throughout the West. He also offers historical programs and children's workshops to museums schools and libraries.

The Cowden Cafe has been quietly open for the past several months, but chef Andy Razatos said it’s ready for its spotlight. On the menu: barbeque chicken; carnitas (slow stewed pork); smoked beef brisket; stuffed baked potato; baked beans; ranch house cole slaw; buttermilk biscuits with fresh fruit jam; stone fruit cobbler; cowboy lemonade and coffee.

Open daily from 10 am – 4:30 pm (11am – 7 pm on Fridays), the café serves gourmet soups, sandwiches, salads and sweets, along with French-press coffee, Greek frappes, teas, lemonade and sodas (a beer-and-wine license is coming soon).  Customers don’t have to buy an admission ticket to the museum to eat at the café if they enter through the Washington Avenue doors. Besides great food, the cafe also offers free wi-fi and an outdoor terrace with seating for up to 50 people.

Brothers Andy and Daniel Razatos own the Plaza Cafe, founded in 1905 and taken over by Dionysi Razatos in 1947. A longtime favorite among locals, tourists and the occasional celebrity, the restaurant whips up a mix of Greek, New Mexican and down-home American cuisines.

Related Photos

JAL Ranch Outfit Camped

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