The Bobcat Bite on Old Las Vegas Highway will reopen in May with the original 1950s grill still in the kitchen and the renowned green chile cheeseburger on the menu.
The Bobcat Bite closed in 2013 after being in business since 1953, including a 2011 visit from Andrew Zimmern for his TV show Bizarre Foods America.
The new incarnation of Bobcat Bite could lead to expanding the brand into other cities across America.
The new Bobcat Bite is under the ownership of NM Fine Dining LLC, the same folks who own Bouche Bistro, Trattoria a Mano and Lucky Goat and previously owned Maize and Jimmy D’s, all in downtown Santa Fe.
Jennifer and Jimmy Day bought the Bobcat Bite property and surrounding 100 acres in 2017, the same year they acquired Maize and started their restaurant group in Santa Fe. They closed Bouche, Trattoria a Mano and Lucky Goat at the start of the pandemic and have never reopened them because the restaurants were too small for 25 percent dining and they opted not to do takeout.
The Days have given no indication when the downtown eateries might reopen, with all of their focus now on Bobcat Bite.
“The only thing I have a comment on is we are going to be opening Bobcat Bite at the beginning of May,” Jennifer Day said. “I have no comment on the other restaurants at this time.”
They pressed ahead with Bobcat Bite, which they have been working on renovating since 2018 and continued through the pandemic, “because it’s not fine dining and because we will have outdoor dining,” she said.
The Days brought in Greg Carey in early January as vice president of restaurant operations at NM Fine Dining. For his last gig, Carey had offices in Monaco and San Antonio, Texas, and a home in Gilbert, Ariz., as senior vice president of operations and development for Steak ‘n Shake. He was responsible for the San Antonio-based company’s expansion to Europe and the Middle East, where, he said, nearly 40 Steak ‘n Shakes are now operating in eight countries.
But COVID-19 closed the international operation in March, and the Days found Carey through a corporate recruiter. Carey did not hesitate to swap Monaco for a single restaurant on the outskirts of Santa Fe.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity,” Carey said. “My career has been about starting concepts and sometimes developing international brands.”
He was with P.F. Chang’s in the early years and was part of the launch of Rainforest Cafe before overseeing international openings in Mexico, London and Paris.
“The appeal to Bobcat Bite is it’s one of those iconic brands that had its day and now we are going to reach into the future,” Carey said.
That future may include Bobcat Bites across the country.
“They have a vision about Bobcat Bite,” Carey said about the Days. “Hopefully to develop a national brand. First things first.”
The first thing is reopening Bobcat Bite after it closed nearly eight years ago. The Days started with a 25-seat mom and pop structure. The new Bobcat Bite will seat 56 inside and 50 outside on a patio that was added.
Carney describes the remodeled interior as “warm and friendly” with low ceilings, wood beams and ceramic tile floors that look like wood.
“I’m making sure the green chile cheeseburger is every bit as good or better than 2011 [when Zimmern ranked it among his five most iconic hamburgers],” Carey said. “The menu is an homage to what Bobcat Bite was and brought into 2021 with updated, stylized appetizers.”
The ribeye steak will also be back.
The Days and Carey are well aware Santa Fe long-timers will compare the new Bobcat Bite to the old Bite.
“Is the food as good as it was 10 years ago?” Carey said. “Yeah, it is. That will bridge whatever doubt there is. Is it more corporate than it used to be? No, it’s not. … It matters very much [what locals think]. It is our desire to appeal to a local audience.”
Carey’s role at NM Fine Dining does involve the dormant downtown restaurants.
“The other restaurants are important, but it’s clearly on the back burner,” Carey said. “The challenge with those restaurants is size. They are all small, which is made more challenging by the restrictions. What I decided to do is focus 100 percent of our efforts on Bobcat Bite. Bobcat Bite is the future of NM Fine Dining.”