Sagche’s Coffee House
730 St. Michael’s Drive
Breakfast and lunch, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily
Outdoor seating under portico in season
Easy parking in mall lot
Low conversational murmur when busy; almost silent when slow
A colorful mural of a coffee harvest fills one wall of Sagche’s Coffee House, brightening the otherwise simple white space. Eight to 10 tables fill the small room, and the stainless steel surfaces in the kitchen are visible behind the counter. The coffee grinder sitting on the counter bodes well for the coffee.
You can stop in for an espresso ($2.75) or another of the usual suspects: Americanos ($2.75), lattes ($3.50), cappuccinos ($3.50), mochas ($3.50), a London Fog ($3.75), and steamers ($2) are all on the menu board. Dirty chai (masala tea kicked up with a shot of espresso, $4.25); Italian sodas ($3); smoothies ($5.95); and frappes ($5.25) expand the offerings. There’s even an affogato ($4) — that inspired Italian creation that “drowns” a scoop of ice cream in a shot of espresso — when you are craving something creamy, sweet, and caffeinated to restart your engines.
Sagche’s also brews fresh, fragrant Guatemalan, Colombian, and organic Mexican coffees ($2.50 for a refillable 12-ounce cup) sourced from family-owned Albuquerque roaster OdaCrem. The roasts are light to medium, so if you are looking for a darker brew, stick with the expresso-based drinks. The Mexican-style hot chocolate ($3), fragrant with cinnamon and topped with fresh whipped cream, was just sweet enough, and worthy of a return visit.
But, name notwithstanding, Sagche’s is much more than a coffee shop. The wall-mounted menu offers a number of free-ranging breakfast and lunch choices. And if you crave enchiladas at 7 a.m. or have an urge for waffles at 2 p.m., you can have them — along with more than 40 other possibilities on the all-day, every-day menu.
Choices range from yogurt and granola ($7.25) to omelettes ($9.25 to $9.95) to huevos rancheros ($8.75); from breakfast burritos ($7.50-$8.50) to bagels ($2), with or without smoked salmon ($10.95) and/or cream cheese ($3.95). But we were most curious about the savory crêpes stuffed with scrambled eggs and a choice of bacon, chorizo, or ham ($8.75) or chicken and veggies ($9.25).
The crêpe was more like a slim, tender pancake than the traditional thin and lacy creation. Folded around nicely scrambled eggs dotted with bits of bacon and topped with two crisp strips of bacon, it made a substantial breakfast. Sweeter crepes, stuffed with fruit or Nutella and banana ($7.95), are also available.
The large Belgian-style waffle ($8.50) was crisp and light. The generous topping of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and red and green grapes was fresh, with no signs of idleness. The accompanying cloud of whipped cream added a touch of luxury.
Lunch choices include all the standards — sandwiches (tuna, BLT, avocado), quesadillas, and enchiladas (cheese, beef, or chicken). The two large chicken enchiladas ($9.75) were packed with moist, shredded chicken, topped with cheese, and sauced Christmas-style with red and green chile (both sourced from Hatch). The mahogany-red sauce was flavorful and moderately spicy; the thinner green chile sauce was totally devoid of heat. The requisite cheeseburger ($10.95) on a soft sesame bun topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion is decently done here but not outstanding or unique in ingredients, condiments, or preparation.
What is unique at Sagche’s are the Guatemalan specials on the menu. Among these are a breakfast combo ($9.95); pepián, a traditional chicken stew in a tomatillo and chile sauce thickened with pumpkin and sesame seeds that some call the national dish of Guatemala ($12.95); hilachas, shredded beef in a tomato sauce, in the same wheelhouse as ropa vieja (the name refers to old clothes or rags, as suggested by the appearance) served throughout Central America ($13.50); and rellenitos — stuffed mashed plantains, a popular Guatemalan dessert ($5.50).
The Guatemalan breakfast ($9.95), a plate of perfectly cooked black beans, fried plantains, and toast siding two eggs prepared any way you like them, is enlivened by a rich Guatemalan crema — a Central American take on French crème fraiche and American sour cream — that is thicker, tangier, and saltier than the Mexican version, and a house-made sauce of roasted tomatoes, onions, and mint-like yerba buena. Together, the condiments add flavor and balance to the simple preparation.
The hilachas ($13.50), tender, shredded beef in a large bowl of rich tomato sauce, was so good we left not a drop behind. Although the sauce is smooth and creamy, there is no cream (or other dairy) in it, I was told — just tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, salt, and black pepper. It’s served with a mound of short-grain white rice sweetened with green peas, corn, and finely diced carrots that can be eaten on the side or mixed in to thicken the soup-like sauce.
The café’s focus on good coffee and the Guatemalan specials are as authentically Central American as co-owners Erwin and Walfre Sagche, brothers who grew up near the small colonial city of Antigua, in the coffee-producing region of Guatemala. Both men have worked in Santa Fe restaurants since their arrival here in the 1990s, their experience in the front and back of the house contributing to the café’s smooth operation. Counter help is truly helpful, cheerfully and knowledgeably answering questions about the menu, delivering and clearing dishes, and responding quickly to requests. The food arrives relatively quickly, piping hot from the kitchen; there is no lingering under a heat lamp here. The families’ attention to and affection for the business is palpable and appreciated.
Sagche’s offers well-prepared, unpretentious American, New Mexican, and Guatemalan dishes in a welcoming environment. The kitchen has the knack of coaxing the maximum amount of flavor from a minimum number of simple ingredients, creating home-style dishes that deliver more than the sum of their parts. And the coffee is good too. ◀