Interstate Kitchen & Bar has been settled in the heart of the Art District on Santa Fe since 2009. The small patio out front holds a few tables, but, more important, also has cute little red water bowls for your four-legged friends. Inside, there's a long bar that stretches about half the length of the restaurant, with big comfy booths in the back of the retro-styled dining room. But for brunch, the restaurant gives up some of its ’60s ambience in favor of an aesthetic I thoroughly approve of: brown paper covering every table, along with cups of felt-tip markers. My waitress assured me that coloring on the table is highly encouraged.
Interstate's brunch was very quiet when we arrived at 10 a.m. (a good tip if you want to nab a prime table) on a Saturday morning, but began to pick up by 11. Brunch drinks here are dominated by several varieties of Bloody Marys, but the bar also offers three other beverages. Mimosas can be made with orange, grapefruit or pineapple juice (or any mix of the three), and margaritas and refreshing Kir Royales (champagne with blackcurrant liqueur) are also poured.
Portions are large, to say the least. The Southern-leaning sweet hoe cakes come topped with an imposing mound of lean pulled pork, two eggs and housemade cheese curds. What separates hoe cakes from regular pancakes is the use of cornmeal, giving them a slightly grainy texture but an exceptionally savory taste. Our server pointed out that the pork had been braised for twelve hours; that slow cooking could be tasted in every smoky bite.
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The Monte Cristo was also built to impress. What looked like about a pound of deli meat and cheese were sandwiched between two large pieces of French toast, with powdered sugar dusted on top. Brunch is never a good time to think about diets, but the haystack of shoestring fries towering over the sandwich vanquishes any lingering thoughts of eating light. The menu also includes burgers, salads and a variety of omelets. Sadly, I didn’t get to try the Kentucky-style hot brown sandwich, but it was a thing of beauty as a server ported it past our table to another customer. The open-faced sandwich is loaded with ham, bacon and house-smoked turkey, then topped with eggs, cheese and and a lake of gravy.
Nearly a decade ago, Aaron Lobato opened the restaurant with his two brothers in a neighborhood that was just beginning to draw notice for its art galleries and shops. They'll be celebrating Interstate's ninth anniversary this September. While the style of the place harks back to the ’50s and ’60s, fans of ’80s music will appreciate the sounds of Hall and Oates, Men at Work and Journey mingling with the aromas of brunch. Lobato also points out his love for American whiskey, which I didn’t fully appreciate until I saw his collection of 200 whiskey bottles behind the bar. “I’m just proud to serve quality food from our family-run business,” the owner adds.
Those big brunch portions are a godsend in case you plan on sipping your way through the whiskey collection.
Interstate Kitchen & Bar is open for brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 720-479-8829 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.