Restaurant Watch: The Green Owl on St. Michaels
St. Michael’s is becoming a great place to catch lunch again. With Annapurna coming in about a year ago, and now the Green Owl, options for great food are abundant.
Check out the article in the New Mexican about the Green Owl below.
Green Owl aims to revitalize St. Michael’s Drive food scene
By: Candelora Versace | For The New Mexican
April 12th, 2012
With its aging fast-food franchises and worn-out convenience stores, St. Michael’s Drive may not be the first place Santa Feans think of as a mealtime destination. Scattered among the car dealers and empty storefronts, the handful of midprice restaurants along the road are often forgotten by being “out of sight, out of mind.”
Bill Healy, owner of the Green Owl, hopes to change that with his high-profile gas station remodel on the south side of the busy thoroughfare. After an extensive renovation, the space now gleams as a cafe with shiny surfaces and a menu of comfort-food classics. Along with breakfast and lunch menus, the eatery also offers fresh-baked pastries, breads and pretzel rolls, as well as Agapao coffee and Hawaiian-style, soft-serve ice cream.
“I thought maybe it was time to retire,” Healy said as he recounted his decades-long career as a professional baker and cafe owner in Long Island, N.Y. He spent the last 10 years or so coming to Santa Fe to visit his daughters, who now live in Albuquerque, so frequently that he considers the Inn and Spa at Loretto his second home.
“I got an offer for my business in New York, and thought maybe I’d look for a hole-in-the-wall space just to keep busy,” he said.
That search took two years, he said. His son-in-law, a physician at the former St. Vincent Hospital, frequently mentioned the lack of food options on St. Michael’s Drive. The more he researched the area, the more Healy became convinced that the location would be ideal for a culinary endeavor.
“I saw the need for our concept,” Healy said of his vision for fresh, high-quality baked goods, light meals and coffee. The breakfast menu includes breakfast burritos, bagels or rolls topped with eggs and cheese, and baked goods including muffins, morning buns and danishes. The lunch options include: individual pizzas, wraps, paninis, sandwiches, salads and soups.
Healy also offers what may be the only pretzel-roll “snackwich” in Santa Fe. He said he spent two months in Germany perfecting the combination of pretzel and bread for his pretzel rolls. “It’s low in carbs and fat and has such a unique taste.”
While the cafe does not source many of its foods locally, Healy and manager Cindy Sheptow said they are working to scout local vendors for their food sources. “We’re happy to use as many local products as we can find,” Healy said, noting that he’s already in discussion with a local produce farmer.
As for coffee, Healy said he has spent 40 years in the coffee business, starting with Chock Full o’Nuts (“the official coffee of the city that never sleeps”), and he’s confident about his choice.
“I know coffee, and I can’t speak highly enough of Agapao coffee and David Black,” Healy said. “He came out with a special blend for us. He really knows coffee; he may even be a step ahead of me. And the best part is, he’s local and he’s good people.”
Sheptow, formerly the pastry chef at Santacafé, agrees. “I’ve been a coffee snob for 40 years myself,” she said. “It’s clean coffee, it has no aftertaste, and we have some [talented] baristas.”
After eight months of renovation, Healy said, the cafe opened in early February. The building was so decrepit, he said, that it had to be completely gutted and rebuilt, including the wiring and plumbing. “It needed a lot of work,” he said.
After sifting through more than 100 applications, Healy hired 15 workers and has since let one go.
“We love the staff, we love the people that work here,” he said. “People always say that there’s a problem getting good workers here, but we think that’s wrong, dead wrong. We want the residents of the St. Mike’s area to have a nice place to come to, and we’ve already succeeded.”
With a comfortable patio, indoor seating and a drive-thru lane, not to mention eventual catering and delivery, Healy fully intends his big investment to pay off. Healy is so confident in his experience of providing good food and coffee with service to match that he’s already opened a satellite cafe inside the Inn and Spa at Loretto.
“It’s such a great hotel. I’ve been talking to them about it for a while, and a space finally became available,” he said. “We bake everything here and run it downtown. Hopefully, we’ll make a very good team.”
IF YOU GO
Where: 1698 St. Michael’s Drive
Link to the New Mexican Article HERE.