On June 1, 1993, The Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Santa Fe opened its doors to a town hungry for barbecue. And for twenty years, the bustling restaurant has served up dependably delicious food, drink and live entertainment and established itself as one of Santa Fe’s most fun and colorful characters.
In the late 1980s, two ladies, Texan Sherry Delamarter and Colorado native Pam McCleary, with the help of a few important investors, opened a restaurant called The Cowgirl Hall of Fame, in the West Village of New York City. The name paid homage to the original Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Hereford, Texas, and the food and decor honored the cultural heritage of the American Cowgirl lifestyle. One of its principal founding members was Barry Secular, a native New Yorker and semi-pro baseball player. In the early 1990s, Barry started a family and moved to Santa Fe. Ready to open a restaurant but being new to the area, he wasn’t sure what type of cuisine the locals would want. He placed an ad in the local Santa Fe Reporter and asked the question. The resounding response was “BARBECUE!” And so it was that 319 Guadalupe Street became Santa Fe’s Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
Although the initial idea was based on the New York restaurant’s theme, there were necessary distinctions, which, over time, worked to make the two Cowgirls more distant relatives than sisters. Managing owner Nicholas Ballas describes the New York restaurant as being more of a novelty to the area, and its decor tends to exaggerate the cowgirl theme. “An obvious difference between New York and Santa Fe is you don’t have to go far in Santa Fe to find real ranchers and cowgirls,” he says. “For that reason, one of my jobs was to ‘keep it real’ in honor of our unique, indigenous culture.”
Keeping it real includes consistently serving up scrumptious, honest and affordable food, craft-brewed beers and terrific margaritas, and covering the glittering walls with photographic tributes to great cowgirls and rodeo queens throughout America’s history.
The name is now simply The Cowgirl BBQ and the restaurant has definitely succeeded in being nourishing, fun and welcoming to everyone. Cowgirls and boys, workers of all collar colors, musicians, travelers and locals of every age converge here.
With a full kids’ menu, The Cowgirl caters to the littl’uns too. Moms are happy to eat and chat while their youngsters go safely wild in the outdoor play area. And the big kids can play pool in the game room.
The Cowgirl always “smokes it right” thanks to Chef Patrick Lambert, who keeps pace with an extensive menu covering multiple borders from Texas BBQ, Mexico, and of course New Mexico. New items regularly appear on the menu in honor of regional and international cultural celebrations from Cajun and Creole for Mardi Gras to specialty bratwursts for Oktoberfest. And don’t forget the All-American winter comfort foods like braised lamb shank and meatloaf to get us through the colder months. The meats are organic and hormone-free, and there are plenty of fresh salads and meatless dishes to choose from for those of the veggie ilk.
To celebrate their 20th, they have created a monumental green chile cheeseburger called “The Mother of all Green Chile Cheeseburgers!” Chef’s proprietary blend of 100% hormone-free, organic beef, buffalo and bacon topped with green chile, brie cheese, and tomato is cocooned within a pretzel bun. Yes, it is the mother of all burgers and yes, it is delicious!
The Cowgirl is well known for dishing out decadent desserts, including their famous Ice Cream Baked Potato – a monolith of vanilla ice cream dusted with chocolate and topped with whipped cream, all dressed up to resemble a baked potato! And this divine Molten Lava Chocolate Cake deserves honorable mention.
If you’re having a party or event they’ll bring The Cowgirl to you, or dedicate one of their ample-sized dining rooms to your group. Voted Best Full Service Caterer for three consecutive years by locals voting in The Santa Fe Reporter, The Cowgirl team runs a tight ship taking care of your event, both on site and on location.
Staying true to its desire to always keep the customer satisfied, The Cowgirl is one of the few places in Santa Fe that brings live musical entertainment to its customers daily. The afternoon and evening atmosphere is always vibrant. Now, as it gallops toward its twentieth anniversary on June 1st, 2013, The Cowgirl is preparing to ring in the next decade in style by planning an all-day-long block party celebration. Festivities will include live music from great local bands, freebies and giveaways of collectibles, and food and drink specials! The live music starts at noon, with Jim Almand, and continues through the day with The Bus Tapes, The Sean Healen Band, Jono Manson, Broomdust Caravan, Felix y Los Gatos, and The Joe West Revue. The Mayor will drop by at 2 p.m. to cut the birthday cake. Starting at 8pm on the patio, they’ll top off the evening with the live music of Bone Orchard.
This promises to be a terrific celebration and tribute to a well-loved restaurant and true local character. I’d like to say “Thank YOU!” to all the locals who voted for barbecue back in the 90s, and to the owners, and everyone since who has helped make The Cowgirl BBQ the great joint that it is!
Whether you’re local or happen to be here on vacation June 1st, stop in and join in the celebration to wish the hardworking owners and staff a well-deserved “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”
For more information on The Cowgirl BBQ go to: http://www.santafeselection.com/restaurants/cowgirl-hall-of-fame