The Atomic Grill Saved My Life - or at Least My Evening / by Michelle Cowan

The Atomic Grill is the Empire Café of Santa Fe, and I couldn't be more pleased to have stumbled upon it.  The restaurant I had gone in search of was already closed (at 8 pm on a Sunday), and I worried that I would go into a hunger-psychosis if I didn't find something else quickly. Anyone who has experienced my hunger-psychoses knows that they are to be avoided at all costs. Fortunately, I kept it together with a few soothing mantras as I proceeded to get totally lost near downtown Santa Fe. 

I can only assume that a higher power guided me to a vacant parking spot on the street. After checking the menus of two places on that block and deeming them too expensive and too devoid of vegetables, I happened to cross the street toward a park square where I saw twenty-something hipsters hanging out on a brightly lit patio. Something told me it was the perfect spot!  It stays open late, serves breakfast all day (including build-your-own omelets), provides free wifi, employs emo/hipster servers, and offers an assortment of homemade pies.  The Atomic Grill is an Empire Café doppelganger if I ever saw one.  And I loved it!

I was finally able to get a little bit of work done tonight while sitting in the cool evening air on the Atomic patio. I drove from Lubbock to Santa Fe this morning, landing at the Puye Cliff Dwellings 45 minutes north of town, in Espanola. I not only drove into the mountains, I climbed them… or one of them… to see the places in the lava rock-faced mountains where the Pueblo Indians lived centuries ago.  Needless to say, I was bushed.

While visiting the Puye Cliff Dwellings, I dared to also tour the mesa top, where tour guides show you the remains of a Pueblo fortress and take you inside an actual Pueblo kiva. Many Native American tribes use kivas as their places of worship and ceremony. Kivas are large circular pits dug in the ground where the people would come to enact rituals and speak with the gods. The top is covered with wood, and the people dig a small hole in the side to allow the fire to ventilate a bit. It felt healing just to be there—and fabulous to get out of the sun.

I was so high, above the valley, amid mountain ranges and ancient history, with my trusty Pueblo guide to answer all my questions. It brought on feelings I haven’t felt in a long time.

I am thrilled with this day—exhausted but thrilled. I wanted to wander around Santa Fe more and will try to get some wandering in in the morning. But I need to keep trucking if I want to get to Oregon in time for my cousin's wedding.  At this point, I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I do know that I can't wait to see my family in both California and Oregon… and that I'm going to bed very very soon.