The Metate Room restaurant is located in the center of Mesa Verde National Park. People who live in the area go just for the experience of eating there, without necessarily touring the park. So we knew we were in for a treat.
From highway 160, looking south. The visitor’s center is to the left, and the mesa you drive up and into the park is on the right. It looks like a ‘Green Table.’ Spanish for ‘Mesa Verde.’
Once you get to the top the views look like this.
My simplified drawing of the park, a winding wishbone shape. The Metate Room is located where the wishbone splits, inside Far View Lodge. From the park entrance it’s about a 35 to 45 minute drive to the center, depending on how often you stop to take in the views. So that would be about an hour and a half for people like me and Mr.D, co-chairs of the National Dawdlers Association. Particularly Mesa Verde where it’s all about savoring every moment.
Far View Lodge and Metate Room entrance. Contemporary minimalist adobe architecture.
Metate means ground stone tool. The ancient Puebloan people of Mesa Verde used to grind their corn and seeds with them, basically stone on stone, and there many on display throughout the park.
The restaurant is known for a menu of local and seasonal items, designed by Chef Brian Puett. On our visit we had the pleasure of meeting Rob, their Sous Chef, who explained that Brian’s philosophy was to build on what was already there. ‘The Ancestral Puebloans raised corn, beans and squash, gathered nuts and herbs, and hunted wild game.’ Metate Room’s award-winning contemporary menu was composed by their culture and what was available to them.
The inner dining area.
We preferred a table closer to the window, because the inspiration for naming the lodge…..
Far View…..seems to go on forever, isn’t it stunning?
By 6:00 the tables had quickly filled up. People from all over the world come to Mesa Verde each year. We heard six or so languages drifting through the dining rooms. A pleasant, positive vibe throughout the place, in concert with the wonder of this breathtaking park.
The dress code is come as you are. Some men were in suits, ladies in dresses. Most were business casual. Shorts, hiking boots and tennis shoes are perfectly acceptable. From campsite, to dusty trails, to fine dining, all are welcome.
As you sit and linger, and you will want to linger, the colors and cloudscapes change. Mother Nature’s moving paintings.
We had a Prickly Pear Margarita with tequila, orange liqueur, prickly pear cactus juice and lime. Fresh and tangy-sweet. The cocktail menu is also inspired by the region, with names like Desert Sky, Long House Lemonade, and Colorado Toddy.
When we travel to national parks, we make a point to ask the rangers and staff “how did you find this job?” Our waiter was originally from Alabama, had moved to Utah, then drove through the Southwest, was drawn to Mesa Verde and applied for a job. Everyone on the staff was friendly, they asked “What have you seen today, where have you been?” And politely checked our plans to help guide and maximize our time to see as many sites as possible.
Our basket of homemade pitas and breads came with a delicious black bean hummus.
We’d heard that the dinner portions were large, so even though the starter’s menu had enticing items like Nanescatha Pizza of Navajo Flatbread with local vegetables and cheeses, Wild Boar sliders and Mesa Queso crostinis, we ordered a light Mesa Greens Salad that had a wonderfully seasoned buttermilk ranch chipotle dressing.
A popular dish, Cinnamon Chile Pork Tenderloin with seared pork medallions, red chile polenta, marinated grilled portabello mushrooms and chipotle cream. I liked the presentation of stacking the meat rather than slicing and fanning out the medallions. It reminded me of the sandstone bricks we’d seen in the cliff dwellings earlier that day. Buttery polenta, creamy sauce. With what seemed like the slightest essence of cinnamon, not overly seasoned. ‘I’d Order That’ again. Now that I’m looking at it, I wish I had it right now.
Mr.D’s Masa Chicken Asadero with Hatch green chiles and asadero cheese stuffed chicken breast crusted in tri-colored corn tortillas, with green chile mashed potatoes and smoked jalapeño cream sauce. Creamy and crunchy, with tender chicken. My fork found it’s way over to his plate several times for that smoky sauce and herbie-green-chile potatoes.
Everything we’d heard about their inventive menu was true, there was nothing bland about this place.
A few things we made a note of to try next time — Three Sisters Harvest of summer squash, yukon gold potatoes, roasted corn, Dove Creek black beans, Asadero cheese, Hatch green chiles, puff pastry and caramelized onion tomato ragout. Marinated Grilled Duck Breast with red chile polenta, seasonal vegetables and prickly pear jam. Elk Sheppard’s Pie. Turkey Napoleon with pine nut crusted turkey breast filets, roasted red bell peppers, spinach, heirloom tomatoes, verde rice and sun dried cherry demi glace.
I loved the salt and pepper shakers, and saw them for sale in Far View Terrace Cafe and Gift Shop, about 100 yards south of the lodge and Metate Room.
The dessert tray offered eight or so decadent dishes, also with Mesa Verde inspired ingredients. This flan was calling to us….
……but we went with the moist Carrot Cake Cupcake with homemade light buttercream icing, candied pine nuts and buttery, not too sweet caramel sauce. We chose well. And told ourselves that the carrot was the healthier choice, so there would be no reason to feel guilty. The flan is another excuse to go back again.
After dinner, be sure to walk upstairs to the Far View Lounge and outdoor patio. There are many things that I love and adore about living in Southwest Colorado, one being that we leave our doors and windows wide open. Because we generally don’t get many flies, mosquitos or nuisance of flying bugs. Clean crisp air. The doors to the patio were open, we could hear the acoustic guitar from inside the lounge.
We sat and star gazed. A lovely moment I will never forget. Mr.D, who grew up in the Mojave Desert, said “I’ve always known this. Air still, not moving. The sound of nothing. The smell of the desert.” We looked out to the view, now an infinite dark blue. And talked for a while, imagined what it might have been like to live in a Mesa Verde cliff dwelling around 1200 A.D. (CE.) About growing up in the desert. And how lucky we felt to live in the Southwest, one of our favorite subjects. It was all very romantic.
When we left, the musician inside who was playing guitar said “What? Leaving so soon? Being a tourist is a lot of work here.” Yes it is. So much to see, and you don’t want to miss a thing.
We went to sleep in our cozy bed, in one of the Kiva rooms located a short walk from the lodge. Along one of the long rows of rooms, with no televisions. I can’t imagine needing one, not with those views and starry night skies. It was so quiet we could hear someone’s shoes ‘flip flop flip flop’ across the parking lot.
Happy and satisfied from our first day at the park, and our lovely, memorable dinner that honored the history of this special place. And excited for our plans in the morning, the 700 Years Tour and Cliff Palace. Which will be my next post.
Note: The Metate Room is seasonal, and closes for the winter. Check the restaurant website for hours here. Primarily open for dinner. They do not accept reservations, seating is first come first served.
Update Sept. 2015: we revisited the Metate Room and many of these items were no longer on the menu. Check their website for current menu.)
Here is a link to my post covering our first day at Mesa Verde, with places we had toured on the West side of the park, including Long House, and photos of our Kiva room.
Here is a link to my post Day 2 – Part One, covering our morning on the East side of the park — Balcony House, Spruce Tree House and the Chapin Museum.
Follows are a few phone numbers and links that helped me plan our trip and find our way around.
Park Visitor’s Center Phone 970 529 5037
Far View Lodge Phone: 800 449 2288