The Old Garage Cafe in Shiprock opened in early July. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with foods ranging from breakfast burritos to chicken-fried
The Old Garage Cafe in Shiprock opened in early July. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with foods ranging from breakfast burritos to chicken-fried steak. (Alexa Rogals — The Daily Times)

SHIPROCK — Behind a gas station where U.S. Highways 64 and 491 meet, through an entrance beyond a white fence and nestled beside a former barbershop is a new Shiprock eatery.

The Old Garage Cafe is just what the name suggests — an old garage that has been converted into a self-service restaurant that's co-owned and managed by Leigh Light.

The cafe offers a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner food items, but the most popular item since the cafe opened on July 3 has been the hamburgers.

"I hand-press all my patties," Light said during an interview on July 24.

Every morning, Light said he presses about 15 patties and then presses more throughout the day as needed.

Artist Eugene B. Joe, of Shiprock, paints a breakfast plate on a wall of the Old Garage Cafe in Shiprock on July 24. "My brother James and I have been
Artist Eugene B. Joe, of Shiprock, paints a breakfast plate on a wall of the Old Garage Cafe in Shiprock on July 24. "My brother James and I have been working on this for about a week now," Joe said. (Alexa Rogals — The Daily Times)

His menu is designed to be simple, ensuring all the items are freshly made and have a homemade flavor.

Breakfast items include burritos, sandwiches, pancakes and other basic breakfast foods. For lunch and dinner, the menu expands to quesadillas, chicken-fried steak, spaghetti and meatloaf.

"I make the best meatloaf," Light said.

Light said he was trained as a chef while he worked in the food and beverage industry in the Phoenix area. He recently moved back to his family's hometown of Shiprock.

Business is starting to grow, he said.

"It started out slow, but it's picking up," Light said.

The cafe's Facebook page — facebook.com/theoldgaragecafe — has broken 100 likes.


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"This is quick good food," Light said.

The cafe has concrete floor and murals depicting Navajo lifestyle scenes, as well as tables and chairs for customers. On a quiet July afternoon, two local artists, brothers Eugene B. Joe and James Ben Joe, methodically painted common foods served on the Navajo Nation on the restaurant's walls.

The latest scene was a cloud that pictured round frybread, coffee and a bowl of stew.

"We're just a couple of old men who like to paint," said Eugene B. Joe, adding that both men are in their 60s.

Eugene B. Joe, of Shiprock, paints different foods and designs on the walls of the Old Garage Cafe in Shiprock on July 24.
Eugene B. Joe, of Shiprock, paints different foods and designs on the walls of the Old Garage Cafe in Shiprock on July 24. (Alexa Rogals — The Daily Times)

He said the painters take general directions from Light about the mural. But Light said he doesn't want to have too much influence on their work.

"I let them be artists," he said.

The pair of artists planned to paint the largest wall as they neared the completion of two other small murals. One was a caricature of a cartoon character, while the other is of a mud hogan and Navajo family.

"It's Navajo life elements," Eugene B. Joe said.

The Old Garage Cafe is at San Francisco Peak and U.S. Highway 491 in Shiprock, located behind Indian Country Market. The are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 6 to 11 a.m. on Sunday. For more information call 505-635-7853 or go to facebook.com/theoldgaragecafe.

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638. and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.