Santa Fe Grill brand expanding with two new restaurants in Las Cruces

Leah Romero
Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – Las Cruces’ favorite burrito destination is beginning a new era. Santa Fe Restaurant is taking over two vacated spaces in town.

The community was abuzz several months ago as people started noticing Santa Fe Grill locations shutting down in the Circle K convenience stores across town. Two locations remain open – the main Santa Fe Grill at 2240 Missouri Ave. and the location inside the last remaining Pic Quik in town at 3916 W. Picacho Ave.

However, Owner Juan Morales and his family have new plans for the brand.

Santa Fe Restaurant will be opening two locations soon in the spots previously housing Jake’s Café on Lohman Avenue and Forghedaboudit Southwest Italian in Picacho Hills. The restaurants are a return to a more formal type of dining for Morales’ brand.

“People are so used to our Santa Fe Grill burritos but then they don't know our entrees that my dad has under his belt,” said Mariah Baeza, Morales’ daughter.

Jake’s Café closed in the summer of 2022. Owner Jake Harkness transitioned to operating Voodoo Burgers on University Avenue.

Forghedaboudit owners Bob and Kim Yacone were involved in a domestic violence dispute in September which left Kim Yacone dead. Bob Yacone was shot by Doña Ana County Sheriff’s deputies on scene and later died from his injuries.

Santa Fe Restaurant started in Las Cruces around the late 1980s to early 1990s. It was a place where people could sit and enjoy a meal, in contrast to the brand’s fast-food model in recent years.

There are still details to finalize at the Picacho Hills location, but the restaurant is already welcoming customers. Baeza is the general manager, along with her mother, Cynthia Morales.

The menu is much more expansive than grill fans are used to, but still features breakfast burritos. The brand’s popular Mexican cuisine is on the menu, but Morales said they are also throwing in entirely different dishes such as fettuccine, brisket and other rotating options. Breakfast items include classic bacon and eggs, waffles, pancakes, burritos, French toast and menudo.

Baeza said she intends to introduce healthier options too, which she personally enjoys, such as smoothies.

Morales said the plan is to hold a soft opening Feb. 1. Once the liquor license is signed off on, they will offer cocktails and beer as well.

Meanwhile, construction is still ongoing at the Lohman location. Morales said he anticipates opening in four to six weeks. Grand openings will happen in the spring with music and community members.

“A lot of my friends in the community, a lot of good, loyal customers, business people – they’re encouraging me, they’re helping me to be successful,” Morales said.

He has been in business in Las Cruces for 33 years and he credited the people around him for the success he has experienced.

Baeza, 21, started getting involved at Santa Fe Grill when she was 10, going on catering runs with her father and uncle. She started managing her first store at 18.

“I would wake up at five in the morning and do caterings with him, burrito runs like we would do for NMSU, the hospitals, NASA, different businesses,” Baeza said.

Morales’ hands-on approach to the business is also what she said she intends to bring to the restaurant.

“He really does do everything,” she said. “That's what … he's always taught me to do.”

Santa Fe Restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. It is located at 1338 Picacho Hills Dr. and soon at 1340 E. Lohman Ave. They will be available for catering, drive-thru, delivery and through third-party delivery like DoorDash.

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Leah Romero is the trending reporter at the Las Cruces Sun-News and can be reached at 575-418-3442, or @rromero_leah on Twitter.