IF IT’S AN ELECTION YEAR in San Miguel County, you’re likely to meet a politician at Charlie’s. “They love this place,” says owner Charlie Sandoval. “That’s the only time I get to see the governor.” He attributes “a lot of action” at the restaurant to its slogan as “the meeting, eating, greeting place of Las Vegas,” where ranchers, tourists, New Mexico Highlands University students, and abuelos mingle and catch up while enjoying a large menu of New Mexican and American classics. There’s a lot to see at Charlie’s, from the enormous cream puff emerging from the café’s storefront to the large-scale, fanciful paintings of burgers, pancakes, and sundaes done by Sandoval’s son Isaac (owner of the Skillet, a restaurant nearby that caters to a younger crowd). At the center of the spectacle is the tortilla-making operation, which begins at 5 a.m. and produces 100 dozen a day.
Try this: “The secret to everything is the tortillas,” says Sandoval, who based the thick, fluffy flour disks on his mother’s recipe. Try a hot buttered one with whatever you order, then take a dozen ($6.99) home for later. Founded: 1950. Region: Northeast. Price: $$. charliesbakeryandcafe.com