Above: Sugar Nymphs Bistro's famous carrot cake. Photograph by Inga Hendrickson.

A few years ago, Sugar Nymphs Bistro got robbed. Kai Harper, the co-owner and chef of the Peñasco restaurant, put out a call for help to recover their losses: Please come and eat here. One guy came in and wrote a check for $505.99: the cost of his hamburger plus $500. A woman pulled a $50 bill out of her bra. The town rallied. The restaurant survived.

Something about Sugar Nymphs feels like home when you walk in. Maybe it’s the aromas from all the fresh-baked goods wafting throughout the one-room restaurant, where walls are covered in local art and a big old woodstove warms the place. Outside, a swing dangles from a cottonwood near the outdoor patio. Dogs visit frequently. It’s one of only a few restaurants on the High Road to Taos, and it feels a little like a community center. For all intents and purposes, Sugar Nymphs and the theater space next door are exactly that.

Sugar Nymphs Bistro in Peñasco

Harper, a practicing Buddhist, came to New Mexico in the 1990s from San Francisco. She started the restaurant in 2001. Her focus is simple food and quality ingredients. To get them, she works with nearby farms in Dixon. The soups and salads are light and tasty, and the pulled pork sandwich and green chile cheeseburger are staples. It might be the carrot cake that gets folks talking the most. (It’s delicious.) Regardless, it is the perfect, homey locale after a trip to one of the many nearby trailheads or art galleries—the type of place worth rallying for.