From Michoacán cuisine and poke to donuts, the city's vegetable-driven restaurants have made an indelible mark.
Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler
White walls, terra cotta pots, and artfully arranged cacti make HOJA, a tiny daytime café on Old South Pearl, feel like a find on some dusty Santa Fe side street. Its aesthetic easily carries over to its focused menu, composed of the mostly vegetarian Mexican plates its name implies ("hoja" is Spanish for “leaf”). With an open kitchen taking up half the room, the restaurant is a tight squeeze with all of five or six tables—yet somehow the space is a breath of fresh air, one that even extends to a shady back patio.
What's the crowd like?
An easy grace emanates from the couple-dozen diners gathered here at any given time; even when there’s a wait, no one huffs or jostles. That sense of calm and well-being perhaps reflects the Platt Park neighborhood as a whole—where young families and empty nesters alike garden and jog and meet to catch up at spots just like this.
What should we be drinking?
Scented with cinnamon and orange, the iced café de olla is Hoja’s creamy, dreamy signature refreshment, but there’s plenty else to consider on the diverse drinks list. Try a guava mimosa made with New Mexican bubbly, a habanero cider, or a glass of crisp white Assyrtiko from Greece; teetotalers can stick with organic yerba mate or pineapple kombucha.
Main event: the food.
The word “beautiful” rarely applies to burritos, but Hoja’s farmer’s burrito is just that. Stuffed so full of scrambled eggs or tofu, hash browns, and green chile that it’s nearly spherical, it’s neatly striped with tahini and hot sauce beneath a cascade of slaw, jalapeño and radish slices, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. And every other dish is just as vividly appealing, from the roasted apricot-and-almond granola with housemade yogurt to the enfrijoladas bursting with veggies—broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, and more—in a black-and-white swirl of bean puree and cashew crema.
How did the front-of-house folks treat you?
Given its size, this place could be a pressure cooker for staff at peak hours, but the counter crew keeps their cool. They smile, they work quickly, and they remain cognizant of their surroundings—noticing, for instance, when lingering customers might need a gentle nudge to cede their table to waiting ones, or when someone might need a compostable to-go cup for an unfinished coffee.
What’s the real-real on why we’re coming here?
You know the mood boost you get from browsing through an old bookstore or inhaling the scent in a florist shop? Hoja has a similar way of lifting the spirit. Come when you need a breather as well as a bite.