Lamy’s Historic Legal Tender Reopens

"...a refreshed and refurbished Legal Tender is open for commercial catering and events and as an eatery and night spot on weekends"

Date March 5, 2012 at 3:42 PM

Author Greta Chapin McGill

Publication SantaFe.com

Categories Culture Entertainment & Nightlife Food

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Named for the first archbishop of the New Mexico, Lamy is a quaint little town about 20 miles south of Santa Fe. The town was built with the arrival of the railroad in New Mexico. The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, one of the largest lines in the country, came through Lamy on its way west. One of the few buildings in Lamy not owned by the railroad was the general store and saloon across the street from the train station. Built in 1881 and owned by a German merchant named John Pfluger, the structure has gone through a few changes and owners over the years.

Railways Change the Country

The appearance of the railroads marked a dramatic turning point in U.S. history. Fortunes were made in the rail business and millions of people were employed building, repairing and supporting rail construction. The country became connected in ways unimaginable at the time.  Railroads affected everything from news dissemination to food logistics. The affect of the cross country railway construction boom of 1863 to 1869 is comparable to changes the Internet has made on society today.

Can-Can Girls to Steaks and Burgers

The general store and saloon across from the train station offered travelers a respite on their way west. The bar and poker room was lively with patrons eager for diverson from the long journey. As a popular night spot during World War II, the business was known as the Pink Garter, complete with can-can girls. Sold in 1950 to R.O. Anderson, an oil man associated with Atlantic Richfield, the name was changed to Legal Tender and the restaurant became known for its steaks, burgers and Southwestern food. Eventually bought by Richard Fisher, a businessman from New York, the structure was gifted to the citizens of the small town of Lamy as a railroad museum in 2004.

Legal Tender Today

Today a refreshed and refurbished Legal Tender is open for commercial catering and events and as an eatery and night spot on weekends.  Connected to Santa Fe by the Santa Fe Railway Spur, Lamy is a destination for tourists and locals and itʼs worth the trip to sit at Legal Tender's ornate bar that dates to 1880 or thereabouts, and stroll through the El Capitan Poker room.  You will feel like you have just stepped into your favorite old Western movie. 

There's also the lure of the ghost of the Lady in White.  Local residents say this specter appears on a regular basis, standing at the foot of what used to be the staircase to the balcony in the main dining room. 

The railroad museum exhibits artifacts from the time when Lamy was a busy stopover on the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.  If you are a train enthusiast, you wonʼt want to miss this museum. 

New Menu and Great Music

Open weekends with a great new menu, Legal Tender serves up delicious barbecue pulled pork, steaks and burgers prepared by chef John Conlon.  There are also plenty of vegetarian options and kids meals.  John and Cindy Jednak are In charge of the food service and special events, and they are are enthusiastic about the future of this new face of Legal Tender.  “All of our staff are volunteers who believe in the preservation of the spirit of Legal Tender and its history,” says John, “We have had folks come in who remember the old days of Legal Tender and have come back.  We've even had people who remembered the days of the Pink Garter and have brought their grandchildren to enjoy the ambiance of Legal Tender.” 

Music is a big part of Legal Tenderʼs new look.  There is always music on Friday and Saturday nights, so you can listen to some good country tunes and polish up your two step. There is no cover for the music—itʼs just part of the Legal Tender experience.

Supporting the Community

The Jednaks, in partnership with the Lamy Railroad Museum, are committed to giving back to the community.  They are working with the Santa Fe Culinary Institute to map out a program offering students mentoring and internships at Legal Tender. 

This month, Legal Tender celebrates Founders Month, in honor of the founders of the Lamy Railroad and History Museum who saved the building from fading into history. The Jednaks invite you to experience an evening of classic family Southwestern fare and entertainment and take a step back into the exciting days of the railway experience at Legal Tender.  You can take an afternoon train ride from Santa Fe on weekends.  Be sure to make Legal Tender a destination for something new and exciting to do in Santa Fe.

Visit Legal Tender's website for details about Founders Month special events.

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