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Home / Articles / Food / Food Writing /  Bee-licious!
food
Counter culture: Menke strikes a pose between sandwich making.
Enrique Limón

Bee-licious!

New express bistro creates a big buzz

December 4, 2012, 8:00 pm

The Beestro (101 W Marcy St., 629-8786) might be so named for the quick grab-and-go-type lunch service customers expect when buzzing in and out of the tiny, new take-out spot on West Marcy Street.

The name could be a reference to the beeline the café’s owners hope folks will make to their three, “entirely new to Santa Fe” curbside-service pick-up zones, where bills are paid in cash or credit card via “car hops” toting smartphones topped with Squares.

The Beestro how-to? Consult the day’s menu online, call in your order, pull up outside and, with a quick sign of the fingertip and grab of your brown bag, you’re on your way—receipt’s already landed in your email inbox.
Turns out, though, that the reason behind the Beestro’s apiarian moniker is chef Greg Menke’s personal pledge to save the honeybee.

For now, beyond the cute word-play and the Beestro’s hive and honeybee graphics (plus a few pots of rich, amber-colored honey for sale at the counter), Menke’s passion to save apis mellifera, or the Western honey bee, has barely been tapped.

Honeybees provide a big backstory for the private chef and trained beekeeper’s newest enterprise. While, at face value, Beestro builds on Menke’s year-old lunch delivery service to downtown offices, this initial expansion is just a small part of a much bigger vision.

Menke’s dream includes establishing the Beestro as part of a bee-centric general store called Mellifera; developing Mellifera into a fully stocked, multi-faceted retail shop and educational space serving honeybees; growing his store/café combo into a nationally recognized brand name; and simultaneously fighting bee colony collapse through Mellifera’s mission in action. Even bigger is Menke’s hope that through Mellifera, he can inspire and educate customers to create a harmonious lifestyle “modeled by the incredible organization of the honeybee.”

At its most basic, the Beestro remains a take-out café. Each weekday morning, Menke prepares soups, salads and sandwiches in an offsite commissary kitchen, and the chef-made goods are delivered to the tiny lunch counter between Mira and the Design Warehouse by 10 am.

Recently, I ordered a roasted veggie panini ($7.95) and a veggie antipasto salad ($10). Within 15 minutes, I pulled up to the delivery zone in front of the Beestro’s gate. There, I was met with a fat brown sack and handed an iPhone to complete my credit card charge. A few minutes later, I was parked in a sunny alley, eating lunch with a friend.

The antipasto salad—more greens and root shreds than antipasto plate—came plugged with feta and topped with a tangle of beets and carrots. An artichoke heart, a black olive or two and a single little caper berry topped the greens. The Greek dressing was light and bright.

When it comes to sandwiches, I’d stick with the deli-case variety (or grab the $10 apple, ham and havarti panini on rye) over the veggie panini. While the veggies were certainly fresh and the nut-free kohlrabi pesto was tasty and original, the warmed lavash flatbread didn’t travel well; the sandwich was soggy; and the paper was oil-spotted when unwrapped. Flavorful enough, with great fried eggplant and a wealth of little mushrooms, the veggie sandwich might be one to order and eat on one of the stools out front.

The Beestro also does a soup of the day, ($6.50 bowl; $3.95 cup) and makes a mean pumpkin posole.
An inspiring phone call with chef Menke made me understand that the Beestro, however original its pop-up concept might be to Santa Fe’s lunch landscape, ought best be considered a work in progress. The café was opened as one piece of a greater puzzle. I can’t wait to see Mellifera open full-scale, with the Beestro as one cell in a buzzing, vibrant hive of honey, products, books, classes and seeds that will help create a life lived in balance.

 

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