Arroyo Seco: Small Town Charm
Towns don’t get much smaller than Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. The village can be found nine miles outside Taos and is home to fewer than 1500 people. Tucked into the base of Taos Mountain, it has a homespun, eco-friendly feel and is packed with artists and outdoorsy folk. The main ‘drag’ is maybe two blocks long, if you’re being generous. That said, there’s plenty packed into those blocks.
Stroll into the mercantile, which dates back to 1895. There you can find anything from jewelry to handmade soap, lace, or bultos (wooden sculptures of saints or religious figures, which are traditional in New Mexico).
Pause outside the mercantile to admire the mural and a Chevy pickup from the 1950s. Behind the truck, there is the dinkiest garden, featuring lavender bushes, a flowering arbor (depending on the season) and a rustic wagon. It’s the perfect size for Arroyo Seco.
Galleries selling jewelry, pottery and art line the street. Many have fun sculptures out front – we spotted a ‘snake’ formed from square pipes.
You know those roadside honor stands where you can buy fruit or baked goods? Well, in Arroyo Seco, there is an honor stand selling ceramics. We ducked into Scott Carlson Pottery, because it was the first ceramics store established in town – plus it was housed in a glorified shed, so we were intrigued. Within the small structure, mugs, juicers and jugs hung on pegs. The shelves were stocked with vases and wine chalices in hues of blue, green and brown. We picked up a jug and slid the money into the lockbox attached to the door.
Directly across from Scott Carlson Pottery, is Hondo Seco Road. If you amble a few feet down it, then veer right, you’ll find Sol. Sol bills itself as a natural food market and that’s no joke – I’ve never seen so much soy in one place.
There is also a coffee/tea/juice bar inside the store, where you can enjoy tea brewed in chemical-free teabags (it never occurred to me that there would be chemicals in tea-bags before) or sip one of their juices. Lane tested the flu fighter, a blend of apple, ginger and carrot. That’s it – there’s not even water added. Given that Lane views carrots as the source of all evil, it’s a testament to Sol that she gulped down the entire thing. There is limited seating – think a few outdoor tables and scattered Adirondack chairs.
If you’re looking for heartier fare, head to Taos Cow. This café proudly promotes the ‘rBGH-free, all-natural super premium ice cream’ that is responsible for putting the eatery on the map. I ordered the Chocolate Rio Grande, a chocolate ice cream studded with chocolate chips and piñon nuts. The latter is a type of regional pine nut, which is highly prized because an abundant harvest only occurs every seven years.
The piñon nuts lent a smoky flavor to the ice cream. After the first bite or two, the Chocolate Rio Grande seemed tasty, with a higher ice content than usual, but otherwise unexceptional. However, something strange happened: the more I ate, the more I craved! Usually, I find the reverse is true.
Taos Cow also offers café-style food. Lane sampled the hot pastrami Reuben, which was tangy but not bitter, less greasy than usual and not overly pickled. I went for the Swiss and ham on rye – ask them to go easy on the mustard as it was a little overpowering and I’m a mustard fan. We were impressed by the freshness of the bread. There are both indoor and outdoor seating options at Taos Cow.
Arroyo Seco is an adorable place to spend an afternoon. Just ask Julia Roberts – she has a ranch nearby.
- The best time of year to visit Arroyo Seco is early fall.
- The mercantile is located at 488 State Road 150. Scott Carlson Pottery is on State Road 150. Sol can be found at 591 Hondo Seco Road. The address for Taos Cow is at 485 Highway 150. Dogs are not welcome.
What is your favorite small town in the Southwest?