An Interview with Patrick and Kelly Torres, Owners
Local Hero: Best Restaurant, Greater New mexico
Photos by Stephanie Cameron
Kelly and Patrick Torres are best friends, wife and husband, creative partners, and owners of the Black Bird Saloon in Los Cerrillos. They think of themselves as modern day pioneers, living and working in an adobe saloon building built in the late 1880s, which they turned into a popular restaurant in 2017. Kelly cooks and creates most of Black Bird Saloon’s menu, and Patrick runs the front of house.
How did you get to where you are now? What’s the backstory, and what was the moment that brought you to your current work?
We dreamed of working for ourselves. We both had spent many years in the food service industry, which gave us a good platform of experience and knowledge of exactly what it takes to run a successful food establishment. Both of our previous positions in restaurants were always in the front of house. However, Kelly’s personality fits well in the back of house; she enjoys food, ingredients, and being creative. Patrick is strong in operations and running the business side of it, plus he enjoys the social part of hospitality.
We desired something small in scale, unique in space and experience, and something you might find in Old World Europe. Our concept would include counter service and our menu would be displayed on a chalkboard. We are big fans of craft beer and wine so we would offer both on tap. Our food offerings would be simple, honest, and sourced locally, when possible. We would provide a menu that we knew how to do well and feature some flavors from our own childhood. Our goal was to find a live-work setting also.
But when and where would be the right time and place for us to begin? Those discussions happened for several years. In 2014, the timing must have been right because Los Cerrillos just kind of showed up. We both instantly knew that this was it and saw something that we believed in. We followed our intuitions and made it happen!
What is your food philosophy?
We wouldn’t give our guests anything we wouldn’t eat or drink ourselves. We make what we know and have tried to perfect over the seventeen years we’ve been cooking together. We don’t try to be something we’re not. What you see is what you get. We keep our ingredients simple and fresh, while trying to source locally and organically, and we are committed to keeping our standards high and affordable as there aren’t currently a lot of options for food in Los Cerrillos. It is also satisfying to offer things that may not be the norm in this area.
Black Bird offers meats not readily available in other local restaurants—elk, venison, rabbit, bison. Tell us a bit about your sourcing and your favorite dishes using these ingredients.
Kelly: When I was visualizing our restaurant concept, I took myself back to another time where I imagined that Native Americans and settlers or miners may have hunted for their primary source of food. I always felt strongly about incorporating a few game meats (which I love myself) into our menu. It seemed to fit the saloon-like atmosphere. The meats are high quality, farm raised, and sourced from all around North America. It works for us and I am pleasantly surprised each week how well our Trail Blazer Elk Burger sells. I am a fan of all things sausage, so I try to offer a few unique ones on our menu.
Kelly and Patrick Torres.
Patrick: One of my favorite dishes on our menu is the Sausage Duel—one venison sausage along with one herbed rabbit sausage, served with a side of dijon and our house-made blueberry mustard.
What has Black Bird meant for the town of Los Cerrillos?
It’s hard to speak for others in our community, but I hope that we have brought something good here. We like to say that we didn’t want to change anything about the village but rather hoped to enhance what already existed. Thursday nights at the Black Bird have turned out to be somewhat of a locals night where they enjoy food and drink and catching up. Some say that they may not have ever come across a conversation with one another had we not opened. That says a lot to us.
What else should visitors do in Los Cerrillos?
Other local businesses exist here, such as art galleries and a mining museum with petting zoo. The [Cerrillos Hills] State Park has five miles of trails in our little hills for hiking and biking. They also provide information on the turquoise mines at the park’s visitors center. If you enjoy horseback riding, then check out The Broken Saddle, which offers guided tours and sunset rides. Sometimes, just taking a stroll through town is a nice way to take it all in, plus many of the buildings have historical markers. In addition, there are annual events like the Cerrillos Fiestas, a Local Yard Sale, Art in The Park, and history tours. Check cerrillosnewmexico.com.
What does being selected as a Local Hero mean to you?
It’s an honor to be an edible Local Hero. When we set out to open the Black Bird Saloon, we wanted to open a restaurant that reflected our passion for good, quality food and drink. We focused on making it a locals place where people wanted to come and feel special. We didn’t even consider receiving any accolades. It is heartwarming and humbling to be noticed in such a way. It is an incredible feeling to share the stage with so many other great honorees on the list this year. Thank you.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?
This spring we are looking forward to starting our first hive of honey bees, something that we’ve been working toward for many years. We hope to have a healthy, happy, successful hive as they are so valuable to our lives. We also have a three-quarter-acre piece of land behind the restaurant that we have been developing for a garden and orchard. Slowly we have been introducing what we grow into our menu. We would like to get to a point where we can supplement what we buy with what we grow in our garden and orchard.
28 Main Street, Los Cerrillos, 505-438-1821, blackbirdsaloon.com