Wanda Simmons (far left) takes an order as the first customers sit down for the reopening at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

If the number of restaurants is any indication, business is good in Magdalena.

With the long-awaited reopening of the Magdalena Café on Tuesday, the village now boasts – along with the High Country Lodge Restaurant, Kelly’s Place  Café and Tumbleweeds Diner – four eating places.

The venerable eatery had been closed for several months by the previous owner, who relinquished possession of the business in November.

That impelled the original owners, Alanna and George Van Winkle, to decide to jump back in and keep the business going. They opened the Magdalena Café 35 years ago.

The original Magdalena Cafe on Highway 60.
File photo

“It feels kinda’ good,” Alanna said Tuesday morning. “Everything’s the same for breakfast and lunch. We love seeing our regular customers come back in.”

A little history of the restaurant.

It had been a fixture at the west end of First Street for more years than anyone can remember.

“We were in the original location for 20 years,” Alanna said. “When we moved to Magdalena in 1986, Linda Contreras had the restaurant. I started helping her out a lot and ended up taking over.”

She said a restaurant has always occupied that little building at the end of town.

“Rose Jiron built it and did a good business serving the cattle drivers,” Alanna said. “She would be up by 4 a.m. to start making doughnuts and coffee every morning.”

In the beginning, the menu at the Magdalena was simple, Alanna said.

“Burgers, burritos, a daily special, the basics,” she said. “Over the years it slowly grew, with sandwiches and more dinners being added on. The homemade pies are well received, our Magdalena Burger is probably still the most popular single menu item.”

It’s business as usual for Alanna Van Winkle (left) and Wanda Simmons at the Magdalena Cafe.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

She said her mother, Elsie Case, who taught her how to cook, donated some recipes.

“People in town contributed other recipes,” she said.

The present location on Main Street gave the restaurant twice the floor space.

“We wanted to give it a ‘homey’ feel,” Alanna said at the time. “A friendly place. Also to give travelers a good impression of Magdalena.”

Besides polished hardwood floors, the café brought in new tables and chairs.

“We wanted something a little bit different, a little nicer,” Alanna said.

She said the one thing that keeps her and George going are the customers.

“Everybody has always been nice, the people in town, the travelers,” she said. “We also have great customers from Alamo. “We try to keep everything upbeat.”

Wanda Simmons, who has worked at the café on and off since starting at the first location, said on the opening morning business was non-stop, even with COVID-19 required spaced out tables.

It’s been steady, busy,” she said in between taking orders. “We weren’t sure there’d be this big a crowd.”

Wanda mentioned that she also the café’s pie-maker. “I bake all kinds. We make different ones each day. Today I have apple, lemon meringue, millionaire, and also chocolate cake,” she said.

café hours are 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, dine-in or take-out.

“Just like before,” Alanna said. “We love seeing all the old friends and faces back here.”

 

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