YUKON — Green Chile Kitchen Route 66, 12 E Main St., sprang to life in October, but its seeds were planted almost 92 years ago and didn't sprout until 2006 in San Francisco.
Yukon's already ascending reputation as a dining destination thanks to the addition of Hensley's Top Shelf Grill now takes a quantum leap skyward with the addition of the New Mexico-inspired restaurant.
Owned by the Logan family, who have called Yukon home for five generations, the restaurant breathes life into a long-standing space with a colorful history. The menu pays tribute to local history while offering dishes rarely seen in these parts. But it might surprise you to learn Yukon's green chile gold mine also serves some of the best pie you'll ever let cross your lips.
Green chile and pie represent the collected wisdom of Trevor Logan, from his childhood in Yukon to college in Santa Fe, N.M., to owning and operating the original Green Chile Kitchen and its two sister restaurants in the Bay Area.
“I'm so glad my sister and brother wanted to open a restaurant here so that components of my other hometowns, Santa Fe and San Francisco, could be part of my original hometown of Yukon,” Logan said.
New Mexico vs. Tex-Mex
I don't know if it's cultural or what, but for some folks inclusion is akin to heresy. There will be those who go to Green Chile Kitchen and are put off by the fact that the enchiladas aren't rolled, filled with cheese and smothered in what amounts to Wolf brand chile. There will be those who will be put off by not getting a free sampling of queso that's more chicken broth than cheese. There will be those who wonder why they can't get a sizzling skillet of fajitas.
Those items are Tex-Mex staples, which describes a bastardized form of Mexican food founded in San Antonio on the idea of feeding incoming Southerners the gravy they loved with a touch of chile flavor and calling it Mexican. Whether it was Mexican is a matter of debate, but its profitability is beyond question. So, Tex-Mex rages on, and may she reign forever. But that doesn't mean the foods of New Mexico aren't great, too.
In fact, I'll take a cup of green chili stew or posole with a skillet of fajitas any time. I'd rather have an enchilada smothered in green chile than chile con carne. But I like it all.
At Green Chile Kitchen, you'll find flat enchiladas covered in red or green chile or both if you order them Christmas style. They serve tamales, flat enchiladas, soft tacos, chile relleno and carne adovada — a traditional braised pork dish in rich red chile. You'll also find a Frito Green Chile Pie — served in the bag like Woolworth's used to do it. You'll have to pay for the queso, but if you opt for the spicy green chile queso, you'll likely concur that it's money well-spent.
Rotisserie chicken is a specialty of the house, and it is served as quarters, halves and wholes. Logan said the chicken was one of the first things the original served.
“At one point, we did everything on the rotisserie because it was the only cooking appliance we had.”
You can even order Sunday Dinner, which includes two whole chickens, green chile mashed potatoes, green salad, rice, beans, tortillas and calabacitas — a mix of squash, green chile and onions.
“We're dedicated to serving food made from scratch,” Logan said.
For that reason, Logan and his team have been shepherding the menu along since the restaurant opened in October, adding things a little at a time as they've come along. They started out making tortillas in house, but Trevor wasn't satisfied.
“We'll figure it out, and we'll go back to it eventually,” he said. “And we've still got things we'll add in the future like our stuffed sopaipillas.”
That's right, folks, sopaipillas can be stuffed with something other than air and don't have to be rolled in sugar and dappled in honey. They can be stuffed with cheese, green chile, vegetables or fruit. So stay tuned for that.
“We are really committed to using local ingredients as much as possible,” Trevor said. “We just added NoName Ranch for our steak enchiladas, and we're going to be using PeachCrest Farms in the spring.”
Save room for pie
As much as I enjoyed the standard fare at Green Chile Kitchen, it's the pie that's the superstar of this show. And the superstar pie is a product that dates way back in the Logan family.
“Our pies are tribute to grandmother,” Logan said. “Her pies were amazing.”
Eloise Rose was born in February 1921 in Yukon. She married Alva Rose in 1937, and during their 72-year marriage they raised three girls: Myrna, Linda and Cherie.
Cherie married Bill Logan, parents of Trevor, Tara and Trent.
“We just lost her right before Christmas,” Trevor said. “But we were so glad she got to come in and eat at the restaurant before she died.”
Both Eloise and Alva lived to be 91, Alva passing in 2009.
“The whole reason we even started doing pies was because of my grandmother,” Trevor Logan said. “It was such a big part of our lives growing up.”
So much so, that pies were part of the menu even in the early days of the original Green Chile Kitchen, which opened with a little more than 20 seats.
When a new, larger space came open in 2010, Trevor moved Green Chile Kitchen but kept the space to open Chile Pies (& Ice Cream). In 2011, he opened a third location, Chile Pies (Sweet & Savory).
Trevor said there is a difference between the pies they do in San Francisco and those made in Yukon, and it's the crust.
“I grew up on crusts made from shortening,” Trevor said. “But we use only butter in the crusts in the Bay Area.”
He said the Oklahoma location allows him to use shortening like his grandmother did.
“We use half shortening, half butter here,” he said. “I like shortening for the texture of the crust and butter for extra flavor.”
Whatever it is, it's right on the money. This is crust good enough to eat without pie — truly rare.
The specialty of the house is Green Chile Apple Pie, a perfect blend of sweet and savory. For me and the nation of peanut butter and chocolate zealots to which I belong, however, the Peanut Butter Chocolate pie is our new deity.
On my first trip, I had this slice of heaven and asked server Darren Stevens if the pie was available daily. He told me the pies rotate, so it might not be available every day. I assured Darren that every day the Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie isn't served an angel dies. I've been to Green Chile Kitchen four times, and no angels were killed on those days.
As for the variety, just as with other menu items, the pie choices will gradually grow — perhaps even adding savory pies down the road.
Before the fourth Green Chile Kitchen had chosen a home, Trevor was visiting with his cousin, Debi Mahoney, on a pier in Santa Monica, Calif.
“He was trying to decide between a spot near I-35 and the spot downtown,” Mahoney said. “He was really unsure of which way to go. Then he turned and saw a Route 66 sign that read ‘End of the Trail.' He turned back to me and said, ‘I guess I have my answer.'”
Even though Trevor hasn't lived in Oklahoma since graduating from Yukon High School in 1988, the Logan family has remained a pillar of the community. And folks who venture into Green Chile Kitchen won't be surprised to find father, Bill Logan, refilling ice tea or mother, Cherie Logan, who owns the local State Farm Insurance Agency, peeling apples in the kitchen.
Trevor's love affair with the cuisine of New Mexico started upon arriving at the College of Santa Fe in 1988.
There to chase a career in film and video production, Trevor graduated four years later and headed for San Francisco where he ended up booking acts for an old-school cabaret for more years than he intended.
“I loved that job, but when I turned 35, I decided I needed to do look for something new.”
One thing he and friends did a lot was cook — especially the green chiles he'd fallen in love with during his college days.
“We were having this big feast, and I thought to myself, ‘This could be the thing.'”
Sister Tara Peters ended 17 years with Yukon Public Schools as an educator and administrator to take on the challenge of co-owning and managing the restaurant. Brother Trent, who works in maintenance for Yukon schools remodeled the interior of the space with some friends in their off hours.
Cocktail names reflect bygone Yukon institutions, and the Logans plan to be a part of helping revitalize Yukon's historic downtown. Their building is a major part of that. The restaurant lies in the parking lot of the Sands Inn, just east of the old mill in downtown Yukon.
The original Chateau Inn was part of a chain launched by iconic entertainer Liberace in 1965. In its heyday, it boasted French Provincial interiors, the smorgasbord-boasting Chateau Restaurant, an art gallery and a swimming pool behind wrought iron gates emblazoned with an aquamarine ‘C” and ‘I'. But by the late 1980s, the space was being leased to the Jesus House. It then became a Green Carpet Inn and is now the Sands Inn.
The old Chateau Restaurant was home to numerous Lions Club luncheons and city meetings. It's also the place, according to myth, where Elvis Presley once spent the night — though that assertion was debunked many moons ago.
Green Chile Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, go online to www.gckrt66.com or call 265-4346.