Borderland Café finds success in Columbus
When a small building at the south end of the village, formerly home to a church, went up for sale, Lawrence Haddad and his fiancée pounced on it.
As he told the story, Haddad – owner and chef of the Borderland Café – was working on one of his signature burgers, the Pancho, topping it with local green chiles and Mennonite cheese. The New Orleans-born restaurateur had been running his own food truck in Austin, Texas when he and his fiancée welcomed their daughter to the world. His fiancée, Adriana Zizumbo, grew up in Columbus, and during a visit to her hometown they noted that the former church sat at an optimal corner for a restaurant – the junction of NM-11 and NM-9.
“It was the location that sold us,” said Zizumbo. “I used to live here, and I know what I wish I had when I was younger.”
With Haddad’s final touches on the burger complete, a server handed it over to customer seated in his pickup truck by the café’s pickup window – a feature that had been recommended by Zizumbo’s father.
Zizumbo remembers much local pessimism about their vision. “A lot of people were telling us in the beginning it wasn’t going to work out because people like Mexican food,” she recalled. “Some people even told us the Border Patrol wasn’t going to stop here because they often don’t like eating in local areas.”
Haddad added, “That’s a stigma around here and I think that’s why there are not a lot of successful places.”
Four months after opening, the café is feeding local residents, Customs and Border Protection officers, truck drivers on their routes, and construction workers at the new Port of Entry south of the village. Haddad estimates that roughly 30 percent of their business comes from motorists crossing the country on Highway 9. “We meet people from Australia, Germany, France, you name it,” he said.
Zizumbo took charge of the dining room’s warm colors and exposed wood, its historically themed décor with images of Pancho Villa and Brigadier General John Pershing alongside her own scenic photography. Haddad designed the kitchen and pickup areas. The building’s office area became a spacious break room where they and their servers relax during breaks. They even invested in a foot massager for welcome relief after hours of standing and walking.
“It’s been a lot of work, but our vision has come to light,” said Haddad. “We’re happy with the return and with our customers. We see the same faces every day.”
The Borderland Café is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner six days a week, with a menu varied enough to keep local customers coming back every day and sometimes more than once. The fare includes burgers, various subs and pizzas, a chicken gyro that has become a local favorite, lively salads, as well as standards like huevos rancheros and quesadillas.
The local lunch crowd likes the variety, and in August Haddad is planning to make some changes and keep offering novel options for café regulars. “Some people get the gyro or the Pancho literally every day, but I can tell some customers need something new – we don’t want to get complacent. You want to keep it fresh, keep it new.”
The couple have 2 employees and are open 6 days per week. Yet even Mondays are not a day off: that’s the day they travel to El Paso to replenish supplies and prepare for another 6-day week.
They hope one day to have a staff who can fill in and allow them more time for family and rest. Haddad even says, “I wouldn’t send my daughter to the restaurant industry. It has its rewards, but it is a lot of work.”
Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at 575-546-2611 (ext. 2608) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go…
Who: Lawrence Haddad, Adriana Zizumbo
What: Borderland Café
Where: 315 NM Highway 9, corner of NM Highway 11
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.