Greg Jednak serves dinner to Sheila Cox, Colleen and Larry Lopez and David Cox, from left, at the Legal Tender in Lamy. The restaurant, open Thursday through Sunday, is run as a nonprofit. The wait staff is all-volunteer; only the cooks are paid. – Jane Phillips/The New Mexican

A sign for the newly opened Legal Tender. – Jane Phillips/The New Mexican

Willi Haye and Bill Davis dance Friday to the Buffalo Nickle band at Legal Tender. – Jane Phillips/The New Mexican

Legal Tender reopens in Lamy
Andra Cernavskis | The New Mexican
Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012– 7/16/12


Just 18 miles south of Santa Fe, a piece of history has been restored.The Legal Tender Saloon & Restaurant in Lamy reopened in March after 14 years.

The reopening of the beloved saloon is due in large part to the efforts of Cindy and John Jednak, according head chef Charles Thompson. But it was also a community effort.

The couple ceaselessly fundraised throughout the communities of Galisteo and Eldorado, and the people responded.

The restaurant is now back in full swing Thursday through Sunday.

“We are still trying to carry on the tradition. We have two-step Thursdays. We have bands every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For brunch on Sundays, we have bands come play on the patio. We have different bands, from country to rockabilly,” Thompson said.

There is a stage in the main dining room, and all of the bands that perform are local.

The place still maintains its Old West saloon atmosphere. One of the only new things about the building is the new fire system. The bar still maintains its 1880s glamour, and the poker room in the back still sports bullet holes that have been there for decades. Every Thursday night, one can still find people playing a game of Faro back there, despite of betting at has got so popular recently.

The atmosphere brings in a diverse crowd, according to Thompson. Anyone from tourists to local cowboys will come in on a given night. “It’s funny, you’ll come in on the weekend, and you will see the whole bar lined up with cowboys in cowboy hats drinking wine. I walk out there and see cowboys drinking wine and think ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ ” he said, laughing.

The Legal Tender hosted a large Fourth of July barbeque at which bands also played. That brought out a crowd of about 500 strong. Another barbeque is in the works for Labor Day weekend.

The activity is drawing people who were regulars years ago.

“We have people who came here back in the 1980s coming back and saying how glad they are that this place has reopened,” Thompson said. “It’s nothing but fun.”

And, of course, there is always the food. The menu at The Legal Tender is one that is always changing based on what is in season, according to Thompson. He likes to bring in food from the local farms and integrate it into the menu so as to stay local and sustainable. He also takes a trip to the fish warehouse in Santa Fe every weekend to pick up the freshest catch for the weekly fish specials.

If the food and music is not enough, diners can also visit the Lamy Railroad & History Museum, which resides in the same building and contains a lot of railroad artifacts from the time when Lamy was a railroad town.

Both the museum and restaurant run as nonprofit organizations. The Jednaks have made the restaurant one of their projects through their nonprofit, Learning Mind, which focuses on promoting education for underprivileged youth.

This means that all of the people who work in front of the house are doing so on a purely volunteer basis. The only paid staff is the kitchen crew.

According to Thompson, the volunteers are people who really just want to see the place open and busy again. “They just like what they do. … It puts Lamy back on the map and brings people out to the town. It was such a dead town for such a long time,” he said.

There are about 15 volunteers, and they range in all ages. On weekends, you will sometimes see Peter, an 8-year-old, bussing tables.

The entire operation also still runs on donations. Thompson pointed out the umbrellas on the patio, which were all donated by customers and have the donors’ names on them.

As the only business currently residing in Lamy, it certainly is a community affair.