Tia Sophia’s (210 W. San Francisco St., 505/983-9880, 7 a.m.–2 p.m. Mon.–Sat., $6) is one of the last greasy-spoon places in the plaza area, serving old-time New Mexican plates without a touch of fusion—so authentic, in fact, the kitchen claims to have invented the breakfast burrito.
Show up early in the morning at Plaza Café (54 Lincoln Ave., 505/982-1664, 7 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, $8) to eavesdrop on local political gossip (the mayor’s phone number is posted on the wall, along with the weather forecast), as regulars roll in to read the paper and load up on coffee and great renditions of New Mexican and American diner favorites. This is no greasy spoon, though—the “harvest oatmeal” and piñon blue-corn pancakes are a great change of pace from breakfast burritos. Lunch and dinner are equally good and fresh. If you’re lucky, it’ll be someone’s birthday, which calls for a serenade with the Mexican tune “Las Mañanitas” (though locals fondly remember the old days, when the unofficial birthday anthem was “And Then There’s Maude”).
The French Pastry Shop (100 E. San Francisco St., 505/983-6697, 6:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $7) delivers just that, plus sweet crepes, croque monsieurs, and chewy baguette sandwiches. Early mornings are the best for catching a fascinating crew of Santa Fe  regulars. Another solid French option is Clafoutis (402 N. Guadalupe St., 505/988-1809, 7 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., $8), a cozy, farmhouse-feeling café where you’ll be greeted with a cheery “Bonjour!” This place is great at lunch, for sandwiches, and cagettes, platters of charcuterie or smoked fish, along with cheese and salad—sort of the French equivalent of a bento box.
For an exceptionally casual lunch, stop in at the Five & Dime General Store (58 E. San Francisco St., 505/992-1800, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 8 a.m.–7 p.m. Sun., $4), on the south side of the plaza. Formerly a Woolworth’s where, allegedly, the Frito pie was invented (Frito-Lay historians beg to differ), the knickknack shop has maintained its lunch counter and still serves the deadly combo of corn chips, red chile, onions, and cheese, all in the Fritos bag. Eat in, or, better, lounge on the plaza grass—and don’t forget the napkins.