It’s steeped in the history of Taos and two of its prominent families. The reception area bears the look and feel of a Spanish Colonial cathedral. Downtown Taos is right outside the front door, and the “killer breakfast” is one reason why many keep returning year after year.
Put these all together and you’ve got the top bed and breakfast in Taos, Casa Benavides, voted in for yet another Best of Taos accolade in 2017.
“It’s a family business in the truest sense,” said owner Tom McCarthy when contacted about winning The Taos News annual survey.
You can’t get much more family than Casa Benavides. McCarthy grew up right down Kit Carson Road, and his wife, the late Barbara Benavides McCarthy, was raised next door to the future B&B. What was to become Casa Benavides was, at various times, a welfare office, rehab center and private residence.
“Barbara would tell stories to our visitors about Mabel Dodge Luhan, Georgia O’Keeffe and those awful McCarthy boys,” he said with a laugh. “She would throw snowballs and apples at me, and she got a lot of mileage out of those stories.”
As they got older, Tom and Barbara became high school sweethearts before marrying and having three kids. Each went into education — Barbara taught physical education and Tom coached the state champ basketball team — but they always had an eye on getting into business.
“We both had a passion for doing things,” McCarthy said.
Restless, the couple bought into the McCarthy family retail business on Taos Plaza, El Mercado, and then a couple more. In 1989, Barbara got an itch to own the former Lewis Art Gallery on Kit Carson Road along with adjacent properties. To finance the purchase, the McCarthys started Casa Benavides with seven rooms.
Location, location, location has always made Casa Benavides popular: “You just put your keys in the room and leave your car in the parking space,” said McCarthy.
At a “bed and breakfast,” the second half of the name is as important as the first. To that end, Casa Benavides prides itself in cooking up a “killer” first meal of the day. Every breakfast is freshly prepared and features the secret recipe “Barbara’s Drop Dead Granola,” egg frittata with the award-winning red chile sauce, a variety of homemade muffins, fruit, yogurt and juices.
Loyal customers come back again and again, he said, from Colorado, Texas, Mexico and Albuquerque. Easily half are returnees, he said, coming for the cooler weather in the summer, the skiing in the winter or just a break from the hustle and bustle. And now, as the Taos music scene flourishes, McCarthy sees more music aficionados staying at the B&B and walking to Kit Carson Park for a concert.
Barbara’s touch is all over Casa Benavides. Early on, she traveled in Mexico as a buyer and had a passion for the Southwestern style. So it makes sense that the reception area has high ceilings, stout vigas and walls full of Southwestern artwork. In the 38 rooms that spread across 2 acres and seven buildings, the Southwestern/Taos motif extends. Rooms bear names such as Anasazi, Azteca, Jemez and Guadalajara as a nod to Mexico and New Mexico; Blue Lady, Trapper and Frontier to honor El Norte; and John’s to honor Tom’s father.
“Barbara designed everything, she had a true touch for design, and I hung onto her coattails for her whole life,” McCarthy said with his usual humility.
There’s a remodel going on, and the McCarthy kids are becoming more and more involved in the business. But little will change to make Casa Benavides anything different than it has for nearly three decades.
“It feels like a home here, and that will always be the way it is,” McCarthy said.