2010 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
The food here is African homestyle (with more than a few recognizably Caribbean ones). Locals dine here often, and repeatedly. Out-of-towners can’t help but try it and often return to try other dishes on the menu. And just about everyone finds something here that they don’t just like but love.
Established by its chef and owner Ahmed Obo back in 2009, the restaurant has been doing steady business ever since. The strip mall location matters not in the least to its fans, who year in and year out vote it as one of their favorite restaurants. Obo has won the famed Souper Bowl competition (a contest during the Super Bowl wherein the city’s chefs compete for the best soup) numerous years, and has been featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”.
Obo grew up on the exotic island of Lamu, just off the coast of Kenya, where the cuisines were a mix of European, Arabic, and Indian. He combined these foods with his mother’s home cooking and then added in a bit of the Caribbean for a unique mix that’s all his own. There are jerk chicken wings, a hummus plate, curries, soups, and stews of all kinds (coconut organic tofu curry, Caribbean goat stew, the West African peanut soup), kebabs, cheeses, sweet potato fries (with an irresistibly sweet curry dipping sauce), fried plantains, and imaginative lamb and seafood dishes. There are also desserts, like the addictive flourless coconut chocolate cake and the chocolate almond crust key lime pie.
It’s dark but inviting inside, with a counter and two rooms, and it’s rarely even close to empty. The service is swift, even when it’s packed.
3451 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Although Ten Thousand Waves, Santa Fe’s preeminent sauna and hot tub spa, opened way back in 1981, it took 32 years for the Waves to establish its own on-site restaurant. And it’s not a sister restaurant located in some other part of town. Izanami is but a zen stone’s throw away from the Wave’s massage tables and outdoor pools. Which is why you’ll sometimes be eating next to blissed-out couples with wet hair and wearing nothing but the robes they were given up at the spa just up the hill.
The vibe here, though, from the architecture and interior design to the food, is all Japanese and almost 95 percent organic. The philosophy is based on izakaya Japanese bar that serves food that’s really just there to complement the alcohol. Here, that’s mainly sake. And it’s tapas style, with most of what you order coming in small plates, whether it’s an assortment of pickles, sweet and sour vegetables, rice balls, or the kushiyaki- the Japanese vegetables and meats on skewers that have been grilled over binchotan Japanese charcoal.
There’s a lot of sharing and absolutely no sushi. Izanami is decidedly and purposefully and assertively against having any seafood offerings. What it does have is plenty of sake- over 50, all of which have been carefully selected by the restaurant’s certified sake sommeliers. (They even offer tutorials on sake.)
The offerings come in five categories- cold, hot, fried, and grilled. The desserts, too, are just as interesting and unusual. And diners can eat at one of the booths, at a small table, at the counter in front of the charcoal grill, at the huge community table, or on the floor in the tatami room. And when it’s warm, there’s an outside patio.
105 E. Marcy Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
An unassuming sushi establishment on one of downtown’s more unassuming streets and only a block from the Plaza. Unassuming because from the outside it looks like it may not be open. But it is, and the decor inside, as well as the sushi, is artistically arranged and satisfying.
Sushi chef Brent Jung works there with his mom, Hyunsook, and together the two create a variety of sushi from sashimi and izmi to nigiri and maki, from freshwater eels and red snapper to black caviar and tempura yellowtail. The sashimi comes in large portions, and there’s even a New Mexico roll: shrimp tempura, crab, avocado, red pepper and, natch, green chile.
The service is attentive but, well, also unassuming. Diners here, as at other sushi joints in town, are subdued, focused, there for a sushi fix. Or an Asian fusion dish.
510 N. Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
It’s got Asian food from all over and exotic cocktails to match. It’s dark, it’s across from the city’s first indoor mall, it’s much better than you’d think. And it’s been around for almost 20 years, developing a pretty diehard clientele in that time. (Gene Hackman can still be found there on occasion.)
There’s a bar menu and a lunch and dinner menu. Among the many East Asian cuisines represented, there are pot stickers (Chinese), hoisin-glazed pork ribs (Korean), Vietnamese spring rolls, Malay coconut soup, organic whole edamame (Japanese), pad Thai, Singapore noodles, Mongolian beef, and a jungle green curry (?). But some of the more standout offerings don’t seem to have a specific place of origin: the imperial lettuce wraps (filled with chicken, smoked ham, mushrooms, bean threads, green onions and vegetables, served with a sweet Thai chili sauce), the tempura avocado, the calamari, and the shaking beef.
The ingredients are all 100 percent organic; they use non-GMO tofu, gluten-free tamari (a soy sauce made without wheat), and fresh, high-quality seafood and meats and fruits and vegetables. Plus, their dipping sauces and marinades are made from scratch- never containing preservatives or MSG or made out of a bottle. And many of the dishes are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.
It doesn’t always feel as if you’re in Santa Fe, either. That’s partly because of the diners, many of whom seem to be the second-homeowners who spend only part of the year here, and partly because of the tenebrous lighting and Asian decor.
720 St. Michael's Drive, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
This sushi and Japanese grill (teppan) restaurant seems to have no set hours. It is rarely packed but there’s always someone here. Usually regulars here for the fresh and innovative sushi, as dreamed up by owner and sushi chef Hyon Pak, who spent 20 years perfecting his talents in Las Vegas and Phoenix prior to moving to Santa Fe.
It’s located in a strip mall back from St. Michael’s and just down the way from Smith’s, and catty-corner to a 24-hour fitness gym. But then that’s not unusual for the average sushi bar. Lunchtime gets a pretty steady flow of people, as does happy hour and then dinner. Most of the diners seem to know exactly what they want, and seem to order the same thing every time and there’s pretty much everything you’d expect: from teriyaki and yakisoba to miso soup and noodles, nigiri and sashimi to bento boxes, savory dumplings, salads, and rolls of all kinds. And lots of tempura-fried dishes.
And the sushi, the sushi ranges from various kinds of tuna to shrimp, crab, mackerel, eel, and quail egg. The rolls also include a couple based in green-chile, one with tempura chile and spicy tuna; and several with cream cheese.
927 W Alameda Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
It’s almost a truism: the more unassuming the sushi restaurant setting, the better the sushi. That’s certainly the case at Masa, tucked in between a yoga studio and an equally unassuming Vietnamese restaurant. It gets no snazzier indoors, despite the festive lanterns hanging from the ceiling. No matter. This Japanese fusion eatery excels at pretty much everything from the sushi and the rolls (sashimi and nigiri, twelve-piece plates of tuna, salmon, snapper, and whitefish) to the tempura, noodles, and usual and unusual salads (a chewy octopus salad with celery, avocado, and vegetal spinach). And don’t forget to try the Monkey Ball appetizers- mushrooms stuffed with a spicy tuna in a light tempura batter.
It’s solid food overseen by a friendly staff, and because it’s not just a mall but a mall that’s tied to a very family-friendly neighborhood, they will let you sit and sip at your sake, your tea, for as long as like.
418 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
A longtime resident of the on-again, off-again Design Warehouse quasi-mall that’s just south of the Plaza and squeezed in between various government buildings, a police garage, and the city’s courts, this Chinese restaurant has plenty of seating, a buffet, and consistently savory dishes.
If you go and there’s nobody there, don’t leave. Yin Yang probably does more take-out business than dining in. It is the oldest Chinese restaurant in Santa Fe, and their chef has been doing his thing for almost 20 years. There are authentic Hunan and Peking-style dishes, (taken from recipes dating back to the Chin Dynasty), and the buffet is all-you-can-eat during lunchtime Monday through Friday. And if you like your dishes spicy, be sure to ask for spicy, the chef here will definitely accommodate. Making for a Kung Pao with Pow! And even the chicken and broccoli in garlic sauce will give you a kick.
204 Montezuma Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
This little ol’ French bistro defies all expectations, offering, behind its cases, a wide and impressive selection of gourmet breakfast and lunch dishes. It’s fresh, it’s organic, it’s homey and fast.
There are cinnamon rolls (glazed and not glazed), Whoo’s donuts (a local donut shop that specializes in almost ridiculously creative donuts), pastries, three different soups every day, wonderfully prepared deli sandwiches, and room to sit both inside and out.
It’s kind of sandwiched, in a triangle of real estate, in the heart of many state offices, so it gets plenty of state employees. But that’s hardly a knock; it gives you the impression that state employees, like cops, always know where the best eateries are.
Once you step inside, the pace is as quick as it might be in a bigger city. And the vibe is equally no-nonsense. There are green chile croissants, eggs Antoinette; the French onion soup is a staple, the Rueben as good as those at any great New York or Chicago deli, and the French dips are as good as the soup.
530 S. Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
This sports bar, which boasts the longest bar in Santa Fe, is located right inside the Railyard District, and offers patrons a warehouse-size space in which to drink, nosh, and watch everything from indoor soccer to horse racing to more traditional sports like football and basketball.
But it’s not just bar food being offered by its new owners (who shortened the name from Boxcar Junction to just Boxcar). They hired chef David Mora, formerly of Las Campanas’ rather more swanky Arroyo Vino, who has upgraded the standard fried fare to fare that’s a bit more interesting. There are still staples like chicken wings, quesadillas, nachos, and Frito pies, but there are also shrimp and smoked-gouda grits, jalapeno calamari, and avocado tempura. It’s still largely comfort food (or bar food), just with an uptick in the quality and sophistication of the ingredients (an adult grilled cheese that uses Tucumcari cheddar with bacon and Hatch green chile, chicken and waffles, or the Cubano made with Mojo-brined, slow-smoked Kyzer pork and sweet honey ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, coleslaw, Dijon aioli, pressed on a house baked brioche).
In its renovated incarnation, Boxcar now also has a stage for musical acts, and the TVs of old have all been replaced with 4K HD sets. This gives sports fans a bona fide sports bar to haunt (one that’s not a chain), and when those sports end, it can then transition to a music venue. Both of which make for a good hang.
808 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
For decades El Farol served as one of the City Different’s last options for a late-night place to dance, to drink, to pick up or get picked up. Located at the top of Canyon Road, and part of its storied history (the bullet holes in the bar still give it some cred, even though the crowd never gets even half as rowdy as those heady days of the 60s and 70s), El Farol was sold four years ago.
Fortunately to longtime Santa Fean Rich Freedman, owner of The Teahouse, right across the street, and Freda Scott, El Farol’s general manager for nine years (up to the sale in 2017). They’ve since renovated this landmark, having spiffed it up quite a bit (the creamy colored walls make it easier for the iconic murals to stand out), and the floors are lighter. But they changed the menu as well, hiring on esteemed chef Shane Alexander, and bringing in a legit mixologist (Andrew Roy, longtime Santa Fe bartender and 2016 winner of Arizona Cocktail Week’s “Last Slinger Standing” bartending competition).
There are now pastas, paellas, and steaks, too, but El Farol remains a tapas-heavy menu. There’s a charcuterie and a selection of cheeses, and plenty of seafood options, from the ceviche and calamari to the shrimp-and-mussels stew and sea bass. Everything is served until 10 at night (very late, by Santa Fe standards), and the bar food (chips, salsa, guacamole, and artisanal cheeses) are available until the bar closes.
And there’s usually live music and dancing, with live rock, blues, and jazz, or guitar from quasi-resident flamenco guitarist Mario Febres and dancers from the National Institute of Flamenco can Tuesday through Saturday.
427 West Water Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Tucked away so snugly as to be almost hidden, Fenix is a restaurant and a lounge/piano bar- probably the longest-running lounge in Santa Fe (complete with a resident pianist, Doug Montgomery). It’s been sequestered away in this spot, just off the Santa Fe River off Alameda and about five blocks west of the Plaza, for over 30 years.
Known more for its live music, and therefore regarded by some as a throwback to an earlier era, or maybe as a holdout for a bygone form of entertainment (show tunes, live music that’s more smooth jazz and cabaret than anything too raucous or danceable), Vanessie's, via Fenix, its restaurant, has actually been serving, again, almost clandestinely, quality breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for years: steaks, seafood, pasta, vegetarian dishes, salads and home-made soups.
And the menu is refreshingly eclectic if traditional: from the shishito peppers and ahi tuna tacos to the salmon bowl and filet mignon. There’s an Old World feel to what’s offered and how it’s presented, and in the room itself, with its vertiginously high walls and large windows, and the abundance of dark wood offset by the plenitude of light that’s both natural and electric. There’s plenty of room for large parties and events, be they casual or elegant.
125 E. Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
There aren’t too many restaurants that feature a wait staff capable of belting out Broadway show tunes, and even fewer where the whole singing wait staff thing isn’t just cheesy (and a mask for food that’s so-so) but downright entertaining and with food that’s as rewarding as the music.
Located in the warrens of one of the oldest surviving houses in Santa Fe, Sena Plaza (built in 1868), La Casa Sena is an old hacienda-style spot just one block from the Plaza. And the main dining room is where the stables for the Sena home were once located. Now well into its fourth decade, it’s a bit of a Santa Fe institution, food-wise and entertainment-wise.
Chef Patrick Gharrity offers a New American West cuisine that gets most of its ingredients from local farms, dairies, and ranches. Gharrity only too proudly dips into and features New Mexican products, flavors, and configurations in just about everything he makes. And it’s his philosophy that diners leave sated but not stuffed.
There are also wines of almost every type and for every budget (the Casa Sena inventory totals over 15,000 bottles from around the world). It’s not just the selection but the attitude toward their wine that distinguishes their inventory from other restaurants: Casa Sena doesn’t bow to wine. Instead, they see it as another food on the table, something to be enjoyed every day. And the staff, as good as they are at singing and getting diners to sing along with them, they love and know all of Casa Sena’s wines, too, and love to pass along what they know, and share what they love.
There is music every night from 6 to closing (accompanied by a live pianist), and though it’s mostly show tunes it’s not all show tunes. And the food never takes a back seat to the singing.
1005 South St Francis Drive, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
As lovingly described by jazz trumpeter Chief Sanchez back in 2011, in a story about jazz music for the Albuquerque alternative weekly, the Alibi, Tiny’s served as the “perfect venue” for live jazz: “It’s classy enough, and yet it’s seedy enough at the same time”. Not much has changed since Chief’s observation. Not that it should. Seedy ís never that great, and classy is better. But together? Irresistible.
Still family owned and proud for being known as the best spot for karaoke in Northern New Mexico, if you feel like you’ve been transported back in time, and place, to 1950s northern New Jersey, back to when Tiny’s was first known as “Tiny’s Dine and Dance” when it opened in 1950, as founded by Walter “Tiny” Moore and his son-in-law, Jimmie Palermo, you’d not be far off.
From its inception, Tiny’s was the place to eat, to dance, to be entertained, to see and be seen. Tiny operated the bar, his wife Lucille ran the kitchen. Jimmy’s wife Betty (Tiny’s daughter) served as the hostess. And Jimmie had his own trio (playing accordion).
After moving around a couple more times over the years, Tiny’s found its current home back in 1971. Jimmie’s son, J.R., now runs the place, and seems to have kept it rooted firmly in its “nightclub” past. Yes, the food is decent, burgers, pizza, sandwiches, New Mexican staples. But It’s really about the atmosphere, and the drinks. (Back in the old days, Jimmy’s wife Betty worked as Tiny’s bartender, becoming well-known for her Brandy Alexanders.)
There is an outdoor patio, which seats almost 50, and indoors, there’s room for about 100. The bar features one of the state’s largest decanter collections, and there’s “art” aplenty along the walls, most of it done by locals, some actually by accomplished artists (R.C. Gorman, Barry Coffin, Gib Singleton, Earl Biss, et al). There are other tchotchkes, too, and an oversize train set that circles the chandelier in the middle room.
376 Garcia Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
It’s Santa Fe’s oldest coffee shop and newsstand, and one of the better places in town to spot celebrities (though it’s a major faux pas to drool over anyone you might see here or anywhere in Santa Fe, as the townspeople pride themselves on not gawking at the famous).
It’s often crowded here with locals, and out-of-towners, here for their New York Times or Wall Street Journal, which can now be home-delivered and even found at CVS or Albertson’s. But being able to grab an obscure publication (Film Comment, Purple, German Vogue) and enjoy it with a strong Americanó or a chai, a hot Mexican mocha with ground Ibarra chocolate, or a tea, is a treat.
There are also pastries and cakes (slices, not whole cakes), and sandwiches. But really, people come here to read, to see and be seen (reading), to gab and catch up, either inside, where it’s cheek by jowl seating, or outdoors on the roomier front patio or spacious backyard area (where customers can let their dogs relax as well).
It’s also right next door to Garcia Street Books, and a block away from the starting point for Canyon Road. It’s very literary, only a bit full of itself, and a nice access point for downtown, for art, for the smaller, snakier streets of the city, and just for people watching.
Iconik on Lena, 1600 Lena Street Ste A2, Santa Fe, NM 87505
Iconik Lupe, 314 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
What started out as just another coffee shop (for Wi-Fi-seeking millennials and trustfunders wanting to look busy while not having to do so in a coffee shop as stereotypical as Starbucks) quickly became a success, then took a downturn into an overreach, then resuscitated itself and even expanded.
To be fair, Iconik also separated themselves from their java competitors by buying direct trade coffee, in support of farmers and their communities. This ensured them a certain level of devotion from their clientele, as well as credibility among the un-Iconiks.
Aside from dealing in everything related to the sacred joe, Iconik also offers bagels and burritos, lots of merch, and seems intent on building itself into a sort of lifestyle brand. Their other chief offering seems to be the eternal cup of artisanal coffee, amid the company of likeminded coffee aficionados.
1501 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Located inside the Hotel Santa Fe The Hacienda and Spa (the City Different’s only Native American-owned hotel), Amaya combines local Pueblo and Northern New Mexico dishes with both classical techniques and contemporary touches—from the buttery soft bison brisket, with polenta and squash to the flatiron steak marinated in coffee and citrus. All in a roomy, relaxing inside (kept toasty by the indoor fireplace) or an invigorating yet serene outdoor setting (with mountain views, a birdhouse, and the option of dining inside your own private teepee—which is available from Memorial Day to Labor Day and fits up to six).
Amaya’s chefs bring in the best possible ingredients (from local farmers and ranchers), and blend them seamlessly into dishes that incorporate the latest culinary trends with the most ancient and time-honored foods favored by tribes around the U.S. and native to New Mexico.
There are small plates and shares (from Talus Wind Ranch pork ribs with ancho barbecue sauce to poblano chile rellenos coated in tempura butter), or the always yummy butternut squash soup. And the main menu features salmon, ribeye, and (among other dishes) elk and quail, each rubbed in a sweet yet spicy red chile. And desserts ranging from spiced red wine poached pear to a Native American bread pudding.
As innovative as it is easygoing, Amaya gives its guest a unique dining experience, emphasizing excellent food with an atmosphere that encourages connection.
113 Washington Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
The focus here, in this intimate little jewel nestled inside the Rosewood Inn (just off the Plaza), is: “American food influenced by local flavors.” That translates into a menu that’s always changing, always adapting to the fresh, seasonal ingredients—and to what other chefs are up to not just nearby but as far as away as the ocean.
This go-for-it attitude does not at all mean an abandonment of what’s most dear to locals or expected from outside guests—that Southwestern and Native culinary heritage. It just means there’ll be a bit of a twist to those old-world dishes: there’s a shellfish posole that comes with pink hominy, chorizo and fennel, and awash in an herb-tomato and poblano broth, or the Mescalero Apache prime Angus strip loin comes in a crunchy lobster relleno and red chili sauce.. Or the introduction of something completely outside the ordinary—seafood, lots of seafood: from $100 shellfish tower, a ziggurat of lobster, crab, oysters, mussels, scallops and shrimp to the crudo plate of scallops, yellowfin tuna, grapefruit, orange, daikon, avocado, and carrots with three different olives, plus arugula and mint.
These are all in addition to the fan favorites that guests come back for again and again: duck enchilada molé, diver scallops and Kurobuta pork belly, achiote grilled salmon, grilled elk tenderloin and Angus beef duet with diablo sauce.
There are also wines of almost every type and for every budget (the Casa Sena inventory totals over 15,000 bottles from around the world). It’s not just the selection but the attitude toward their wine that distinguishes their inventory from other restaurants: Casa Sena doesn’t bow to wine. Instead, they see it as another food on the table, something to be enjoyed every day. And the staff, as good as they are at singing and getting diners to sing along with them, they love and know all of Casa Sena’s wines, too, and love to pass along what they know, and share what they love.
And the atmosphere remains as sophisticated yet rustic as ever, from leather and linen chairs to the natural wood tables, accompanied by service that’s attentive and informed as it is professional while still warm.
218 Camino La Tierra, Santa Fe, NM 87506
The dining arm of the Arroyo Vino Restaurant and Wine Shop grew out of what was originally just a wine shop. Which says a lot about which is the tail and which is the dog here, except that neither wags the other.
Located about 20 minutes north of Santa Fe, this romantic getaway specializes in small plates and has an ever-evolving menu- one where you put all your trust in the chef, Allison Jenkins. Jenkins isn’t just out to experiment or impress herself; she’s out to outdo what came before. And always seems to.
Managing partner and cofounder Brian Bargsten is just as dedicated and serious about exceeding people’s expectations, as is the Wine Shop manager David Enright. Now one of the premier destinations for Santa Fe food and wine connoisseurs, Arroyo Vino gets most of its’ ingredients from local farmers and has its own on-site garden.
It’s a solid menu, excellently and meticulously executed, from the house-made chicken liver pate and the blistered shishito peppers to the house-made striped spinach farfalle and the crispy duck confit. And everything is matched with the appropriate wine, of which there are 600 bottles over at the Wine Shop. And there’s always chocolate for dessert.
150 Washington Ave, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Santa Feans, along with a steady influx of tourists from meat-hungry states like Texas and Oklahoma, have been coming to the Bull Ring since it opened back in 1971. The servings here are unashamedly big, meaty, and hearty.
When it opened back then, it was butt up against the State Capitol building—and so enjoyed a regular politically connected clientele. In addition to folks who were just hankering for a primo slab of beef. That proximity to politicos also gave the Ring an insider-y reputation—everyone who was anyone would eventually dine there, it only to make a deal.
That all changed—sort of—when owner Harry Georgeades relocated the Ring to the courtyard of a downtown office building just off the Plaza. More importantly, Georgeades reestablished the menu—putting the bull back into the Bull Ring. Since then, the menu, and the restaurant, has solidified itself as one of maybe three eateries in town where diners are assured of cutting into the finest USDA prime anywhere. Though there’s also chicken, pork chops, and fresh fish, it’s really all about meat here—red meat, from the eight-ounce petit filet to the massive 40-ounce porterhouse for two, along with rib eyes, prime ribs, T-bones, and New York strips.
It’s dimly light, it’s heavy booths and heavy chairs, it’s unashamedly old-fashioned. And in 2019 it was voted the best steakhouse in Santa Fe based on reviews from OpenTable.
213 Washington Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Tapas, paella, fine wines, and live music just as you might find in Madrid, Spain. This little Spanish bistro has dedicated itself to the classic ingredients, flavors, preparations, presentation, and atmosphere one might find in the heart of Spain. (It is so true to its Spanish roots that the Consulate of Spain even recommends it because of its quality and authenticity).
Chef David Huertas is a native of Madrid, Spain and Meson reflects the dedication and reverence he has for the rustic food (and rustic if well-lighted ambience) of his homeland. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he worked in restaurants throughout South America before returning to Santa Fe and stints at Bishop’s Lodge, La Traviata, and SantaCafe. He then returned to Spain, worked in kitchens in Madrid and Cordoba, then moved back to Santa Fe, where he founded El Meson in 1997.
Right downtown, Huertas and his wife Kelly expanded the Andalusian-style tapas bar, adding an extensive wine list, along with live entertainment, which now serves as its own attraction (at Chispa!, El Meson’s bar), offering tango, flamenco, jazz, and salsa. The dining room, set in a room separate from the bar (and the music and the slightly louder crowd), offers hot and cold tapas, plus paellas (cooked to order) and soups. It’s imaginative, it’s seasonal, it uses quality ingredients, and the seafood is flown in daily.
724 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
One of Santa Fe’s landmark restaurants, the one that put itself onto the global fusion/global eclectic map back in the early 90s, when its late chef Eric DiStefano created the memorable Tellicherry rubbed elk tenderloin, among many other signature dishes. Executive chef Sllin Cruz, who trained under DiStefano, maintains that culinary excellence and creativity with a menu that is equally remarkable.
He switches up the menu according to the seasons, and still fuses, as DiStefano did before him, the distinct personalities of Asian, Southwestern, and Mediterranean fare into a globally eclectic selection of dishes. Cruz combines the vibrant flavors, bright colors and regional ingredients into one-of-a-kind creations: Maryland soft-shell tempura crabs with soba noodle and Asian pear salad, the mesquite-grilled Maine lobster tails, or the New Mexico Four Corners grilled rack of lamb with fresh pea puree, parmesan polenta cakes, roasted leeks and Merlot-lamb reduction.
The setting and the service are about as upscale as that found in New York, Chicago, or Paris. But because it is in a restored 250-year-old landmark adobe building, at the head of the historic Canyon Road, it has about twice the character as its big-city brethren. There’s a wood-burning fireplace, big leather seats, stunning artwork on the walls, and a refined, almost austere aesthetic that prepares you for the sophisticated menu. (There are also private rooms available, as well as tasting menus of four, five, and six courses).
It’s impressive and legendary, and still one of the country’s top restaurants: recipient of the AAA Four Diamond and Mobil/Forbes 4-Star awards, as well as being voted by OpenTable as one of the “Top 100 Restaurants in the Country”.
Inn and Spa at Loretto, 211 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Located inside and outside the Inn & Spa at Loretto Santa Fe, just a stone’s throw from the Plaza and right across from the Santa Fe River and the tree-lined sidewalk that runs alongside it, Luminaria offers quality cuisine in a most romantic setting, as well as signature drinks and an expansive selection of wines.
Winner of the 2020 Open Table Diners' Choice Award, Luminaria continues to offer up inventive takes on traditional Southwestern fare. If the food weren’t so consistently impressive, the outdoor patio, open in the warmer months (typically, from May through September), might completely outshine it, given that it sits adjacent to the famed Loretto Chapel, that it has the decor (white tablecloth settings, hanging lanterns, curtains pulled back on other tables, giving diners the feeling of seclusion and exclusivity) of a European villa.
Most ingredients come from the nearby farmer’s market, and the prime grade meats come from regional ranchers; the wines include more than a few vineyards that pay respect to, and lessen, their footprint on the environment. (Only one of the reasons why Wine Spectator gave Luminaria its Award of Excellence from 2009-2012.) And the food creatively mixes and reimagines more than a few Southwestern staples: from the pinto bean hummus appetizer (featuring a smoked green chile) to the corn cob smoked chicken (with a chorizo BBQ sauce).
309 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Located inside the Eldorado Hotel just three short blocks west of the Plaza, The Old House was once honored by Zagat as New Mexico’s best restaurant. That was years ago, but the acclamation isn’t any less deserved today. The service, the ambience, the food remain among the best in the state. Even as the menu continues to change (while not willy-nilly discarding some of its favorites).
Based in traditional foods like lobster bisque, an iceberg wedge, crab cakes, and Caesar salad as appetizers, and main courses like steak, chicken, veal and salmon (those old favorites that remain as good as ever), you might think this is just the average or above-average surf and turf establishment. You’d be off base with that assumption, as The Old House uses only the tastiest, highest quality ingredients for these rather expected staples, and chef Anthony Smith gives each of them a kind of graceful, hearty spin. It’s classy and sophisticated without being stuffy, and romantic without being cloying.
505 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87501
Having relocated from its initial homey spot (near what is now the New Mexico School for the Arts) to a much more urban and urbane setting on Cerrillos (just across from the Hotel Santa Fe, and just before Cerrillos splits off into Guadalupe on its way to the Plaza), this Americana bar with its farm-inspired cuisine restaurant has an uber-devoted clientele and an imaginative and creative menu.
The food, and even the drinks, are sourced from local farms and ranchers, and from the Farmer’s Market every Tuesday and Saturday, and so the menu changes with the seasons. Which keeps the dishes fresh, both literally and in terms of never getting too complacent.
There’s meat aplenty here- in a way to complement the wide variety of cocktails and, of course, bourbon. But there are also lots of vegetables, usually well-soaked, well-marinated, well-fermented. Which gives R&R a very different culinary aesthetic from so many other restaurants, which tend not to be as bold.
They’re a dinner-only restaurant, and there are only small plates, larger plates, and sides. The chowder is a steady and sturdy favorite (served with a hunk of bone marrow), the brussels sprouts will surprise even those who long ago swore off these cruciferous vegetables, as will the fried green tomatoes; the beet salad is a delight; and the meats and chicken (all free of hormones and antibiotics) and fish (all caught wild or sustainably farmed) are consistently succulent and savory.
There’s an upstairs bar as well. The bartenders are professional and friendly, the staff attentive, the vibe still Americana-ish but also a bit more like that of a hip neighborhood favorite in San Francisco or New York (a real switch from the downhome, onetime adobe abode they started off in).
526 Galisteo Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Chef Martin Rios could practically ride his own coattails if he wanted: Named one of Saveur Magazine’s 2012 top 25 nationwide “Tastemakers”; the only chef from New Mexico to have won the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence; a semi-finalist for the 2010 James Beard “Best New Restaurant in the U.S.” Award; and a semi-finalist for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 “Best Chef of the Southwest” Awards, among many, many other accolades and recognitions. And yet. He continues to innovate, and to challenge both himself and his loyal clientele.
He and his wife Jennifer opened the restaurant back in 2009, in the old Oasis (a kind of haven for hippie foodies), as a different kind of oasis, one where people from the community as well as Santa Fe’s many visitors could enjoy Rios’ Progressive American cuisine. Martin, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, and his wife are long-time Santa Feans who’ve committed themselves to the City Different: Martin volunteers for Cooking with Kids, the nonprofit that educates and empowers children and families to make healthy food choices via hands-on nutrition education with fresh, affordable food, and Jennifer is president of The Horse Shelter, which rescues and rehabilitates abused, abandoned, and neglected horses.
Rios grew up in Santa Fe and started out his culinary career as a 17-year-old dishwasher, working his way up to executive chef at several restaurants and hotels, and then graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. His style came to be one that emphasizes local produce and organic meats, combines a love of Mexican, Asian, and Southwest cuisines, and prepares it all via classic French techniques.
It’s a classy setting, upscale but neither stuffy nor intimidating. But not so casual as to be taken lightly. Restaurant Martin asks something of a commitment from its diners, and in turn takes on the responsibility of meeting their high expectations.
414 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Located just off the Santa Fe Plaza and near the state capitol, Rio Chama serves some of the city’s the finest prime and choice dry-aged steaks, chops, and seafood. It’s a bit of an institution, given its proximity to the Statehouse (where New Mexico legislators meet every year, and then mosey on over to Chama for meat, drinks, the bar, conviviality, and to close deals and maybe hook up with a fellow legislator or lobbyist- at least, that’s what often seems to be the case). But it’s not just for politicos, plenty of other meat-eaters and people into hefty, hearty salads and satiating desserts come here as well.
Beyond the unassuming entrance on Old Santa Fe Trail, there’s a purposeful mix of intimate dining rooms (the back rooms where the Good Old Boys meet and smoke cigars, now able to do so in the specially designed Humidor room) with kiva fireplaces, a lively bar scene, peaceful courtyard dining, and a relaxing patio bar.
It’s also popular for graduation dinners, prom dinners, family dinners and family reunions, couples out to celebrate, couples who aren’t yet even couples, and great for lunch, too.
There is a President’s Room, too, for banquets, and which is equipped to seat up to 120 people (and which has hosted, well, presidents and presidential hopefuls: Bill Richardson and Mikhail Gorbachev, among others). And the Abiquiu Room is a private 36-seat wine cellar, and features a private collection of Georgia O’Keefe photos done by her personal photographer, Malcolm Varon.
231 Washington Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Yet another Santa Fe institution “saved” from an ignominious and undeserved decline into oblivion, Santacafe seemed blessed since its opening back in 1983. Nestled inside one of the original off-the-Plaza homes, the Padre Gallegos House, built between 1857 and 1862, and inside of which was one of the city’s first Episcopal churches (known as “The Good Shepherd Mission”, the restaurant’s north wing), and with an inner courtyard that’s as rich in character as the many (dining) rooms inside (four of which are lit by candles and all of which have fireplaces), Santacafe exudes Santa Fe’s history with a cuisine that’s European in its sophistication and reach.
If Rio Chama and the old Pink Adobe are where most of the politicos would meet, Santacafe was where its movers and shakers came together over great food and great drinks. The atmosphere is equal parts casual and intimate, snooty and rustic, and the food is decidedly and sophisticatedly Southwestern. (Old faves like the crispy calamari and the Talus Wind pork dumpling appetizers remain, as do the dependable steak frites and Bolognese.) Its new owner, Quinn Stephenson, who helped propel the Coyote Cafe to international prominence, bought the fading institution back in 2019 and has been doing his best to bring it back to its earlier glory days.
As good as the food is, again, and as nice as the restored house itself is, what will be harder to recapture are the Old Crowd, the power players who’ve essentially aged out. What should bring them back, what should bring anyone to Santacafe, are its menu, its impeccable service, its wonderful patio and indoor dining rooms, and, in time, the kind of loyal, weird, intimidating, powerful, colorful clientele that made it the place in which to see and be seen.
Four Seasons, 198 State Road 592, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87506
Terra, the restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado, about a 20-minute drive north of Santa Fe, is about as swanky and out-of-the-way fine dining as one can find in (or just outside of) Santa Fe.
It’s definitely a resort, and although you’re in New Mexico, and although the food here reflects New Mexico’s culinary traditions, and features ultra-fresh local produce and Southwestern influences, it’s almost because the atmosphere and presentation is so resort-y that you might forget you’re in New Mexico. Even though, here, whether you’re dining inside, where it’s stylish and elegant, or outside, by the poolside fireplace or around the casual firepit, you still might forget where you are, despite the majestic views of the surrounding desert, the sunsets, the often-perfect weather, and the stellar service.
Vegan and vegetarian options are available. And being that it is part of a resort hotel, there’s always breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are egg-white frittatas, avocado toast, and smoked salmon bagels to start; soups, salads, tacos, burgers, and sandwiches for lunch; and for dinner, green chile corn chowder, Kurobuta pork bellies, salads, and bison and Kobe beef New York steak, among many other imaginative dishes, as well as a plant-based menu (for all three mealtimes), and specials for each day of the week that cover appetizers, entrees, and side dishes.
653 Canyon Rd, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Where other chefs make their mark and move on, Mark Kiffin, owner and chef of The Compound for 20 years now, seems to have found a permanent home here. In 1990, Kiffin teamed up with owner Mark Miller at the Coyote Cafe and, later, at the Coyote Cafe MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he was the corporate executive chef and owner. Since then, he’s opened 20 other restaurants, but remained at this 60-plus-year-old institution. An institution that he has maintained, solidified, and kept vital. Partly because of his impeccable bona fides, mostly because as unwavering as the menu has been all these years, Kiffin continues to challenge himself and, somehow, his loyal clientele, who both want the very much expected while also wanting to be surprised at the same time.
The Compound has been a Canyon Road staple since before Canyon Road was Canyon Road (it opened back in the 60s, and had an elegance even back then, when Canyon Road was nothing but a dirt road). It’s open year-round, serves lunch Monday through Saturday, and dinner nightly.
The food is traditional but with determinedly Southwestern-cum-Mediterranean touches here and there. One of the keys to The Compound’s success, and to Kiffin’s, is his commitment to the quality of the ingredients, from the seasonings to the meats and produce. It’s why the James Beard Foundation deemed him the “Best Chef of the Southwest” back in 2005, five years after Kiffin reopened The Compound.
Even though the restaurant is on Canyon Road, it’s not exactly on Canyon Road; the driveway to it goes down and off the road itself, giving it the feel of something older and more exclusive (which was deliberate on its part, as in the early 20th century the Compound was comprised of a group of houses that served as a sort of hideaway for movie stars, industrialists, and socialites). This adds to its otherworldly feel and helps in the impression that it is out of the way and above the ordinary, even though it has the feel, too, of dining in a very fancy, very well-attended cave. Presentation is key, whether it’s the simplicity of the chicken schnitzel or the tuna tartare, the jumbo crab and lobster or the foie gras. There’s also a fantastic selection of wines and champagnes.
La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, 330 East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Located in the original house that kickstarted La Posada as a hotel, and embraced by Travel + Leisure, The Staab House is the coziest bar in Santa Fe. This upscale former drawing room has a bar, a patio, and serves house cocktails as well as small plates of American and Southwestern food.
The atmosphere is entirely Old World here, appropriate, (in keeping with the claim that Santa Fe boasts the country’s oldest house, the DeVargas Street House, about a half-mile away). The Staab used to a historic 19th-century mansion, and eccentric characters can still be spied eating and drinking here along with the hotel’s out-of-town guests and a smattering of locals, all drawn by the moody setting and the award-winning mixed drinks.
Not so much a restaurant with sophisticated drinks as it is a bar with character (and characters) that serves better-than-expected Southwestern fare (and other small dishes), there’s live music, patio and fireside seating, and a vibe that’s in keeping with the supposed literal spirit of the place: stories abound about sightings of the late Julia Staab, creator (with her husband, onetime Santa Fe politico Abraham Staab), whose ghost has been seen both by locals and by folks who’d never previously heard of her.
315 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Since 1995, original partner and now executive chef and owner Louis Moskow has been providing Santa Feans with modern French cuisine sourced almost entirely from local ingredients, with a wine list that’s seasonal and global in reach. In a downtown setting that’s elegant and sophisticated, intimate yet convivial, guests can drop in for a casual evening of bar snacks or plan ahead for a full-on tasting menu (featuring wine pairings with each course). Moskow prepares almost every dish from scratch and proudly sources most of his produce from the nearby farmer’s market. Everything on the menu is classically conceived in the French manner, but given a contemporary twist: grilled day boat scallops with saffron risotto, or the duck fat brussels sprouts with duck leg confit and dried cherries.
But no 315 evening is ever the same, as Moskow loves to invent on the fly, depending on what’s available at the local market—whether that’s a lobster ravioli with English peas, asparagus and sauce Americaine or a house-cured salmon with potato pancakes. Even so, there are certain dishes always requested and always available: country paté, French onion soup, seared duck, and homemade desserts such as the profiteroles and the chocolate pot de crème. And the wine list features varietals from many other countries and estates.
Most of the staff has been with Moskow since he opened the restaurant 25 years ago, and they are knowledgeable, sophisticated, and nimble. 315 combines the classic French culinary philosophy—exceptional composition married to exceptional technique—with the warmth of the Southwest. Bon appetit, amigos!
451 W Alameda Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Launched in 2013 by award-winning chef-owner Charles Dale (Food and Wine’s Best New Chef in America 1995 and a multiple James Beard Award nominee), this intimate one-room restaurant was voted one of the 10 best French restaurants in America by Travel and Leisure in 2014—and has maintained this esteemed status ever since. Dale has since moved on to other ventures, but the restaurant hasn’t lost any of what he brought and continues to focus on classic Parisian, Lyonnais, and Provencal dishes, prepared in the open kitchen—which remains in full view of every diner. (Part of Bouche’s charm).
Prepared with a deft touch and meticulous attention to detail, this French bistro features everything French food at its most delicious, from the French onion soup and lobster bisque to the classic country cassoulet casserole, the poulet champagne chicken, the butternut squash risotto, the classically prepared osso bucco, or the filet au poivre. The wine list is expansive, with an emphasis on French and American varietals. From the food to the rustic feel to the attentive staff, it feels more like the French countryside than Santa Fe. And in the warmer months, they open up the outdoor covered patio. Inside or out, it’s charming and sophisticated.
217 East Palace Ave, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Nestled inside an adobe just two blocks east of the Plaza, this intimate homage to classical French cuisine (whether it’s escargot vol au vent, frog legs à la Provençiale, cordon bleu, or filet mignon) is as authentic a bistro as one can find in the Southwest. It’s clean and well-lighted inside (and its openness makes it feel much more spacious than it probably is), and the outdoor patio is just as relaxing and private.
It’s really just brunch and dinner, but there are also fruit tarts, linzer tortes, almost marzipan, and chocolate ganache coconut macaroons. As well as a brioche a tete, croissants, and all kinds of crepes. Plus, eggs Florentine, croquet madame and croquet monsieur. All of which, along with most of the other dishes, exemplify what it is that separates a bistro from an American café offering French food: it’s not just the distinctiveness of the Hollandaise sauce or the Gruyère and the Bechemel, it’s how they’re presented and what’s also there on the plate. Fresh salads of tossed greens, and not a focus so much on quantity as on quality—the way a touch of garlic or a dash of mustard enhance the entire dish.
333 West Cordova Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
No longer restricted to cramped quarters and an impossible-to-negotiate parking lot, this newly relocated French bakery and restaurant, next to Body (the wellness spa—and more), almost has room to accommodate its clientele. Many of whom are no longer just the devout regulars, who’ve been fans since Clafouti’s first opened in 2007, but practically every out-of-town visitor. Founded by Philippe Ligier, a classically trained baker, and his wife Anne-Laure, both natives of France, this Parisian-style café offers everything they did before the big move—only more of it, and with more room to show it all off. There are French pastries galore: crepes and croissants, galettes and éclairs, and cakes, cookies, and tarts in all shapes and flavors. And because it’s a bakery, it’s open only for breakfast and lunch, and, of course, there’s plenty of freshly baked breads.
But there are also quiches, from the traditional Lorraine to the Southwestern-style, with green chile and bacon; salads (salades Chevre, salades Charlotte, salades Nicoise), as well as an array of sandwiches and soups. And lots of fresh fruit.
It’s bustling, always busy, and colorful—with a pastry case and adorning multi-tiered trays that now give Ligier’s creation the space and center-stage presence they deserve.
227 Don Gaspar Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
India Palace claims to be the oldest East Indian restaurant in all of New Mexico, having opened in 1990, and whether or not that’s true, it is certainly one of the best. Tucked inside one of the city’s downtown parking lots, only a block south of the Plaza, the northern Indian cuisine at this rather posh eatery offers a wealth of meats and seafood options prepared in its super-hot tandoori oven. It also has a lunchtime buffet that’s usually packed with locals, who come from the many small businesses and government offices nearby.
If you’re a connoisseur, or just a little bit familiar with northern Indian foods, there’s really nothing missing on their menu, from the breads (naan, poori, kulcha, paratha) and the appetizers (samosas, pakoras, dal) to the wide array of entrees that come in vegetarian, lamb, chicken, seafood, and beef.
Having had their tandoori oven since they opened, their tandoori dishes and their kabobs are superlative. And their curries and other sauces, especially the creamy tikka masalas with the tomato sauce and exotic herbs and spices and tikka makhanis (a tandoori version of the tikka masala), kormas (the mild creamy sauce with cashews, almonds, and raisins) and the spicy vindaloos (a hot sauce usually served with potatoes and a splash of vinegar, are worth having again and again.
There are also plenty of tasty and challenging curries and vegetable dishes too (the paneers spinach dishes are especially yummy). An unlikely spot for an East Indian treasure, but worth the hunt.
95 W Marcy Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
This local favorite since it opened in 1996, il Piatto was named one of the top 20 best new restaurants by Esquire, and in 2013 voted best restaurant by Edible magazine and in the same year named one of the top romantic spots by Gayot. Featuring an authentic Italian farmhouse decor to match its authentic Italian country cuisine, its chef and founder Matt Yohalem combines locally sourced ingredients (from the Farmer’s Market, Romero Farms, Kyzer Pork, the Native American Beef Consortium, Camino de la Paz, Squash Blossom Produce, Sangre de Cristo Mills, and elsewhere) with an impeccable wine list (many from his own custom wine cave) for dishes that are as healthy as they are delicious.
There is a wine bar, a private banquet facility and a sidewalk patio, and a staff that’s loyal, knowledgeable, and eager to please. There is a wide selection of fresh handmade pastas as well as unique offerings of biodynamically farmed seafood, poultry, and game. Plus a dessert menu that is unparalleled.
Yohalem, a graduate of the Johnson and Wales University, has worked and studied in some of the finest kitchens with some of the most renowned chefs in the world: Commanders Palace with Emeril Lagasse, Le Cirque with Daniel Boulud, The Union Square Cafe with Michael Romano, and Coyote Cafe with Mark Miller. He has also been nominated for the James Beard Award, and appeared the Food Network, the Sundance Channel, Food and Wine, and Bon Appetit, among many other TV shows and publications.
Il Piatto is right downtown, only one block from the Plaza. There’s a happy hour, and the kitchen here tends to stay open longer than most other fine restaurants.
321 W San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Located almost next door to the Eldorado Hotel, just a few blocks west of the Plaza, Il Vicino offers an abundance of wood-fired pizzas and panini and flatbread sandwiches to choose from, all of them good to spectacular. There are also plenty of baked lasagnas and pastas and signature salads.
Everything is made with the highest-quality ingredients and served in a casually upscale atmosphere where customers order from the front counter, take a number, find a seat, and then the staff brings you your food. There is a wide selection of premium wines, award-winning microbrews, homemade root beer, and tempting desserts.
The pizzas range from a conventional Margherita to gourmet-inspired toppings such as goat cheese, fiery shrimp, and roasted chicken. And the sandwiches, all made with premium meats and cheeses, focaccia bread, and fresh dressings, are just as creative, from the Vespa piadine, stuffed with roasted chicken, sun-dried tomato mayonnaise, pesto dressing, fontina, parmesan, tomatoes, spinach, and fresh oregano, to the Casino Panini, with Capocollo ham, roasted turkey, dijon mayonnaise, provolone, tomatoes, and red onion. And these are not dainty sandwiches, they are sometimes enough for two, or just as tasty after a night in the fridge and taken out the next day.
There are numerous combinations to be made for pizza, and the calzones are meat-centric, vegetarian, or gluten-free.
58 S. Federal Place, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Opened back in 1995, D’Assisi lays claim to being Santa Fe’s only authentic Italian restaurant. More specifically, perhaps, the only authentic Lake Como-an (northern Italian) restaurant in Santa Fe, as that’s the region from which D’Assisi’s owner and host, Lino Pertusini, hails. Which means more than just a little something, as the Pertusinis have proudly produced many a son and daughter who’ve worked in some of Italy’s finest restaurants and grand hotels (Lino included).
Pertusini uses fresh, seasonal ingredients from local farmers and growers, and every item in D’Assisi is homemade, from the breads and pastas to the polenta and tiramisu.
Service is an experience in itself, Pertusini, his brother Pietro and the others here are outgoing and personal but always exceedingly professional. There are crisp salads and flavorful appetizers, plus pizza, pasta, and chef favorites like the wild salmon stuffed with porcini mushroom and the osso buco. D’Assisi has been recognized by institutions in both North America (honored in 2016 by Wine Spectator with its Award of Excellence for having one of the most outstanding wine lists in the world, and in 2014 Open Table named it as New Mexico’s Best Italian Restaurant) and Europe (a winner of the distinguished Ciao Italia award and the Luigi Veronelli gastronomy award of Northern American fine Italian dining).
225 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
It hasn’t yet gotten the attention of your average Santa Fe foodie, but this newcomer to the block, located practically next door to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, should soon be on everyone’s radar. Thanks to the hiring of executive chef extraordinaire Christian Pontiggia, who comes from the very region and culture that this Northern Italian restaurant named itself after. After working at two Michelin-star-awarded restaurants in Europe, Pontiggia relocated to the States, and most recently overhauled and upgraded the newly reopened El Nido in Tesuque, taking it phoenix-like from its ashes and reestablishing it as the latest culinary destination.
Pontiggia will no doubt achieve the same results here, and perhaps even eclipse his efforts at El Nido. The menu is sophisticatedly arranged in true Northern Italian style, from the antipasti to the insalate e zuppe to the primi and secondi. (Sassella is also open for lunch.) There is a house-made duck liver-and-ricotta ravioli, a marinated baby octopus, an Italian mushroom soup (of porcini, cremini, and white mushrooms), a risotto with Amarone wine, smoked duck, fontina cheese, and chives, and a sous vide bone-in veal chop breaded with cotto ham and speck-wrapped asparagus, accompanied by a crispy potato medley, among many other inventive, labor-intensive, Sassella specialties.
It’s intimate, it’s classy, and it has already been given the “Award of Excellence” by Wine Spectator for 2020 (for which Sassella has created a special degustation menu: a nine-course meal with the option to pair eight different wines and one amaro with each course).
227 Galisteo St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
Another quiet spot, this one serving up fine Northern Italian cuisine during the fall and winter months, with offerings based further south and toward the coastal climes of Italy during the spring and summer, this trattoria is open only for dinner, but, oh, what a meal.
The menu, as overseen by chef Michael Leonard (and don’t let his name fool you- he used to go shopping with his Sicilian grandmother, and before signing on with Trattoria a Mano he spent two years as The Compound’s sous chef), changes nightly. Not drastically, not entirely, but enough to keep diners on their toes and not let anyone get too comfortable.
The wine list is precise and the staff is friendly and there when you need them. The interior is a combination of classy and funky (rustic furniture with minimalist plating, a flower-festooned bicycle hanging from one of the walls).
The pastas are all house-made, and the dishes are mostly traditional and classic, but done so well and with such a fine attention to detail and to the choiceness of the smallest ingredients, that even the simplest of dishes come off as sublime (such as the saffron fusilli or the eggplant lasagna). The desserts, like the tiramisu, are equally divine.
418 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
3482 Zafarano Drive, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
Probably the best Mediterranean restaurant in Santa Fe, and certainly one of the oldest—now in two locations. After having established itself in the Design Center, just a few blocks south of the Plaza, the owners opened another Cleopatra’s on the burgeoning Southside. The vibe at each is quite different, but the food is equally good at both. There are all kinds of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes to be found here, all good. And all quite inexpensive.
There’s spanakopita, hummus, baba ghanauge, tabbouleh, dolmas and Egyptian moussaka for starters. There are sandwiches (gyros, falafels and sheesh tewook—grilled marinated chicken on pita bread with grilled onions, tomatoes and Cleopatra’s fresh homemade sauce). There are Egyptian, Greek and Lebanese salads. And there is a wide variety of entrees and plates, not just expansions on spanakopita and falafel, or combinations of gyros with sheesh tewook or falafel with dolma, hummus and baba ghanauge but kabobs dishes (beef, chicken, and lamb) and chicken or lamb served over rice or couscous.
The prices are low and affordable, a la fast food, but the quality of the food is something you’d expect from a more formal sit-down restaurant.
505 W Cordova Rd, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Yet another nondescript restaurant that seems to use its drab first impression as a way to sneak up on diners who might be thinking this cafe is just a forgettable greasy ethnic spoon type of place. Au contraire. The Pyramid, despite its being around the corner from a CVS, offers above-average North African and Greek food.
It’s simple, it’s affordable, it’s either food you’re into (or discover you’re into) or, well, it’s not. There’s hummus, tabouleh, and baba ganoush as well as gyros and moussakas, plus falafel, spanakopita, a chicken tagine, and combos of any and all. And there is a decent selection of wine and beer to go along with it all.
Again, it’s not the atmosphere or the service that remain in one’s memory, it’s the food.
193 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
This is where you’ll find as many locals as out-of-towners. Santa Feans and tourists alike come here for the authentic New Mexican Mexican food—tamales, chile rellenos, sopaipillas, carne adovada, green chile stew, the famous roast leg of lamb burrito (as well as other burritos), and even menudo. Along with good ol’ American comfort food as well: burgers, salads, sandwiches, and meatloaf. Owner George Gundrey, whose family owns the restaurant and also runs several other Santa Fe New Mexican institutions (Tia Sophia’s, Tomasita’s, the Shed), and whose roots in New Mexican restaurants goes back three generations, knows what works: friendliness, fresh ingredients, and consistency.
They also prefer locally grown ingredients (all-natural grass-fed ground beef, lamb, red and green chile, honey and vegetables when in season), and believe in the goodness of simplicity (why tinker with something that’s been working for generations?). Less than a mile from the Plaza and part of the DeVargas Mall, Atrisco’s can always be counted on, whether for lunch or dinner—or breakfast on the weekends. That’s when you can find waffles, biscuits, huevos rancheros, and enchiladas stuffed with eggs and bacon. (Sundays are especially crowded, when it can feel like an all-community get-together.) And the bar, small as it is, has plenty of regulars and great margaritas.
2621 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
For over 50 years, Baja Tacos cranked out an endless supply of tacos, burritos and burgers from the confines of a 300-square-foot space inside the tiniest of buildings on Cerrillos Road. Then the Wendy’s across the street decided to pull out, and a couple years later Baja’s owners, basically victims of their own success (some regulars still eat there as many as five times a week), wised up and moved in. Now diners can enjoy their delectables in 3,500 square feet of air-conditioned heaven.
They brought the old grill over to the new digs (not wanting to lose that age-old, time-developed flavor that gives their formed-and-spiced burgers that ineffable yumminess), but everything else is new. And the drive-through is still there—and as busy as ever. The food is as fast and flavorful as always: customers remain loyal to their breakfast burritos and bacon rolls—bacon, hash browns, cheese and chile wrapped in a flour tortilla. But the burgers have taken off, too.
It’s good because it’s traditional but with a bit of Santa Fe craft added in. Baja’s hand rolls their taquitos and make their hard-shell tacos, guacamole and salsa by hand as well (every day), and they steam-cook their beans, meat and chile. Plus, they keep the prices down. It’s affordable and fast, but at an old-fashioned pace.
133 West Water Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
One of Santa Fe’s oldest craft breweries, which opened in 1997 (one on the southside, the other downtown), this bar and restaurant offers traditional New Mexican and traditional Mexican food in a festive atmosphere that’s both family friendly yet with the feel of a bar that’s rowdy but never out of control. The southside Blue Corn is where they make their beer, the downtown spot has plenty of proprietary beers on tap, as well as numerous wines and cocktails. And, as with any New Mexican bar, margaritas.
Both menus feature a wide array of Northern New Mexican food (enchiladas, tacos, burritos, carne adovada—and the tortillas distinctively of the blue corn variety). There’s also a healthy selection of the kind of dishes found at your usual bar/restaurant: burgers, fries, chicken strips, sandwiches, salads, a shepherd’s pie, and pub-style appetizers such as hot wings, queso, and crab dip. And ribs—ribs you can get braised in Blue Corn lager and seared and coated with a honey-chipotle sauce. And the green chile stew is always reliable.
Both locations are festive and able to accommodate large groups. Which means the portions also tend to run bigger. The Water Street location, downtown, has a nice outdoor patio, which makes for great people-watching in warmer weather.
301 Jefferson Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Apart from the surfeit of New Mexican restaurants in town, Bumble Bee’s offers Mexican Baja-style dishes. It’s also fast, fresh, and busy. And friendly.
It’s the fresh that distinguishes Bumble Bee’s from so many other similarly fast-food-type joints. The meats are all fresh and freshly grilled (so, in actuality, the food’s not always ready as soon as you order—which is a good thing), from the skirt steak, natural New Mexico lamb, pork carnitas (braised and slow-cooked) and skinless chicken breasts to the mahi-mahi (harnessed off the coast of South America) and the farm-raised shrimp. There are also fresh fruits and vegetables that are brought in daily, many of which are used in the savory garnishes and/or the salsas and sauces. The meats are all natural and organic, and they use no trans fats.
Locals love the flavor, but very few of the spicy items ever get too spicy. That’s by design. So as not to drive anyone away. The fire-roasted salsa is smoky but not fiery. The pico de gallo is piquant, but again, it has more of a bite than a burn. And the jalapeno-laced tomatillo sauce, unlike your average jalapeno sauce, won’t sear the top layers off the roof of your mouth.
And everything’s easy. From the salads to the burritos, easy and stuffed and almost every item a meal in itself. There are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free selections too—and even burgers and paleo options. So there’s something for pretty much everyone. And it’s close to downtown, with tables inside and out.
111 Washington Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Burritos is its name, and burritos are its game. Although, there aren’t only burritos here. Located right off the Plaza (and that means right off—as in, you can see the corner of the Plaza from one of the outdoor tables), this fast food spot caters mostly to tourists—hungry tourists, unsuspecting tourists, tourists looking for a quick bite to eat that won’t put too big a dent in their pockets. Tourists who can sometimes come away feeling pretty good that that fast-food place that looked like a tourist trap was actually pretty good.
Established back in 1978, and owned since 2006 by Arquimides “Kimo” Castro and his wife and daughters, there’s plenty of New Mexican food here (from, obviously, burritos to enchiladas and tacos during lunch and dinner, to burritos and huevos rancheros for breakfast—along with chips and salsa, and chips and guacamole). But there are also burgers, omelets, pancakes, and sandwiches. Plus, beer and wine.
It’s a bit small. It’s usually loud. It’s the kind of place you see, well, in tourist towns. Or touristy areas, like at the beach. And it’s better than the average fast-food tourist eatery. And it’s a great place for people watching, especially when it’s warm out and the outdoor area is open and you’re in no rush to get anywhere.
121 Don Gaspar Ave, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
A favorite among locals as well as tourists for well over 30 years, Pasqual’s has everything—done imaginatively, tastefully and tastily. Not only have they had their own cookbook—Café Pasqual’s Cookbook: Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe—since 1993, not that long after they first opened. In 1999, the Café received the James Beard Foundation award for America’s Regional Classics and its founder/owner and executive chef Katharine Kagel has published another cookbook as well, and was also nominated by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef: Southwest.
It seats only 50, so it’s usually full and there’s usually a line to get in—but it’s worth the wait. Even at the communal table, which epitomizes the café’s hominess—inside an adobe dining room that’s one block over from the Plaza. Everything’s organic, fresh, seasonal, naturally raised, but it’s more than just organic and fresh, it’s the quality of the food and how it’s done. They make pretty much everything there—from the breads and ice creams to the chile sauces and (hand-chopped ingredients for) the salsas.
And the dishes, a combination of New Mexican, Old Mexican, Mediterranean and Asian, ranges from quinoa with berries and almonds to mole enchiladas to an organic pork that’s been slow cooked in achiote and orange and wrapped in banana leaf. They also have beers and wines, plenty of creative desserts, and even the milkshakes are different—medjool date or Vietnamese avocado (among others).
As crowded as it tends to be, they’ll never rush you. Nor is it ever too loud or too anything. It’s balanced in every respect.
2811 Cerrillos, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
Northern New Mexican food that was already very good (before they moved over to Cerrillos from Rodeo) got even better—and more crowded. And most of that crowd still seems to be locals who are in the know, especially families and big groups of people out for a good time. And for some of the best chile around—whether it’s in the chile rellenos, tamales, burritos, or enchiladas.
The new place (new—it’s been at this location for probably five years now) has more room, but the décor and the feel is the same: colors everywhere, Mexican and New Mexican art—lots of Day of the Dead themes and Virgins. Eclecticism reigns. But the food is hefty, hearty, spicy, tasty, and fulfilling. Newcomers and regulars alike often start off with a chile con queso, some taquitos, the guacamole salad—or get all three at once (the El Trio Sabroso). The salsas are always flavorful, great with the low-salt chips.
But it’s the chiles that stand out—red or green, they’re both fantastic. Not just hot but tasty. And if you’re still wanting something sweet after some of the best sopaipillas in town, you can treat yourself to one of the best apple pies in town. They also have beer and wine, and they’re as kid friendly as any menu around.
132 West Water, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
One of the most name-recognizable restaurants in all of Santa Fe—even after earning its well-deserved international reputation for its innovative Southwestern fusion fare back in 1987. That’s when chef-of-the-moment Mark Miller opened the place in the heart of downtown, and immediately established Southwestern cuisine as a legitimate food phenomenon—and not a fluke.
He sold the place to the equally gifted late chef Eric DiStefano back in 2008, who brought to the Coyote his renowned signature dishes, the elk tenderloin and fiery hot and sweet Mexican white prawns. Both now classics. The décor may still be a bit 80s-ish (even though the interior’s gotten a rebrand, a more tenebrous ambience than before) but the service is still impeccable, the wine list still world-class, and the food still delectable as ever.
While it may seem more Californian than Southwestern (and heavy on seafood dishes), it’s as creative as ever, from crab and corn enchiladas with Veracruz salsa and Hatch green chile mac and cheese with bacon to the Colorado rack of lamb (with a mole negro sauce), cast iron-seared filet mignon, and the somewhat unfortunately named tomahawk pork chop (with green chile mashed potatoes and black pepper hollandaise). And it’s not just the food as food that’s worth the price, it’s the presentation, the effect. Which it still most definitely has.
132 West Water, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Not to be confused with its icon parent restaurant, the Coyote Café, its cantina is open year-round and has some of the best views—happy-hour views—anywhere in the city. It sits atop the vaunted Coyote Café and shares the same kitchen but, being that it’s focused more on drinks and smaller dishes to go with those drinks, the fare is dialed down a little in sophistication—but not at all in taste.
It’s a very casual atmosphere as well—very unlike the more refined interior at the Café. And diners above can feel entirely in their rights in ordering two, four or six (or more or fewer) starter dishes—as opposed to an entrée. The atmosphere is colorful (retaining some of that pastel-y appeal of the old Coyote), and louder, for sure (they do not take reservations upstairs). And while people do indeed order entrees, they’re more diner-y. The red chile-rubbed pot roast is about as fine a dish as there is. What’s more typical are the Frito pie, the green chile cheeseburger and the enchiladas. All good. All hearty.
What people look for here are snacks, finger foods, small plates: tamales, green chile stew, calabacitas, a variety of tacos, and bar foods like tempura shrimp, jalapeno peppers, mini chimis. The food is not secondary—but the mood is not secondary either. And the mood is about letting loose, or snuggling up. And enjoying the light—sunlight, twilight, night light.
3571 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
A bit of a hole in the wall, due to its inconspicuous location in a strip mall so slight it’s hardly even a strip, this Santa Fe gem serves up classic New Mexican food (and Tex-Mex). So classic some of the dishes are almost unrecognizable by name, even to those who’d consider themselves New Mexican food aficionados (tablitas? caldo de res?).
A comal is that big cast-iron griddle the cooks in back use to cook their tortillas on. Founded in the mid-80s, it’s still a favorite of blue collar workers and immigrant Mexican families (many of whom live on the Southside’s El Comal is now on the edge of this booming part of the city). They serve breakfast all day, lunch and dinner here. So try the breakfast enchiladas, made with chorizo. Or the carne adovada taco for lunch.
The atmosphere is about what you’d expect in a strip mall cafe: tight but friendly, crowded with regulars, and all about catching up with friends, family and co-workers and getting down to the business of good, good eating. Eating what you usually get (fajitas, or the flaming Chihuahua cheese with chips, or the botana sampler of nachos, quesadillas and flautas served with guacamole, sour cream and not-too-hot jalapenos), or trying something new- those tablitas or the caldo de res. The former being thin-sliced beef ribs topped on a sizzling comal with grilled onions and bell peppers. The latter being a beef soup with shank bone beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and corn.
There are also tacos, tortas, more fajita combinations, migas, seafood, Tex-Mex, soups, and enchiladas, all seemingly standard but each with a little something different that makes it stand out. Tastily.
Santa Fe, Cerrillos Road Location, 1833 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Santa Fe South Location, 298 Dinosaur Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508
Excellent and quickly prepared Northern New Mexican and Mexican traditional favorites, with two locations in Santa Fe and three others up north. It’s not a restaurant, it’s strictly take out. You order, they give you your food, you eat at home or work or in the car or the park.
Whatever they’re saving on tables and table service goes 100 percent into their food. El Parasol (umbrella in English) is not about cuisine or being fancy; it’s about being tasty and fast and filling. And boy is it tasty. The Atencios, who started El Parasol back in 1958 up in Espanola, have had their recipes featured in Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and The New York Times, among other publications.
The breakfast burritos are among the best anywhere (and there are plenty of excellent breakfast burritos in Santa Fe). You can’t go wrong with either the green or the red chile. And it’s hefty. As are most of the selections, which offer everything Mexican or New Mexican you could possibly desire, except, oddly, enchiladas. There are, however, tacos, tamales, Frito pies, quesadillas, and burgers. And their green chile cheese fries are as good as they get.
1711 Llano Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Born and raised in East Los Angeles, Felipe’s founder Felipe Martinez moved to Santa Fe in 1991, bringing with him the culinary skills and family recipes passed down to him by his mother. In 1993 he opened Felipe’s Tacos, where he introduced Santa Fe to his fresh, health-conscious, family-style recipes. Today, many a Santa Fean considers Felipe’s Tacos as the best in the city.
Felipe’s food is healthy and fresh, not just his tacos (and soft tacos) but his burritos, carne asada (and pollo asado), tortas, and quesadillas. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and although there are tables and chairs, it’s mostly take-out. It’s also proudly Mexicanó- not New Mexican. And happy to inform diners that not everything is spicy. Just tasty.
How healthy? Felipe’s uses only lean steak, marinated pork, and skinless chicken. He also eschews lard in the preparation of any dish. Also, there are no pre-fab tacos here; everything is hand-made, fresh, made in-house. And these are primarily soft corn or white tortillas. It’s no-nonsense Mexican food at its healthiest, and in no way resembles anything like that found in a fast-food Mexican chain.
4 Banana Lane, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87506
Located just outside Santa Fe, on the way to the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino and Espanola and Los Alamos, Gabriel’s is worth the 15-minute drive north, especially when the weather is warm enough to sit on the patio outside. The Southwestern and Old Mexico food is good or better than you’d expect, considering that its owners seem to cater to huge out-of-town groups, or just to out-of-towners who are expecting a kind of Old Mexico experience with their lunch or dinner.
That experience can be both cheesy and very rewarding. The cheesy part is the decor, the giant menus, the dress-up theme that permeates the place (if they find out it’s your birthday, be ready to be sung to by a gang of wait staff in Spanish and topped with a sombrero). The rewarding part comes from the performative elements or one in particular: the tableside creation of guacamole. This alone is worth everything else. Not just because it’s fun, or because you tell the preparer exactly what you want in your guacamole, but because this is some of the best guacamole found anywhere. And, as said above, if you’re outside, the views (despite the noise from Highway 285) are beautiful, especially at sunset.
4354 Cerrillos Rd , Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
Until 2003, this legendary eatery could stuff maybe 25 people into the tiny space it occupied (since 1961) inside a Southside gas station. That is the year the restaurant expanded into its own space next door but lost absolutely none of the heat packed into the diner’s New Mexican dishes. Especially the so-called devil, the green chile burrito so hot it almost blew the top off of Jim O’Connor, host of the Food Network’s “The Secret Life of Fiery Foods”. That green chile that O’Connor experienced is among the hottest substances ingested on earth.
Now in a much more spacious dining room of its own, where the wait staff actually have to walk over customer’s orders to their tables (as opposed to just passing it directly from the kitchen to the table as in its former incarnation, yes, that’s how small the place was), the Haven continues to dish out some of the hottest plates found anywhere. But not to worry: not every entree is a proving ground. In fact, only a few are. (That hottest of hot green chile? It’s grown especially for them by seven different farmers down in Hatch, and the Haven’s owners own the hybrid seed).
But as hot as it is, it’s also just as tasty. As are their other dishes, from the breakfast carne adovada and burritos (among the best in the state) to the enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, and gringo steak. As for the crowd, because it is toward the south end of town, it gets a great mix of government employees (who seem to eat in groups), farmers and ranchers from just outside of Santa Fe, Southsiders, and gaggles of blue-collar workers, who tend to show up in company coveralls. Very different from the types of people you’d eat with on the Northside or downtown.
905 Alarid St., Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Locals have frequented La Choza for years, as have out of towners. It helps that it’s located in the heart of the Railyard District within walking distance of downtown, the Plaza, and the Railrunner’s final stop. The adobe it’s in once served as headquarters for the turn-of-the-century Mercer Ranch. But the draw, really, is the consistent Northern New Mexican food, as well as the easygoing atmosphere that appeals to couples, families, coworkers, and tourists. (It’s also the sister restaurant to the equally renowned New Mexican favorite, The Shed or La Choza is merely Spanish for “the shed”).
There is an outdoor dining patio for the warmer months, and a full bar that’s usually packed. The staff has been there forever, and La Choza, which usually has a line of people waiting to get in, deliver quality red and green chile and great margaritas.
100 E San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Once the original 1920s patio for the La Fonda Hotel (at the southeast corner of the Plaza) La Plazuela, situated beneath the hotel’s central skylights and its dramatic, wrought-iron chandelier and mini-forest of tall plants, is like an open-air atrium-cum-restaurant in the center, giving it the feel of an early-20th-century European club. Especially given its other touches: hand-carved chairs and booths, artisanal lighting, and hand-painted windows. It’s the kind of place where grandparents would treat their kids and grandkids to Sunday brunch.
The food is New Mexican, but not too spicy, not too hot, not overly unfamiliar. Familiar but lively and flavorful, with appetizers like the fresh guacamole made right at your table (always fun). There are enchiladas and chile rellenos, but also enchiladas with filet of fish, a spicy rubbed wild boar loin, a pan-fried rainbow trout, and more. A classy throwback to a different time.
3904 Rodeo Rd, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
When the legendary Castro’s relocated to Cerrillos Road, Los Amigos moved in and as good as Castro’s was and remains, one can hardly tell the difference. The New Mexican food here is as good as anywhere, with some of the best Northern New Mexico red chile in the City Different.
It’s a favorite among locals, and because it’s on the edge of the city’s Southside (as opposed to the older, closer-to-the-Plaza Northside), not as well-known or well-frequented by tourists or out-of-towners. Rodeo runs through one of the city’s larger residential areas, yet another reason it’s a bit off the beaten path.
As they were at Castro’s, the chips and salsa are complementary. Not outstanding or memorable, but most diners show up hungry if not hangry. So the free starter is always welcome and a good opening to bigger, better, tastier appetizers and entrees. It’s not just New Mexican, there are Mexican dishes too. And there’s breakfast, not just breakfast burritos but pancakes, waffles, French toast, and omelets.
And for lunch and dinner, again, not just better-than-good New Mexican and Mexican plates (enchiladas, burritos, fajitas) but steaks and chops, burgers, and salads and sandwiches. All of which are equally tasty. And the staff is low-key but attentive.
1947 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
You might not realize it, given that Los Potrillos (Spanish for “colts”) has been in this spot for almost 20 years now, but it used to be home to a Pizza Hut. On the touristed main drag of Cerrillos Road, and right next to a Baskin-Robbins. And, no, it’s not another New Mexican restaurant; it’s Mexican all the way. Proudly, deliciously Mexican.
There is horse art and horse paraphernalia everywhere you look: horseshoes on the walls, sombreros on the walls, huge colorful dramatic paintings of horses on the walls, and colts carved into the back of every chair. Founded by Gustavo and Jose Tapia, Los Potrillos’ decor may be a bit schlocky but it’s earnest, and heartfelt, and authentic. As is the food. Which, again: there is no New Mexican food here, it’s all Mexican all the time.
The menus are huge (the size and heft you might find in an old East Coast steakhouse), and offer the familiar (mariscosó Mexican seafood, of which there are many dishes here, such as the shrimp fajitas), the sort of familiar (the molcajete al pastor marinated pork served in those heavy, black bowls fashioned from volcanic pumice, or the chiles en nogada, chiles stuffed with beef, pecans and raisins), and the not-so-familiar (the cabrito, tender goat meat marinated and sautéed in peanut and almond sauce).
And then there are the desserts, the standout being the Tres Leches cake- the best in all of Santa Fe.
Mariscos Costa Azul, 2875 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Mariscos La Playa, 537 W Cordova Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Along with Los Potrillos, the two Mariscos might be the best in Mexican cuisine in Santa Fe. Owned by Luis Ortega and his family, both locations specialize in seafood. And both are awash in an explosion of color- two very vibrant colors, orange and turquoise, that when put together veritably pop, and leave a lasting impression on one’s senses. Much like the food.
The salsas and dips are practically meals unto themselves, but save room for the entrees. Especially the seafood entrees, which is pretty much why you’d eat here. And these aren’t breaded seafoods but seafood dishes that highlight the specific tastes and savoriness of each type of fish, even when it’s all mixed together, as with the mariscada caliente (fish, shrimp, scallops, calamari, and octopus). There’s also freshwater fish as well as snapper, and trout and steak. The service is top-notch, and nothing is as expensive as it could be.
555 W Cordova Rd, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Now entering its eighth decade (Maria's opened for business back in 1950, when Maria and Gilbert Lopez expanded upon their cantina as a take-out spot for locals on their way to the Santa Fe Fiestas, now the spot that houses Maria’s bar and kitchen), Maria's offers traditional Northern New Mexico food. But it is equally famous, maybe even more famous, for its made-to-order margaritas, which use only 100 percent agave tequila (one of the first in the country to do so). It’s been rumored that Maria’s once made a margarita that cost close to $200 but even if that’s only a rumor, they offer over 100 variations of the popular drink, and they did indeed write the book on margaritas: The Great Margarita Book, which boasts a forward by none other than Santa Fe resident Robert Redford.
Still a bit of a landmark, Laurie and Al Lucero bought Maria's in 1985, who then sold it in 2013 to the Santa Fe Dining Group (owners of the two Blue Corn Cafes), who then gave the structure a long-overdue renovation.
The menu hasn’t changed much since its Fiestas days: there’s plenty of salsa, plenty of chips, along with fajitas, flautas, carne adovada, chile rellenos, enchiladas, and tamales, as well as burgers and trout. The decor is decidedly geared toward tourists, even if it’s mostly locals who dine and drink here.
839 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Quietly created back in 2003 in something between an alley and a parking lot (it’s tucked, almost invisibly so, into a corner of an actual parking lot off of Paseo de Peralta, in what might otherwise serve as an extension to the parking lot for the nearby Inn on the Alameda). Its founders are Alex Castro and German Avila, onetime chefs at the Old Mexico Grill (a Santa Fe favorite until its closing in 2002). Unlike other restaurants devoted exclusively to Mexican cuisine, Mucho Gusto blends Mexican with New Mexican deliciously.
The inside is clean and well-lit, and offers a kind of pared-down Mexican aesthetic unlike other Mexican eateries (which can sometimes be a bit loud on the color and the expectedly Mexican knickknacks). But the staff is warm, and the dishes are creative. There are also the typical Mexican and New Mexican foods, from the chips and salsa, quesadillas, and enchiladas to the burritos, tacos, and fajitas.
But it’s the spin that Mucho Gusto puts on each dish that sets this menu apart (shrimp enchiladas, whole black beans, calabacitas). The tomatillo-based salsa is sublime, with an emphasis on the lime. The pollo relleno con salsa de crema is a favorite, and the camarones en tequila (sautéed shrimp with an orange tequila lime cream sauce that comes with rice, black beans, and grilled vegetables) is fresh and refreshing. And the fajitas are always tender and flavorful. Much like everything else.
401 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
If you haven’t experienced an upscale Mexican-inspired restaurant, Paloma is about as good an introduction to such a concept as there is. It’s casual, it’s well-thought-out, it’s colorful, and the food and the cocktails are just as imaginative and unexpected as the folk art, the majolica tiles, the distressed windowpanes, the leather banquettes, and the otherwise casual decor that’s really not all that casual. It just seems so. Until you look more closely. Like the food and the cocktails, it seems offhand, as if owner Marja Martin, chef and partner Nathan Mayes, lead bartender Andrea Duran, and cook and pastry-meister Jessica Bransford had just decided, on a whim, to whip up whatever they had left over from the week before and hope for the best. Hardly.
Everything, from the duck carnitas, bone-marrow tacos, the spicy roast chicken with jalapeno calabacitas, bacon, and mole verde, and cauliflower Frito tacos (topped with Marcona almonds, raisins, and Spanish olives) to the house-shaken tequila, smoky mezcal cocktails, and classic Mexican brews (such as Sol and Bohemia) is curated. There’s a method to their madness, which makes for happy, curious diners and an exciting evening out.
406 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Established in a 350-year-old adobe back in 1944, the onetime landmark almost imploded upon itself in the early aughts before getting a much-needed makeover and reopening in 2013. That’s about the time that generations of Pink’s most loyal clientele aged out, and although the food and the atmosphere is just as inviting as in its heyday, an equally eclectic and politically active and connected clientele has yet to reemerge. No matter.
Appetizers such as escargots, clams, shrimp remoulade, and whole artichokes stand out in the City Different just because they’re available (and refreshing), while old diehards and new standouts can be found among the Adobe’s entrees: from the lobster salad and steak Dunigan (a broiled New York strip steak topped with mushrooms and green chile) to the tournedos Bordelaise (a filet on top of a puffy pastry with homemade bordelaise sauce) and the poulet Marengo (chicken pan-roasted in Madeira wine and finished with a sauce that included onions, olives, and tomatoes).
If these sound Southern in their origin, that goes back to founder Rosalea Murphy’s affections for New Orleans. The bar, at the legendary Dragon Room, has plenty of Pink dishes available, too, only as small plates and appetizers. But the atmosphere is as enticingly dark as it always was. The kind of place where clandestine trysts once took place with regularity.
El Merendero Posa’s Tamale Factory & Restaurant, 1514 Rodeo Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Posa’s Zafarano, 3538 Zafarano Drive, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
The Posa family now runs two restaurants in Santa Fe, serving up everything from breakfast burritos to enchiladas, fajitas, and tamales. It has also been featured far and near, from The New York Times to the Santa Fe New Mexican. SantaFeTamales (the new name for what used to be known as Posa’s) now occupies a veritable factory that’s dedicated to the creation of tamales (and burritos, enchiladas, and other New Mexican favorites).
El Merendero (Posa’s) tamales are hand-made, based on an old family recipe, and the Posa’s have been suppliers of tamales and other foods throughout Northern New Mexico for almost half a century. The Posa way begins with white corn (posole), which they cook, grind up, and then mix into masa (a dough). The masa is then filled with pork, chicken, cheese, and red or green chile, a corn husk is wrapped around it, and the husk is then wrapped in parchment and steamed.
As for their other entrees, from the nachos and fries to the burritos, enchiladas, stews, fajitas, quesadillas, and other New Mexican favorites, Posa’s are not restaurants but factories fronting as take-out facilities.
4681 Airport Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
Situated far from the highly touristed streets of downtown Santa Fe, over on the city’s Southside, where many of the town’s Mexican and other Central American immigrants found affordable housing back in the early 2000s, Puerto Penasco, suitably, caters to its nearby residents. Residents who know great food and exceptional seafood.
Started by Ruben Rodriguez, whose inspiration came from a memorably tasty family vacation to Puerto Penasco, most of what’s on the menu comes from the ocean. There are oyster appetizers and the menu features half a page each for shrimp dishes (shrimp fried in orange juice, shrimp with tequila, shrimp wrapped in bacon and cheese) and fish dishes (whitefish in an orange-ish sauce spiced with jalapeno, grilled tilapia, seafood stuffed with fish fillet, pico de gallo, and cheese). There are also Mexican dishes and house specials, along with tacos, steaks, and plenty of wines and cocktails. The simple difference being something like this: rice that comes as part of an entree, but also French fries to be dipped into an accompanying sauce.
It’s warm, it’s festive, it’s fast friendly service, and the staff, of course, speaks both English and Spanish.
1310 Osage Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Good food fast as opposed to good fast food. And one of the original places where some of Santa Fe’s first wave (or initial tide) of Mexican and Central American (many of whom are now Mexican-American and Guatemalan- and Costa Rican- and Salvadoran-American) immigrants first flocked to for a taste of home cooking. It’s colorful, it’s cozy, even if it seems, from the outside, to be in what used to serve as a bail bondsman’s headquarters.
The chile here is tasty but seldom too hot. And though there is Mexican and New Mexican food here, more than a few dishes have a Salvadoran spin to them. The pupusas, for example: this traditional Salvadoran dish is made with a corn tortilla and filling, and here at Red Enchilada they come with a jar of pickled cabbage (for placing atop the small corn cakes). There’s also a fried tilapia (the mojarra frita), and shrimp enchiladas. The servings are generous (as is the service, where the wait staff will often accommodate most dietary restrictions or requests) and inexpensive. You’re just as likely to see regulars as people who stumble in while getting an oil change at the Jiffy Lube right across the street. Giving it the feel that you’re somewhere in East L.A.
221 Shelby Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501
Originally from Mexico City, Chef Fernando Olea has been enthralling diners in Santa Fe since 1991 with his unique interpretation of contemporary and traditional Mexican dishes. Almost historical and archaeological in his knowledge and appreciation for Mexican cuisine, Mexican foods, Mexican creations (and Mexican drinks, Sazon also bills itself as a Mezcaleria and Tequileria), Olea’s use of Old Mexico’s indigenous and culinary traditions gives his dishes unexpectedly sophisticated flavors.
If he could, though, Olea would probably prefer a restaurant devoted entirely to mole. Sazon comes close to this desire, as few dishes would offer only mole, or offer nothing but dishes soaked in this holy sauce. Complex in flavor and particular to whoever’s created it, mole has a seemingly infinite and endless number of possible end results, since each sauce comes from toasted and ground spices, seeds, nuts, chocolate, and chile. Olea is no exception. In 2009, he created his own “New Mexican Mole”, which he created to commemorate Santa Fe’s 400-year anniversary. And the huge colorful mural that dominates the entire restaurant, as rendered by Mexican artists Federico Leon De La Vega, serves as a subliminal foreshadowing of what Sazon is all about, being that it illustrates all of the ingredients found in this mole.
Aside from the set menu, which is almost staggering in the level of detail and execution, and intense in its uniqueness and unearthing of indigenous dishes from long ago (the corn truffles, the baby grasshoppers, the Cholula (Olea’s interpretation of chile en nogada), even the seemingly basic salmon and angus beef tenderloins, there are also two degustation tasting menus, nine-course offerings that give diners a well-rounded tour of Mexicoís flavors.
235 N. Guadalupe, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
This latest restaurant venture from the founder of the popular Shake Foundation follows a similar formula from its sister eatery (even in name): take what’s usually a fast-food type of outfit and fancify it, get more creative with it, have more food fun. Built around tacos, tacos of all kinds, but tacos as if put through the gourmet grinder: among the dozen that are always on the menu, there are the three different versions of the Verdura (one with sweet potato, garlic kale, pine nuts and cotija cheese, another with avocado, fingerling potatoes, baby artichokes and cotija cheese, and the third with Oaxacan cheese, portabella mushrooms, onions, and cilantro), a roasted pig, a goat, and a roasted marinated pork taco with pineapple, onion and cilantro.
There’s no place to sit inside, it’s mostly a big outdoor patio (again—just like the Shake), and feels like a fast-food taco stand (only bigger). But no one complains. Even when it’s freezing cold, you can eat inside your car or take your food home. These are artisanal tacos. So they’re a bit pricier than Baja or Taco Bell—but a huge step up in delectation from the latter, and just as good as the former (though obviously more imaginative and creative). Plus, there are plenty of options for vegans and vegetarians—they may be tacos, but they’re not your daddy’s tacos.
There are also daily specials (which can feature golden squash blossoms, fresh corn, emerald sauce, or purple onions—largely depending on what’s in season). Plus, they have soft-serve ice cream.
1820 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
A longtime favorite among locals, and for tourists sharp enough to know that those long lines they see coming out the door of this Cerrillos Road restaurant tend to be a good sign of good food. The Pantry has been around since 1948, and one of the reasons it has lasted so long is that it serves a quality breakfast all day.
New Mexican breakfasts, classic American breakfasts, traditional breakfast- eggs, omelets, pancakes, oatmeal, granola, fruit bowls, French toast, waffles, as well as stuffed pancakes and stuffed waffles (the stuffing being a mixed berry compote and whipped cream), as well as breakfast steaks and corned beef.
If breakfasts, then, are a good way to start one’s day, they seem to be an even better business model for how to build a successful restaurant- especially when you’re serving a variety of breakfasts all day every day. It’s partly what led to the Pantry building its reputation as a meeting place (for dealmakers, politicos, good ol’ boys, retirees, families, for big groups just wanting to hang out over bacon and coffee).
The comforts provided by these breakfast dishes extend well beyond eggs and bacon. The Pantry is open for lunch and dinner as well, with foods just as comfy as breakfast: sandwiches, burgers, traditional New Mexican fare, stews, soups, salads, as well as briskets, chicken fried steak, and meatloaf.
The Pantry is all about comfort, and not being rushed. It’s family owned, and the service is spot-on and friendly. And you get folks from all over town, and from all over out-of-town.
113 1/2 E Palace Ave, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
This is the original Shed (its sister restaurant, La Choza, didn’t open till 1983), and it has been a Santa Fe draw since Polly and Thornton Carswell opened it, first on Burro Alley (just west of the Plaza, right next to the Lensic) back in 1953. Since that first day of providing food, largely to the wood gatherers who’d daily come down off the mountain (selling it to people in town as firewood), dragging it all the way on the backs of their burros (hence, Burro Alley), the Carswells have relied on blue corn tortillas as the foundation for every one of their New Mexican dishes.
Due to the high demand and the need for more space, in 1960 the Carswells relocated their operation to Prince Patio on Palace Avenue, a couple hundred feet closer to the Plaza. This adobe hacienda has even more history, dating back structurally to 1692. There are 18 rooms overall, nine of which are occupied by the Shed, as well as three patios.
Food-wise, the Shed combines the best of Pueblo, Spanish, and Mexican influences. The family grows their uniquely tasty red and green chile (the red is especially renowned) on farms down in Hatch, New Mexico (the chile capital of the world), all of it harvested exclusively for The Shed. They even process their chile daily, in their own mill.
You'll see plenty of tourists waiting beneath the trumpet vines in the courtyard out front, but don’t let that fool you: The Shed is a fixture for locals, who cherish the corn chowder, the posole, the carne adovada plate, the Southwestern grilled shrimp, the pollo adobo (chicken that’s been slow-roasted in a marinade of the Shed’s red chile, along with garlic and oregano), and the wide selection of drinks (margaritas and tequilas, mixed drinks, beers and wines), as well as their desserts (such as the mocha cake or the French apple pie).
The vibe is always boisterous, the service fast and friendly. Just don’t go in expecting a romantic dinner in a quiet, darkly lit room. The Shed, true to its roots, promotes social interaction and thrives on bringing people together, bringing lots of people together over great food.
210 W San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
If you eat here often enough, they might name a booth after you (which they’ve done for several longtime customers). Tia’s, owned by Nick Maryol, whose ethnic Greek family started Tia’s (named in honor of one the family’s aunts, hence the Greek spelling of the name), and whose members own other Santa Fe New Mexican restaurant landmarks (Tomasita’s, Atrisco Cafe & Bar), has been around for almost 50 years now, and many of the staff here seem to have been here almost as long (always a good sign).
The food here is New Mexican Mexican at its finest, and Tia Sophia’s arguably offers the town’s best breakfast burrito and best sopaipillas, among many other staples.
Located two blocks west of the Plaza and directly across from the Lensic, the only drawback has been that they’re open only for breakfast and lunch, but they’re now open for both on Sundays, too (although, alas, there are no sopaipillas on Sundays). Everything here is tasty, from the enchiladas and huevos rancheros to the carne adovada and the pancakes, yes, the pancakes here are among the best you’ll find anywhere.
The service is unbeatably friendly and prompt. Locals abound, as do tourists. And you can sit for as long as you like.
500 S Guadalupe St., Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
You may have heard the legend that Bill Clinton, while president, ate here. Actually, it was Hillary who ate here, back when she was First Lady. (Bill stopped by Tia Sophia’s back in 2016, even donning an apron to hang out with the kitchen staff.) Perhaps as renowned for its margaritas and its other drinks as it is for its food, Tomasita’s nevertheless remains solid and more or less dependable for classic Northern New Mexican Cuisine.
Founded by Georgia Maryol, and still owned and operated by the Maryol/Gundrey clan (the ethnically Greek family whose members also own Tia Sophia’s and Atrisco’s) for over 40 years, Tomasita’s excels at feeding people, lots of people, locals, tourists, politicians, families, state and city workers, more tourists, the occasional couple who seem to be married to other people, and yet even more tourists.
It’s often voted as having the best red chile, best green chile, best margaritas, best sangria, and for being the town’s best New Mexican restaurant. It’s often good, and sometimes more than good. But when you’re serving over 200 people at a time, and trying to move them in and out without rushing them (while still kind of rushing them), that can sometimes challenge the kitchen. Even so, it’s an institution. And to their credit, they get all their red and green chile from growers down in Hatch and Salem, down in southern New Mexico; their beef is raised locally and humanely; their chips, tortillas, tamales, and posole are made from GMO-free corn grown by family farmers; and their tables feature Raw New Mexico sopaipilla-friendly honey.
3139 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
In what looks like a former state office building, and located in front of Meow Wolf (that runs parallel to the restaurant on the Rufina road behind Cerrillos), Tortilla Flats, despite its chain-restaurant-sounding name, has good food, good service, and a bright interior that gives the New Mexican food a certain clarity and lightness.
Call it cilantro lighting, cilantro giving spicy dishes, especially spicy New Mexican dishes, a kind of coolness to tone down the heat. Tortilla Flats uses lots of cilantro, not overly so, but for that lightness.
They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and offer everything you’d expect at those meals: huevos rancheros, fajitas, and eggs, carnita ranchera, quesadillas, enchilada plates, and fajitas, and red chile pork ribs, shrimp fajitas, and chile relleno plates. (And they serve breakfast till 4 in the afternoon.) It’s family friendly but never so boisterous that couples can’t enjoy a quiet lunch or dinner, too. They also have a happy hour and a bar, with plenty of specials (as well as strawberry margaritas and blue mesa margaritas). It’s also very vegetarian friendly, with plenty of options for those who eschew meat.
322 Garfield Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Tucked away in an old adobe home near the Railyard District, Andiamo! (“Let’s go!” in Italian, as you know) has been a reliable favorite among Santa Feans for over 20 years. Owner Joan Gillcrist opened this beloved neighborhood trattoria in 1995 with Chris Galvin, who’d trained in Italy and studied under David Tanis, now of Chez Panisse, and who was Andiamo!’s initial creative force.
Neither Andiamo! nor Gillcrist has wavered from their original dedication to a tried-and-true Northern Italian cuisine, and their relationship with local growers from the nearby Farmers Market remains as solid as ever. In addition to the friendly staff and cozy dining room, Andiamo! remains loyal to the time-honored dishes its diehard diners return for again and again: the crispy-creamy, savory-sweet polenta; the light and zesty beet salad; tender calamari; and the irresistible chocolate pot de crème.
Esteban Parra, who joined Andiamo! in 1996 before replacing Tanis in 1999, was raised on a ranch in Northern New Mexico, so his dedication to farm-raised food, and a cuisine favoring locally sourced produce, meshes perfectly with Gillcrist’s philosophy. Andiamo! favors indigenous foods whenever possible, incorporating them seamlessly into their flavorful Italian imports.
319 S Guadalupe, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Barbecue and a whole lot more. More being one of the most reliable bar scenes in town, one of the few places with an outdoor kids area (that kids actually like—along with kid food that kids like), a night scene that’s good for people watching, for music, for dancing, for billiards, for just hanging out.
The outdoor area is always open—even if it’s snowing, as there are heat lamps between most of the booths and tables. It’s long been a hub for locals. That’s because the food’s always plentiful, the beer’s always available, and the atmosphere is decidedly aimed at fun. It always gets a good mention in the media (whether it’s another Things To Do in Santa Fe article in The New York Times or a shout-out on TV, from someone like Rachel Ray or Guy Fieri—and their Five Pepper Nachos with salsa Diablo has gotten press from The Wall Street Journal and the Food Network).
The BBQ dishes are many and varied (ribs, wings, beef, brisket) and there are plenty of New Mexican favorites you’d find at any TexMex or New Mexican restaurant—from chile rellenos to fajitas. But there are also sliders and burgers, salads and mac ‘n cheese, and fun, tasty desserts (the ice cream baked potato or the mud pie).
Even in off-hours there are people here—usually just getting started (at the bar inside). Which is why it’s usually the one place in town you can find people in the wee hours of the night. There’s a determination to get people in the door and loosen them up—either with the alcohol, the relaxed atmosphere, or the comforting food.
706 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Located up on Museum Hill (the confluence of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian), in a spot of its own that looks out onto the Hill’s spacious plaza, the Cafe isn’t just one of those museum cafes of overpriced pre-packaged foods supplied by a catering company. The Museum Hill Cafe is its own standalone restaurant that could easily exist quite nicely closer to downtown or on Canyon Road. (There is also plenty of parking, unlike downtown or on Canyon Road).
It gets plenty of out-of-town museumgoers and people just hoping for something decent in between their all-in-one-day museum slog. But plenty of sophisticated locals dine here, too, and drink here (there’s an extensive wine list and a healthy selection of cocktails). It’s also a bit of a respite inside (or out) with an attentive staff and an atmosphere that oozes class, only Santa Fe casual.
And the food is imaginative and tasty, from the corn custard (covered with a mild poblano sauce) and smoked salmon appetizers to the frittatas, flautas, and polentas. And if you’re wanting something meatier, they have a green chile cheeseburger that’s hotter than you’d expect, and quite filling.
60 East San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
It would probably be good enough if it were just the setting that got you here: located atop the Santa Fe arcade on the Plaza’s southern side, giving diners an open-air experience that’s second to none. But the thin crust pizzas are just as divine, as are most of the other offerings.
There’s an indoor dining room, but the real appeal is the outside patio, perched for drone-style people watching or just for soaking in the spectacular New Mexico sunsets. There are pastas as well, but unlike most pizzerias, there are also gluten-free and vegan options (and entirely non-GMO flour) tasty options, not just obligatory ones. There’s even a “build-your-own” section, with toppings including green chile, pineapple, smoked duck, truffle oil lobster, and artichoke hearts). There are salads and other appetizers, even risotto and lasagna, and plenty of wines and beers from which to choose. The service is attentive and easygoing, and nothing beats the feeling of dining out above everyone else.
La Boca, 72 W. Marcy Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Taberna (Behind La Boca), 125 Lincoln Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
It’s often as lively as any crowded European wine bar. And with good reason, as La Boca offers a wide-ranging selection of sagaciously chosen Mediterranean and South American wines. The animated staff know what they’re serving, and are only too happy to pass on their knowledge, graciously guiding oenophiles and newbies alike to the perfect wine with which to complement their meals. La Boca also takes pride in schooling its diners on the fineries of Spanish sherry culture, transporting its guests to Cadiz in the crisp cool flavors of Fino, or to the deep fig-essence of a Pedro Ximenez.
It also offers two distinct spaces: the quieter, more intimate front dining room (for a more romantic experience), or, in back, amid its cloistered courtyard, there’s Taberna, a bustling nightlife haven with live music, ample indoor and outdoor seating, and open very late.
Locals and out of towners in the know frequent La Boca and have since its opening in 2006. It has earned numerous awards: the Santa Fe Reporter’s “Restaurant of the Year”; the International Wine and Food Society’s “Award of Excellence” to its chef, James Campbell Caruso (a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef in America and an eight-time nominee as “Best Chef of the Southwest”); and having its menu called out by The New York Times for featuring "modern re-inventions of classic Spanish cuisine." Caruso is also one of only four American chefs nominated to compete in the Sherry Council of America’s Copa Jerez International Food and Sherry Pairing Competition.
304 Johnson Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Obviously, what matters most here are the wines. Not that the food doesn’t stand out as well. As co-owner Glenda Griswold once said, “We are actually on a mission to get people to drink rose all year long”. Roses, chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, pinot noirs, zinfandels, proseccos, and champagnes, by the glass (over 70 options), the half-bottle, or full bottle. All preserved by the Le Verre De Vin wine-vac system, which helps prevent oxidation and keeps the bubbles fresh in the sparkling wines. And there are beers, too.
And the food? There are salads, small plates, and plates to share (trout, onion rings, the cheese board, and the bruschetta), as well as heartier fare: planked salmon, Southern fried chicken, lamb kebob, beef tenderloin, and crab cakes.
It adds to the ambience that the restaurant is housed in a 19th-century adobe building near the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. It is also moderately priced, and can accommodate singles, couples, and groups, as well as diners, best friends (on the dog-friendly front portal, in season). Plus, there’s a happy hour where the wine flows by the glass till six o’clock.
930 Baca Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
The place for comfort food of all kinds. For adults and kids. (There’s a shelf full of toy dinosaurs and other animals that kids can carry off in a bucket to their table—and an outdoor area in a shaded patio where their carryings-on can be drowned out by the ambient noise of traffic flowing by.) It feels like it’s mostly open only for breakfast and lunch—the coffee is that good, and refills are free and always available—but the dinners there are also unexpectedly just as yummy, and varied.
There’s everything from thick French toast and gravlax to soups and sandwiches to lasagna and carne asada, plus daily specials, huge baked goods (muffins and cinnamon buns) and desserts (also huge). You order, you pick out your table (inside or out, both are often crowded), they bring you your food.
There are plenty of hipsters, and hipster families, and it feels communal (there’s a communal table). But most of the hipster types who dine here dine here regularly, and they tend to be, or at least pretend really well at being, working artists. And people who appreciate good food in a casual atmosphere. (No one’s ever in a rush here.) And even then the food’s not outstanding, or it misses the mark (things like spring rolls are probably better left to Asian restaurants that specialize in such dishes; while other foods, even pancakes, seems to want to make up in portion size what they lack in tastiness). But bring cash. They do not take plastic. Which seems in keeping with their crunchy-granola esthetic.
101 West Alameda, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Voted by readers of the Santa Fe Reporter as having the Best Bar and Best Hotel Bar in Santa Fe in 2019, Del Charro is part of the Inn of the Governors, located just off the Plaza. That’s not just because of the drinks but the atmosphere, from the cushy couch-size seats in front of the fireplace (just across from the bar) to the window seats looking out onto the Santa Fe River.
The food is a mix of New Mexican and classic American, starting with green chile chicken chowder, red and green chile posole, chicken tenders and quesadillas (it may be a bar but it is very kid-friendly), nachos, Texas chili cheese fries, and chipotle wings. That’s just for starters. The bar and the bar food get a lot of attention, but Del Charro has plenty of separate seating for diners, as well. Whether it is for lunch or dinner, Del Charro has one of the better green chile cheeseburgers in town. Additionally, veggie burgers, bison burgers, black Angus burgers, seared ahi tuna sandwiches, wraps, fish and chips, chicken sandwiches, along with New Mexican dishes: enchiladas, stuffed poblano peppers, and Frito pies.
But because Del Charro is within view of the state capitol, it deservedly bills itself as the city’s watering hole. So, yes, the drinks here do stand out, especially the award-winning margaritas, and the spot has an interesting mix of tourists, politicians, lobbyists, and locals.
2860 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
Dr. Field Goods bills itself as farm to table. Which it is. But it’s what happens in between the farm and your table that makes all the difference (and gives a bit of the lie to most any restaurant that bills itself as such). Maybe it’s because founder and resident chef Josh Gerwin gets bored easily with what passes as an interpretation of a classic dish. Or maybe it’s just because he wants to shake up peoples taste buds, or their ideas of what passes as a classic diner sandwich.
Take, for example, that last entry- the diner sandwich. Field Goods’ Bad Ass BLT totally upends any other BLT you may have thought different, or special, or filling. It’s a bacon lovers slice of heaven and epitomizes Gerwin’s approach to food, and to what diners really want when they want meat (or veggies). They want not just big portions but memorably big portions, challenging portions. Portions, and flavors, that stick with you. The Bad Ass BLT delivers on all that, and more. It’s not a few decent-size slices of bacon. It’s a nine-ounce bacon patty, cured and smoked then roasted in Gerwin’s wood-fired oven (which occupies center stage in the restaurant, which is usually packed).
It’s why Guy Fieri and his Diners, Drive-ins and Dives producers made a beeline for Gerwin’s oddly located space (in a former strip mall on the south end of Cerrillos Road). There are also Gerwin’s take on enchiladas, the Cuban sandwich, pho, vegetable egg rolls, kimchi, patatas bravaso, as well as pizzas, New Mexican, American, Asian, and vegetarian dishes.
And you’ll get a great mix of diners here. State employees who are in the know, tourists, Fieri fans, Meow Wolf spillovers, and families there for the mix of adult fare and kid-friendly dishes.
96 B Old Las Vegas Hwy, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
A neighborhood restaurant whose neighborhood happens to be all of Santa Fe, Harry’s has been around since 1992. Though it feels as though it might’ve existed decades before that, in some other off-the-highway, 50s-diner-style incarnation. That’s because it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and all three meals are served up equally well. And all three have remained as hefty and hearty as ever. (And unlike most diners, in 1998, they not only upgraded the original site by bringing in a modern kitchen, better plumbing, better electrical systems, they got the coveted liquor license, as well as an espresso machine.
Located just outside of town, off I-25, what seems like a trek feels like much less of one once you’re there. It’s in a big adobe, with a backyard big enough for kids to run around in, an enclosed patio both in back and now in front, and several rooms throughout, as well as a very active bar. And it’s definitely neighborly, both the staff and the customers are relaxed and friendly.
On the food front, it’s all about comfort. A mishmash of New Mexican and classic American fare (with other genres occasionally added), there are blue cornmeal waffles, catfish poboys, their famous turkey meatloaf, salads, pastas, pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, and steaks, along with enchilada plates, catfish and grits, ribs, and smothered burritos. And the desserts are worth the trip alone: from the double chocolate espresso brownie to the pies (strawberry-rhubarb, pecan, coconut cream, and apple, among others).
2801 Rodeo Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
Founded on the premise of giving its customers an unpretentious atmosphere for locals who want high-quality locally sourced food at a fair price, Joe’s has adhered to this philosophy since opening in 2002. Located on the Southside in Rodeo Plaza, Joe’s buys more farmer’s market goods than any other restaurant in town, and that devotion to quality ingredients comes through in the food.
It is comfort food, sort of. And sort of diner food. But much more sophisticated and varied than both. It’s homestyle cooking of traditional Americana dishes from pizza and burgers to steak, salmon, chicken, pastas, and blue plate specials (buttermilk-marinated fried chicken, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, BBQ beef brisket, and fish and chips. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and there are thick French fries, large onion rings, mountains of cole slaw, soups and salads, along with desserts (pies, mousse, cheesecake, tartes), shakes, floats, cream sodas, and beer and wine.
Roland Richter, who founded Joe’s with his wife Sheila Nixon (the two also bought Pizza Etc. in 1995, shortly after they moved to Santa Fe and several years before opening Joe’s), grew up and trained in Germany before then relocating to London (where he worked at Joe Allen) and then Toronto. Because of their Southside location, they’re less expensive than downtown restaurants, but the clientele is about the same: discerning, loyal, and mixed.
187 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Another Santa Fe mainstay that seems to attract as many tourists as locals, though the tourists are often as indistinguishable from the locals as the locals are from the tourists, probably because so many of the locals who haunt Bar & Grill are folks who came to Santa Fe year after year after year, came to Bar & Grill since its opening in 2002, and after so many years of visiting Santa Fe finally gave in and either moved here entirely or bought themselves a second home. They seemed to have moved here, or bought a second home here, almost because of places like Bar & Grill, which is nothing if not always reliable. Reliable for its casual, relaxing atmosphere (not too dark, not too loud, a nice bar where people can have dinner, watch ESPN, chat with their neighbor, or not, and shoot the breeze with some of the city’s nicest bartenders).
It is also located in the DeVargas Mall, near downtown, so it’s a convenient pop-in after people have done their shopping. It’s also a good meetup spot for the après-ski crowd (being that it’s basically a straight shot from the road leading up to the ski area), or a good place to catch a great chicken sandwich (the Chimayo chicken sandwich is rock-solid tasty) or burger. There are American classics (steaks and seafood) as well as New Mexican classics (enchiladas, mahi mahi tacos). And the desserts are just as filling: from the Adobe mud pie to the Dutch apple pie.
And if you have a good eye, you can spot a regular like Cormac McCarthy eating and reading, quietly, over in the corner section. Or just people watch in general- it’s good for that, too.
Original Location : 1814 Second Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
The Railyard : 1607 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Rufina Taproom : 2920 Rufina Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
The original Second Street brewhouse opened in a warehouse-like space over on, well, Second Street, back in 1996. It was basic, a good place where Santa Feans needed a big space for music, pool, beer, and letting loose. So many people needed it that the owners then opened a second location in 2010, over in the burgeoning Railyard District, next to the Farmer’s Market. The Railyard taproom was a bit . . . cleaner, and has a full menu (not just glorified bar food, unlike the taproom’s original namesake), a patio, and a rotating selection of beers on draft.
The Rufina Taproom, which opened in 2017, does both its predecessors one better: the food actually shines. It’s not just bar food, it’s not just happy hour plates, there are bona fide meals here, good meals, really good meals. This third brewery also opened in an up-and-coming part of town: right around the street from Meow Wolf, and therefore site of a growing neighborhood of millennials and their mentors, who are transforming this once heavy industrial landscape into something more artisanal, artist-centric, and something verging on a much-needed sense of nightlife.
The Rufina spot also features a rotation of unique beers, brings in beers from other New Mexico breweries, and offers food verging on cuisine, friendly service, and curated live music featuring local and national artists.
1512 Pacheco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Surprisingly, there aren’t that many restaurants in Santa Fe that cater to or start out as, and remain, as dedicated to a kind of culinary-political holism as Sweetwater. Many places serve fresh, natural, whole, organic foods. Many feature sustainable wines and a diverse array of regional beverages and foods and ingredients from all over the world. But few combine all of this under a rubric as committed to the fitness of the planet, and its’ residents, as Sweetwater.
There are plenty of gluten-free options, as well as vegetarian, vegan, and paleo dishes. Sweetwater also serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s a matcha green smoothie bowl, breakfast burritos (paleo and vegan), soups and salads, wraps (paleo and veggie-loaded), enchiladas, a bison burger, shrimp and grits, and veggie burgers, and, in what epitomizes Sweetwater (and its ever-conscious, ever-conscientious clientele), the Buddha bowl: sauteed kale and brown rice with Nori seaweed, tofu, pickled radish, avocado, and sprouted watermelon seeds lightly tossed in a spicy ginger-garlic tamari.
It’s mellow, it’s always crowded, it’s intimate, and since they opened back in 2012, whenever customers pay in cash, two percent of that money goes to support a different local nonprofit. A notion somewhat common now but well ahead of the curve back then. Kind of like the food.
138 Tesuque Village Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87506
Tesuque is a village, and it’s technically one of Northern New Mexico’s Eight Northern Pueblos, and maybe a ten-minute drive from downtown and the Plaza. As close as it is to town, though, it feels a bit removed. And so the TVM has the feel of a country meeting place for locals and not-so-locals, for breakfast, lunch, drinks, dinner, gatherings, pizza, more drinks, a first date, brunch with the grandkids, drinks with your biking buddies (bicycle or motorcycle), drinks with whoever is there.
They come for the funky atmosphere, highlighted by a covered outdoor seating area where diners can be seen by those who are cruising past on the two-lane road right outside. They also come for the huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, French toast, the mac and cheese, cheese sliders, Texas chili, green chile stew, pinon-crusted salmon, chile rellenos, fajitas, and the wood-fired brick-oven pizzas. Everything here, as spicy as it might be (in truth, it’s never really that spicy), could qualify as comfort food. The portions are big, there’s nothing unfamiliar or challenging, and you’ll only feel overly full if you get seconds. Which can be tempting.
54 Lincoln Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Santa Fe’s oldest restaurant, this historic diner, right on the Plaza, first opened in 1905. When Greek immigrant Dan Razatos took it over in 1947, he added some Greek touches to the classic American menu- gyros and Greek salads alongside the blue corn green chile carne asada, sopaipillas, and chicken fried steaks.
The food and the service are solid, and there are more tourists than locals. Breakfast is available all day, there are burgers and salads, burritos, enchiladas, sandwiches, plus dishes not so common even at other New Mexican restaurants: Indian tacos, a cashew mole bowl, a green chile meatloaf, and a New Mexico cream pasta (fettucine served with a cream sauce made with green chile, corn, and chicken).
Despite being right on the Plaza, it’s a bit of a cavern once you get inside, so any attempt at people watching or just gazing out the large windows out front isn’t really possible, as they’re usually curtained off.
504 W Cordova Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Reclaimed from the veritable ashes of the former Santa Fe Baking Company by many of its former employees, the New Baking Company is pretty much the same as the old Baking Company, only cleaner, airier, lighter. And the regulars of old, from the loners to the groups of old guys nursing their burritos and coffees, never seemed to have gone away, giving the place the same old character it had before. Which was part of its allure: eccentrics and their dogs.
The service, maybe because many of the servers are now part of the ownership, is even more attentive and friendly than before, and the food remains tasty. More of a diner than a restaurant, complete with a diner-y menu heavy on all-day breakfast-type items (eggs, omelets, burritos- some of the best in town), and endless cups of coffee, as well as easily accessible Wi-Fi, the New Baking Company feels even more open and inviting than the previous incarnation.
And the portions are as generous as ever, and still entirely affordable.
790 Don Cubero Alley, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
It’s all about salad here- sustainably grown, organic, healthy, hearty, innovative. Founded by Harvard graduate Erin Wade back in 2008, she quickly followed it up in 2012 with an Albuquerque location; by now, she’s become the owner, operator, designer, and creator of six restaurants and two farms (in New Mexico and Austin). All in just 10 years.
And she’s feisty. She has given the finger, essentially, to delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash, and she puts her money where her causes and beliefs lie: she has partnered with Wild Earth Guardians and Kitchen Angels, raises lots of money for various charities and nonprofits, and is firmly committed to community, to sustainability, to quality food that has as low an impact on the environment as possible, and to food that’s not just healthy but yummy. (Most of the restaurant’s produce comes from Wade’s 10-acre farm, Los Portales, just north of Santa Fe; so its harvested within hours of arriving at Vinaigrette’s kitchen. Fittingly, food waste from the restaurant goes back to Wade’s farm, where it’s used to feed the animals, and composted back to the land to feed the soil).
As good as the salads are here- and as creative as they are (exemplified by the chop chop salad: romaine, arugula, radicchio and kale, along with diced celery, cauliflower, bell peppers, tomatoes, chickpeas, salami, herb-roasted chicken, provolone, and pickled banana peppers), there are also sandwiches and even macaroni and cheese. It’s tempting to get the Cuban torta (pork shoulder roasted with mustard, along with green chile ham, onions, Swiss cheese, and avocado) almost every time, it’s that good.
There’s seating both inside and in back (shaded, thankfully). It can get crowded, and sometimes loud, but the stark, low-intensity industrial look actually offsets the veggie-heavy menu. Plus, there’s a bar (sort of), with wine and beer. And the desserts are also worth trying. If you want to eat healthily, this is where you eat.
1620 St. Michaels Drive, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Now in its second decade, owner Yashoda Naidoo’s all-vegetarian restaurant continues to excel at gluten-free veggie dishes, soups, and specials. As committed as ever to food that’s as simple as possible (from the earth) and prepared according to the Ayurvedic tradition.
Annapurna, like Naidoo’s other Ayurvedic-based restaurants throughout New Mexico, have not served trans fats, white flour, white sugar, or anything refined since they were first opened. Made fresh daily on-site, and using only organic ingredients, Annapurna isn’t just for vegetarians or vegans, either. Known popularly as a “place for healing cuisine,” Annapurna serves people of all shapes and sizes here—everyone interested in, if not curious, food that’s as tasty as it is healthy.
The staple, since day one, remains Naidoo’s Kitchari: a seemingly bottomless bowl of basmati rice, yellow split mung beans, vegetables, greens and spices (which include ginger, cilantro or coconut). Other favorites include the South Indian Sampler, an exotic combination for the curious. Amini masala dosa, two vadais, and a cup of sambhar, served with coconut chutney, the Puri Bhaji, Four puffed savory fried breads alongside bhaji, a traditional spicy thick tomato, vegetable and potato combination, and the stir-fry medley of carrots, broccoli, cabbage and zucchini in a fiery house-blended marinade. There are also plenty of dals, dosas, and chapattis to choose from. All of it fresh, healthy, and invigorating.
333 Cordova Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Body, which started off primarily as a health-and-wellness enterprise but soon morphed into a center for “eco-conscious clothing, a health café, leading-edge massage and facial treatments, studio and fitness classes, as well as community-inspiring events,” has also seen its café evolve from one of the healthier, more vegetarian-oriented eateries in town to a deli that’s now more vegan than about anywhere else in the City Different. (It’s also now right next door to the relocated Clafouti’s French-style café—and though they seem to share a certain sensibility, they are not at all alike or even affiliated—though they’re certainly simpatico).
Body’s Vegan Deli now features foods that are free of wheat, dairy and sugar, as well as offering plenty of foods and dishes that are vegan, raw, and organic. There are collard green wraps, an arugula tempeh salad, the raw chocolate ganaches, plus a mix of smoothies (with kale and fruits) to which you can add boosters such as maca, hemp, spirulina, chlorella, and flax seeds. And there are a couple of elixirs as well (both cleanses). There’s also an array of organic wine, local organic beer and sake, raw organic truffles made with raw chocolate.
The vibe is decidedly and intentionally . . . serene. And focused. Much like that of the classes offered at the studio, or the bodywork and products available at the spa—both of which are inside the same space.
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