By Bob Glaze
Last month I gave you my recommendations of what to do when you are in Santa Fe this summer. This month my focus is on where to find a great meal and where to stay when you are in town.
Where to Eat
New Mexico’s cuisine has strong roots in Pueblo Indian culture as well as in the culture of the Spanish settlers. Three ingredients unique to the state are the green chile, blue corn and pinon nuts. You will love the food in Santa Fe. The Plaza can get very busy during the summer and fall, but know that there are several emerging neighborhoods more frequented by locals, where you can find some great food. Here are some of my top restaurants picks by neighborhood.
My favorite spots downtown include:
Café Pasqual’s, 121 Don Gaspar: The famous James Beard Award Winning Restaurant. I love the atmosphere but it can get crowded. If there are no tables, join the communal table in the center of the dining room. My favorite dish is the Huevos Motuleños – eggs over easy on a corn tortilla with black beans topped with sauteed banana, feta, green peas, roasted tomato-jalapeño salsa, green or red chile or tomatillo salsa with a side corn tortilla. It doesn’t get any better than this!
Santacafé, 231 Washington Ave, just north of the Plaza: It is always one of my favorites with a sleek white interior in the winter and a great patio in the summer.
Coyote Café, 123 W. Water: Coyote Café opened in 1987 by Mark Miller, creator of modern Southwest Cooking. Today it is still popular with very good food.
La Casa Sena and Cantina: This is a great spot for lunch or dinner. In the Cantina, the waiters and waitresses sing jazz, show tunes and more every Wednesday to Sunday. They have a great outdoor patio for dining in the warmer months.
Pink Adobe, 406 Old Santa Fe Trail: Located in a 300-year old rose colored adobe, this has been one of the best restaurants since 1944.
The Shed: One of the best for New Mexican Cuisine is located at 113 ½ East Palace Ave. They have great outdoor dining in the warmer months. It won a James Beard Foundation Award in 2003 for an American Classic of timeless appeal. It has won many other awards as well.
Sazón: My brother and his wife recently tried Sazón, so I went on my last trip to try it out based on their recommendation. It was a really good experience. Opened in 2015, it is located at 221 Shelby St. and features upscale Latin American Cuisine and specialty cocktails. The atmosphere is warm with wonderful murals in the main dining room featuring fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese and more. I really enjoyed my duck entree with a mole sauce. Make sure to add it to your list when you are in town.
Kakawa Chocolate: This fun, casual spot at 1050 Paseo de Peralta, has chocolate drinks, chocolate brownies, chocolate candy and truffles plus great ice cream. I chose the chocolate and it was worth every calorie. It is the perfect spot for an afternoon snack after sightseeing and shopping.
Rio Chama Steakhouse: This is an attractive restaurant with a lovely outdoor patio, It is known for its steaks, but has other good options as well. They are open for lunch, brunch and dinner. 414 Old Santa Fe Trail.
TerraCotta Wine Bistro: At 304 Johnson St., this is a small colorful restaurant in a 19th Century adobe building. I enjoyed lunch with friends and family. They have a good selection of soups, salads, panini and entrees. I enjoyed a great salmon entree with orzo pasta and vegetables.
Sweet Lily Bakery: At 229 Johnson St., this is a new bakery cafe, opened by long-time baker Melinda Gipson, offering pies, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, scones, tarts, muffins, cinnamon rolls, savory gallettes plus a few lunch items like quiche, all from their own kitchen.
La Plazuela Restaurant, at the La Fonda Hotel on the Plaza, is very popular with locals and tourists alike. The hotel is the oldest in Santa Fe.
La Boca, 72 W. Marcy: I enjoyed this tapas restaurant that was recommended by friends. I had a delightful dinner of a kale salad, a roasted beet salad, a wonderful paella with chicken, shrimp, mussels and chorizo and a scallop entree. It was great being able to share and try multiple plates. They have a large number of fish, chicken seafood and meat options. They also have Taberna La Boca, a more casual spot. 125 Lincoln Ave.
315 Restaurant & Wine Bar, 315 Old Santa Fe Trail: Attractive restaurant in a small adobe with outdoor seating. It features French cuisine and great wines.
The Beestro: This is a fairly new addition to the Santa Fe dining scene. There is a small takeout restaurant downstairs, but upstairs there is a colorful dining room where you can try their soups, salads, panini and crepes. They are known for their excellent crepes. They have both savory and sweet. We opted for dessert and coffee and loved the cajeta with New Mexico goat cheese caramel and a tasty lemon curd cheesecake crepe. Both came with vanilla bean ice cream.
While exploring all of the shops and galleries, take time to enjoy:
The Compound, 653 Canyon Road: Features Mark Kiffin who won the James Beard Foundation Best Chef of the Southwest Award. This is one of the local’s favorites. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016.
Geronimo, 724 Canyon Road: One of the best restaurants in town where I have never had a bad meal!
The Teahouse, 821 Canyon Road: A Great place to stop for lunch or a break during a day of gallery hopping on Canyon Road.
El Farol, 808 Canyon Road: This is Santa Fe’s oldest restaurant and cantina, specializing in Spanish cuisine and Tapas. I love eating on the porch.
N. Guadalupe St./ Railyard District
This is a fun area to explore with a number of galleries and shops as well. My favorite restaurants here include:
Cowgirl BBQ, 319 S. Guadalupe St.: Casual spot featuring BBQ, New Mexican and Mexican fare.
Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill, 301 Jefferson: A great fast food restaurant with really great fish tacos.
Ohori’s Coffee: With two locations, I chose the one at 505 Cerillos Rd. for a great latte and a scone. They roast their own coffee daily and in small batches.
Clafoutis: Just found this excellent French bakery/cafe on a recent trip thanks to a long-time local friend. It has great salads and sandwiches and amazing French pastries and desserts!! 402 N Guadalupe St.
Restaurant Martin: One of my newest recommendations is Restaurant Martin at 526 Galisteo. Martin Rios has been nominated twice by the James Beard Foundation Award as Best Chef Southwest. It has a large patio with a charming, warm interior space. It has a wonderful seasonal menu with a large wine list. I loved the service, the atmosphere and the food. The roasted monkfish entree was complex and perfectly prepared with Swiss chard stuffed with lump crab meat, cauliflower puree, raisins, cannellini beans, candied ginger and a lemongrass-coconut nage. There were salmon, scallop, chicken, duck breast, pork and beef entrees as well. The assortment of chocolate desserts was over-the-top!
I recently read about Santa Fe Spirits which is a local distillery and tasting room which features its Expedition vodka, its Silver Coyote white whiskey, their Wheeler’s gin, a Colkegan single malt whiskey, The Slow Burn whiskey made with a smoked gin liqueur plus hickory and apple wood smoke, an apple brandy made from northern New Mexico apples and the Atapino single malt white whiskey made with pinion nuts and the resin from the ponderosa pine tree. I just visited the tasting room downtown at 303 Read St. on my recent trip and enjoyed the atmosphere and loved the Colkegan single malt whiskey. They also feature tours and a tasting room at 7505 Mallard Way.
Whole Hog Cafe: With two locations in Albuquerque and one in Santa Fe, this is a fun, casual BBQ spot featuring meats dry rubbed with spices and smoked with pecan wood. They feature pulled pork, beef brisket, pulled chicken, pork loin and sausage. They also have ribs and chicken. They have sandwiches, wraps and plates with a number of sides. I enjoy the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and baked beans. 320 S. Guadalupe
After reading great reviews, I enjoyed lunch at Vinaigrette. Located at 709 Don Cubero Alley right off Cerrillos Rd., they are known for their amazing salads. The atmosphere is contemporary and colorful and the service excellent. They also offer a number of sandwiches, soups, starters and sides. I really enjoyed the cherry tart salad, made with dried cherries, mild feta cheese, peppery baby arugula and toasted pecans with champagne vinaigrette. I added grilled shrimp. They have two other locations, one in Austin, TX and the other in Albuquerque, NM.
Next door, under the same ownership, is Modern General, at 637 Cerrillos Rd. This is a sleek, contemporary space with a restaurant featuring toasts, bowls, sandwiches, salads and modcakes, their version of flapjacks or pancakes in several flavors. They also feature some fun housewares throughout the store/restaurant.
Shake Foundation: Located at 631 Cerrillos Rd., this is a popular spot known for their green chile cheeseburgers and other burgers.
Vanessie is known for its popular piano bar with singer Doug Montgomery performing four nights a week. It has a great atmosphere.
Tune Up Cafe: A fun local’s spot that is a great new find in Santa Fe. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and brunch on weekends, they have a variety of great New Mexican, El Salvadorian and Mexican specialties plus salads, burgers and much more. It is a colorful, casual spot where you order at the counter and then the food is brought to you. 1115 Hickox St.
La Choza: Serving lunch and dinner from Monday through Saturday, this casual, colorful restaurant located in an old adobe home, serves New Mexican specialties. The blue corn tacos with chicken were excellent. It is a local’s spot a short distance from the Plaza. It is a sister restaurant of The Shed, one of the most popular restaurants downtown. It comes highly recommended by my local friends as well as recent articles. 905 Alarid St.
A great new addition to the dining scene is Joseph’s of Santa Fe. At 428 Agua Fria, this is a small, free standing adobe with a warm and inviting decor featuring frescoes, sculptures and original art. Chef Joseph Wrede is a Food & Wine Best New Chef. He opened Joseph’s Table in 1995 in Taos and has now re-launched it in Santa Fe. It has a very creative menu and excellent food.
Bouche Bistro: This is a cozy French bistro featuring French specialties and wine. I enjoyed dinner with local friends. 451 W. Alameda.
Cerrillos Road and South
Still further away from Plaza, my new finds include:
Maria’s, 555 W. Cordova: One of the best Mexican restaurants in town, it has a fun, casual atmosphere.
San Marcos Feed Store and Cafe: A short drive from Santa Fe, on the Turquoise Trail, is the highly recommended San Marcos Cafe. It is next to a feed store and grounds where you can see peacocks, turkeys and hens. The cafe is one of my favorite new finds. It is cozy and charming with great Southwestern breakfasts. There is a bright enclosed porch with kiva fireplace. It is popular on weekends so reservations are recommended. They also offer live music which really enhances the experience. 3877 State Road 14. They are open for breakfast and lunch from 8 am to 2 pm and for Sunday brunch from 8 am to 2 pm. 505-471-9298.
One of my favorite new coffee spots is Iconik Coffee. This is a fun locals spot in a large, hip and eclectic space. They roast their own coffee on site, make their own great pastries and cookies and have a number of food items including fritattas, soups, sandwiches and salads. 1600 Lena Street. Their coffee is organic and Direct Trade. Across the street, at 1710 Lena St., is Green River Pottery which has some great pieces of contemporary stoneware ceramics. Next to Green River Pottery is La Lecheria, a New Mexico craft ice cream store. They feature as number of unique flavors from Ikonik Coffee, to Chocolate Sea Salt and Green Chile. I highly recommend it. 1708 Lena St. Suite #1.
Chocolate Maven: Chocolate Maven was recommended by my neighbors in Santa Fe for delicious baked goods. They also have a cafe for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner and high tea. I went for a latte and a great cookie. The downstairs overlooks the bakery in the rear of the property. 821 San Mateo. I will definitely be back for the afternoon tea.
Nearby is Second Street Brewery at 1814 Second Street. They feature their own brews along with comfort food. They produce a large number of ales, porters, stouts, IPAs, pilsners and other seasonal offerings. I enjoyed tasting the Jordy’s Irish Red and the Belgian Witbier or Wheat Beer. They have a second location in the Santa Fe Railyard.
Counter Culture, 930 Baca St.: A local’s favorite for coffee, baked goods, soups, sandwiches and salads. I went for coffee and loved the artsy atmosphere and industrial feel.
Sage Bakehouse: At 535 Cerillos Rd, this is a great industrial chic space featuring really excellent breads, cookies, croissants, pastries and open-faced sandwiches. I loved stopping in for an almond tart and a latte. I will definitely be back!
Tecolote Cafe: I enjoyed my first visit to the Tecolote Cafe when they were on Cerillos Rd. I was disappointed to hear that they closed, but hopeful they would find another location. I was pleased to find that they opened in a much larger space at 1616 St. Michael’s Drive. It is a perfect spot for breakfast or lunch, but be prepared for a wait as it it very popular with the locals. It features New Mexican cuisine.
Harry’s Road House, 96 Old Las Vegas Hwy: A fun, casual restaurant just outside of town.
Tesuque is a great area to explore with several galleries including the Shidoni Gallery and Sculpture Garden. Plus it is the closest area to the Santa Fe Opera in the summer. My top picks include:
Tesuque Village Market: One of my favorite spots is this old roadhouse in Tesuque 12-15 minutes north of the Plaza. It has great breakfast, lunches and dinners featuring New Mexican as well as Mexican specialties. Grab a New York Times and enjoy coffee with the locals. There is also a small general store if you want to pick up some grocery items. 138 Tesuque Village Rd.
Gabriel’s: Just north of the Santa Fe Opera, this was recommended to me by a long time local. It is a fun casual spot for Mexican food and perfect for a large group. They are known for their guacamole made tableside. They have a large menu featuring vegetarian options, moles, tacos, fajitas and other Mexican specialties. It has a lovely patio in the summer months.
El Nido Restaurant: Located north of Santa Fe in Tesuque at 1577 Bishops Lodge Road, this was a local institution that closed a few years ago and sat empty. It was reopened in November, 2016 under new management. I had been in the past and so was pleased to see that it was back. The restaurant has a cozy bar in the back and a sleek new dining room in front looking into the open kitchen. It has large menu featuring starters, salads, pizzas, pastas and grilled entrees. I had a really outstanding salmon dish with polenta, sautéed spinach, a tomato relish and a balsamic reduction drizzled on the side of the plate.
Where to Stay in Santa Fe
Santa Fe has some excellent options at both ends of the affordability spectrum. We think you will like:
El Rey Court: For the best affordable options check out this inn at 1862 Cerrillos Rd. on the original Route 11. I have stayed there several times. It is under new ownership and the rooms are currently being renovated.
Inn of the Five Graces, 150 E. DeVargas St.: This is a wonderful, small boutique hotel with furnishings from Central Asia and other cultures.
Bishop’s Lodge Resort, 1297 Bishops Lodge Road: This resort and spa has been a favorite for many for years. It is a few minutes drive north of the Plaza.
Inn of the Anasazi: This is a Rosewood property, just off the Plaza, at 113 Washington Avenue. It is a lovely property with small sitting rooms and a very good restaurant. For private functions, the downstairs wine cellar is the perfect spot.
The historic Hotel St. Francis is considered one of the top boutique hotels in town at 210 Don Gaspar, a block from the Plaza. It’s restaurant Tabla de Los Santos and Secreto Lounge have received good press also. They have a lovely outdoor patio.
Enjoy your time in Santa Fe. Please let me know if you find some additional restaurants or hotels that you enjoyed! I am overdue for a visit.
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