In Santa Fe, high-profile restaurants with highprofile chefs stand beside unassuming, understated eateries. Both offer intriguing variations of regional cuisine fused with international flare. And with about 200 restaurants in this city of 70,000, the choices are plentiful—and everyone from locals to tourists, the food-obsessed and the chef’s behind the city’s most popular eateries like to mix it up. Wondering where some of our local foodie heros break bread after they’ve hung up their aprons? Read on.
When he is not turning out exquisite haute cuisine at Santa Fe's reputable Anasazi Restaurant (113 Washington Ave., 988-3030) executive chef Juan Bochenski swaps foie gras for grass-fed and treats his taste buds to a simple burger at Santa Fe's popular Cowgirl Restaurant (319 S Guadalupe St., 982-2565). Any burger. "It is a place where I can shut off being a chef so I can just spend time with my family." It is also a neighborhood staple catering to all economic levels of the community (from A-list actors to local "starving artists"), making it, implied by chef Bochenski, regionally quintessential. A native of Argentina, he explains how burgers represent traditional American fare and how another fave, Rancho de Chimayó Restaurante (298 Juan Medina Road, Chimayó, 351-4444) epitomizes New Mexican regional cuisine. Asked if he would go to a chain restaurant, he laughed and reluctantly said, "the Olive Garden…for the kids."
It was no surprise when Patrick Lambert, co-owner and chef at the Cowgirl (319 Guadalupe St. 982- 2565) admitted that his favorite burger joint is, well, the Cowgirl. He passionately describes their popular "Mother of All Burgers"—it's made from antibiotic and hormone-free, grass-fed, grain-finished custom ground beef, blended with locally raised buffalo and Applewood-smoked bacon. The kicker? It's served on a pretzel bun with melted brie, chopped green chiles, heirloom tomatoes and a drizzle of truffle oil. It was a surprise, however, to hear that some of his Cowgirl fare is, of all things, Asian-inspired. "I love curry and coconut milk." This explains why he frequents Lan's Vietnamese
Cuisine, where Lambert says, "they serve fresh authentic food that is well executed." When in the mood for local Santa Fe flavor, Lambert heads over to Tune-Up Café, another neighborhood joint that lives and breathes its surrounding community. Featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive- Ins and Dives, Tune-Up has a "killer" menu that's known as replete with local flavor, and, according to Lambert, "it is the best place for gluten-free desserts."
Rivera, the owner and chef of Tune-Up Café (1115 Hickox St. 983-7060) hasn't had much time to eat out. On average, he spends approximately 70 hours a week pumping out comfort food, Southwestern favorites and delicacies inspired by his native El Salvador to the masses. When he can get away, he opts to dine at Mu Du Noodles. "I love Asian food," says Rivera, "and I love the quality of the local ingredients used in every dish." Mu Du buys local organic produce whenever possible, and is working with local farmers in an effort to grow some of the unique herbs and spices needed to maintain the integrity of their dishes, including Jesus' "go to" entrée, the Emerald Sautée.
Mu Jing Lau
Mu Jing Lau puts the "Mu" in Mu Du Noodles (1494 Cerrillos Road, 983-1411). Literally. A former software engineer, her journey into the Santa Fe kitchen began 20 years ago when local, Asianinspired fare wasn't that common. With a commitment to sustainable food, Mu Du triumphed by providing patrons with nutritious, fresh and flavorful, dishes. Now an accomplished chef and restaurateur, Lau likes to support new up-andcoming venues. "I want to try Izanami (3451 Hyde Park Road, 428-6390) the new Japanese restaurant at Ten Thousand Waves," She also frequents the seasoned, like Café Pasqual's (121 Don Gaspar Ave., 983-9340). Asked for her favorite dish, she's hard-pressed. "Depends on if it's breakfast or lunch," she says. "I like their hash, enchiladas, French toast—you name it. But I tend to go for the Mexican food."
Hungry for more? Stay tuned for our next installment.