As we peel off the layers and venture out—bare skinned and blinking—into the sensuous sunrays and warming evenings, we’re another year older but feel younger than springtime (that’s what I tell myself squeezing my winter white jiggles into suddenly tight summer dresses). Even walking down a familiar street, little details we forgot about under the snow now wink and dance before our eyes. While we were holed up away from the cold, some cool new stuff was stirring and is now ready for the big reveal.
All aging beauties require a little occasional maintenance. Historic La Fonda Hotel opened its doors in 1922, although reports of an inn at that location date back to the 1600s. Once a Harvey property, La Fonda is hailed in travel guides and historic registers, and now the lobby's La Fiesta Lounge (100 E San Francisco St., 982-5511) boasts an elegant remodel. Long known for festive live music and dancing, renovations include a horseshoe-shaped bar (for better mingling), modernized furnishings and decorative pounded tin adhered to the ceiling between traditional wooden vigas. There is a creative new cocktail menu, and they now call their bartenders "mixologists," which is always a sign a bar is upping the ante. Bar snacks include a salsa flight, deconstructed nachos and crispy churros with Mexican dipping chocolate. Day drinkers can still enjoy a traditional lunch buffet or get a kick-start at the new coffee bar. While there, Instagram a selfie with Harvey, the four-foot rabbit sculpture, to dazzle film buff friends.
While hobnobbing around the Plaza, swing by the Inn of the Anasazi (113 Washington Ave., 988-3030) and sample fare from the new executive chef, Edgar Beas. The latest addition in a two-year upgrade of the property, chef Beas comes from Rosewood Sand Hill, in Northern California. There, he honed his touch with vegan and gluten-free specialties while integrating locally sourced, seasonal products. Some specialty dishes include charred octopus with potato polenta; seared foie gras with red chile and dark chocolate; and duck with farro, tamarind, dates and artichokes. The modernization of the kitchen reaches into the bar, which revealed its new tequila table last year, featuring flights, hors d'oeuvres and a mini tequila lesson for $40. Their newest endeavor involves aging Bosque Brewery's Imperial Stout in local Colkegan whiskey casks. And the bartenders are now creating drinks to order, otherwise known as "bespoke," which takes strong training in classic cocktails to execute.
State Capital Kitchen (500 Sandoval St., 467-8237) is the spanking new eatery from Mark Connell, featuring what he describes as "artisanal American dim sum." His passion for doing dirty things to innocent seasonal produce and farm-fresh fare is exemplified by foams, even more deconstructed stuff and tableside liquid-nitrogen-infused ice cream, resulting in scrumptious food porn that will leave you trembling for more. Barman Mike D'Amato has craftily put together a list of shims (low alcohol cocktails), which is the best use of a wine-and-beer-only license. Finally, someone here is doing it! At least Santa Feans will get to experience long-established global trends as if they were brand new. It's always springtime somewhere.