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It's cheaper, later, fun-er.

There are many reasons to love eating in the bar. It's cheaper, more relaxed, you don't need a reservation and many places serve from the middle of the afternoon until late at night. In a town like this, where so many of our finest restaurants are too expensive for mere mortals to enjoy on a regular basis, bar menus allow us to eat like the rich and famous.

Think about places like Coyote Café. How often do you have the time, energy and cash to call for a table, get all

dressed up, sit next to people who look like your mom and her portfolio advisor and then drop half of your paycheck for the privilege? Sure, it's fun every once in a while, but

Coyote Cantina

is cool all summer long. From

April to October, you can guzzle mango margaritas while putting down no-fuss Mexican

food like tortas, tacos and tostadas, most of it priced under $10.

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Del Charro

at the Inn of the Governors is an entirely different kind of place. From lunch until midnight, the bar cranks out $4 burgers, $3 quesadillas and $2 orders of potato chips and ranch dressing. It's a steal! Drive down West Alameda any night of the week and peer through the big open windows at the lucky people eating yummy food that costs a fraction of what you just paid. Write it on the back of your hand: Del Charro.

If money's no object, get in the elevator and go up to

Swig

. Away from all (or most) of the bumping, grinding and booty-shakin', you can have a quiet seat in the Bamboo Room and throw down on some really good grub. It's no Del Charro, but one might expect to pay more

for things like black honey sesame tempura shrimp. Go ahead, have another saketini with that hand roll!

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Pranzo

is where folks who work late like to unwind with a pizza al funghi and a glass of Zardetto Prosecco. The whole restaurant stays open late, but on a slow night folks will congregate in the bar, where they serve wine by the glass and an abbreviated menu of Italian standards. Some people rave about this place and others complain, but everyone agrees it's the place to go when you want a quiet, congenial meal after 10 pm.

If you want a big, juicy burger for dinner at

Rio Chama

, you can only get it in the bar. If you want to eat in the restaurant, fine. How about a $38 beef tenderloin? Then again, you could smoke cigars in front of the fireplace while you wait for your jalapeño-cheddar

burger and onion rings in the bar. That's not a tough choice, is it?

Over on the other side of the Plaza, La

Posada Hotel's Fuego is a very nice, but face it, very fancy restaurant with prices only foreign tourists

would pay. But La Posada's

Staab House

is open late

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and serves a very respectable menu. For $18, you can take your choice of four plates of nibbles like Cabrales cheese-stuffed meatballs, mussels in saffron sauce, shrimp in orange sauce and Manchego cheese with quince paste. If you want to eat something fancier without putting on a tie, you can sit at the bar and dig into a duck confit wrap with goat cheese, piñons and tomatoes.

COYOTE CANTINA

132 W. Water St.

983-1615

Lunch and dinner, April through October.

DEL CHARRO

101 W. Alameda St.

982-4333

Open daily from 11:30 am to midnight.

SWIG

135 W. Palace Ave., Level Three

955-0400

Bar menu nightly from 5 pm to 1 am.

PRANZO ITALIAN GRILL

540 Montezuma St. (Sanbusco Center)

984-2645

Serving in the bar from noon to 11:45 pm.

RIO CHAMA

414 Old Santa Fe Trail

955-0765

Bar menu nightly 5 pm to 10:30 pm.

STAAB HOUSE

At La Posada de Santa Fe, 330 E. Palace Ave.

986-0000

Bar menu nightly from 11 pm to 10 pm.