Three out of four chefs recommend dining at Tomasita’s to get a taste of Santa Fe’s true regional flavor. Who doesn’t? Read on.
Not long ago, independently owned restaurants served local, fresh fare. Within the past 30 years, however, chain restaurants and fast-food joints have permeated every nook and cranny of the American landscape. Homogenizing the American palate, these casual dining venues serve mass-produced frozen “food” and mostly worry about profits and margin. Because culinary trends exist in a state of perpetual churn, the cycle has come full-circle and once again we’re seeing an influx of independently owned farm-to-table venues. “Newer restaurants are committed to serving fresh, not frozen,” says Ziggy Rzig, owner and chef of Omira Bar & Grill (1005 S St. Francis Drive, 780-5483). “I’m a big supporter of that.” So when Ziggy craves home-cooked farm-to-table meals, he goes to Dr. Field Goods Kitchen. From the “fashion-fresh” field greens to the free-range goats, the Kitchen is “an energetic place with a hip, creative kitchen.” Although he hates to eat on the run, Ziggy would make a mad dash there for el Cubano and a glass of wine.
When discussing what culinary institution he thinks exudes the true regional flavor of Santa Fe, Josh Gerwin, owner and chef of Dr. Field Goods Kitchen (2860 Cerrillos Road, 471-0043) “can’t commit” to selecting any one place. “To me,” Gerwin says, “Santa Fe’s a melting pot, or fusion, of many things.” It’s the Coyote Café, a local institution and longtime foodie favorite that put Santa Fe on the map. It’s Café Pasqual’s, a ’Fe tradition for tourists. It’s La Choza, a classic Northern New Mexican restaurant offering signature local flavors and hospitality. It’s Tacos y Más, a local food truck favorite that cooks up fresh chicken tortas for people on the run. “The list goes on,” Gerwin says. Perhaps his varied opinion of the region is why he eats at Arroyo Vino; the dishes are as eclectic as his view of Santa Fe food. Offering an array of choices like Cuban tostones, Korean tacos and foie gras au torchon, “their menu is all over the map and always changing, but always creative and delicious.”
The first modern pizza (said to have been created by the chef Raffaele Esposito in the Italian town of Napoli, to honor the queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy) ultimately migrated overseas, evolved into several varieties and quickly became one of the world’s most popular foods. In the United States alone, there’s Chicago’s deep-dish, Detroit’s twice-baked and New York’s thin crust—none of which are considered traditional. For that, you’d have to go to Santa Fe’s Pizzeria Da Lino, where you’ll find authentic Italian pizza baked in an Old World-style wood-fired oven. It’s also where you’ll find Mark Connell, chef of Arroyo Vino (218 Camino La Tierra, 983-2100) when he’s not in his kitchen. Having studied classical Italian cooking in Costigliole di Asti, Italy, Mark says the “pizza at Pizzeria Da Lino is as authentic as you’ll get in Santa Fe,” and feels like he’s back in the Boot when he pairs the “hot” carciofi aglio with red wine or a cold beer.
Once upon a time in Buffalo, NY, Anchor Bar owner, Teressa Bellissimo, unexpectedly had to feed her son and his friends a late-night snack. Having an oversupply of chicken wings, she fried some up, dipped them in spicy chile sauce and served ’em with celery and blue cheese dressing. That was back in 1964. Today, it’s tough to find a restaurant that doesn’t offer some version of Bellissimo’s wings. However, it may, according to Francisco Aguilar, chef at Pizzeria Da Lino (204 N Guadalupe St., 982-8474), be hard to find one that makes them as well as they do at the Coyote Café (132 W Water St., 983-1615). Frequenting Coyote’s “rooftop cantina,” Aguilar orders the fiery bird chile sesame hot wings, served with sweet-and-sour cucumbers, celery sticks and buttermilk cilantro dip. “It’s my favorite American food, and Coyote does them well,” Aguilar says. With the cantina’s great menu and a cool vibe, Aguilar eats happily ever after. The End.