Santa Feans looking for a different kind of Italian dish should look no further than this local joint, which follows the basic conventions of the Boot’s cuisine with a slightly different twist. The meatballs in its traditional spaghetti dish ($10.25, large $14), for instance, are made of a rich blend of veal, pork and beef. Though the restaurant can get on the pricier side during the dinner hour, each weekday comes with an affordable lunch special. Monday’s special is chicken piccata ($11.75), a traditional dish of meat, roasted potatoes and greens served in a creamy yellow sauce that serves as the meal’s base. Food soaks easily in the sauce, which is made with a mix of white wine and butter. Traditional Italian appetizers like flash-fried calamari ($7) also stand out on their own here. Not overly fried, the calamari has a light taste complimented by an aioli sauce with a heavy citrus flavor. (JP)
322 Garfield St., 995-9595
Lunch Monday-Friday; dinner daily.
Like its name suggests, eating here is a fine experience, no fuss. A casual atmosphere commingles with scrumptious breakfast items like the housemade granola bowl ($6.95) served with seasonal fruit and Greek yogurt and the asadero cheese goodness of the Eldorado omelet ($9.75). For traditional with a twist, try the migas ($8.95)—scrambled organic eggs served with black beans, guac and sour cream over a whole wheat tortilla, or the equally amazing huevos motuleños ($9.75)—over-easy eggs on a corn tortilla with beans, local feta cheese, sautéed bananas and your choice of red or green. Lunch is equally irresistible with squash quesadillas ($9.50) and bomb corncakes with chipotle marinated shrimp ($10.50). Make sure to leave room for dessert as a meringue menagerie beckons. Think scrumptious Mexican wedding cookies, buttery croissants and life-changing peach galettes. (EL)
624 Old Las Vegas Hwy., 466-3886
Breakfast and lunch daily.
When you could just as easily enjoy a coffee at home for a fraction of the cost, why go out? Often, it is for a pleasant atmosphere. And the friendly service and warm décor go a long way to making the Maven a pleasant destination even before the food arrives. Of particular interest is the window placed in the rear wall of the dining area, which reveals the industrial kitchen beyond. There, you can observe the bakers creating fresh, delicious-looking desserts while you enjoy your own over a cup of espresso ($2.50). Both entrées and dessert are excellent. The roasted garlic soup ($6-$8) is mild, but not bland and the Reuben ($14) is tasty, although a bit pricy. Try the soup and sandwich combo for $10-$14 at a much better deal. The desserts were similarly upper crust and the whipped cream topping on the carrot cake ($6) and chocolate mousse cake ($7) was fresh made—and was enough to put all but the most enthusiastic nitrous addict off the canned stuff. [Chef] hats off, Dharm Khalsa. (IM)
821 W San Mateo Road, 984-1980
Breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri; weekend brunch;
high tea Mon-Sat.
Sitting on the front porch, perched in a tall chair and soaking in the sights of Canyon Road while noshing on plate after plate of flavorful tapas at El Farol is undoubtedly one of the quintessential authentic Santa Fe moments. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or the tenth, or you’re a local craving a night out, having a meal at the place that bills itself as the city’s oldest restaurant and cantina is worth it. Choosing just five tapas to start, however, can be a difficult task, so asking your knowledgeable waiter to make suggestions about the myriad choices is helpful. But for lunch with a friend, the five for $38 deal is spectacular. The flash-fried avocado with pico de gallo and lime yogurt is remarkable, and the gambas al ajillo, four sautéed garlic shrimp in a spicy red sauce, are finger licking. There’s also Spanish goat cheese and chorizo, and flamenco and other nightly entertainment to boot. (JAG)
808 Canyon Road, 983-9912
Lunch and dinner daily.
My late grandmother, Altagracia, had but one caveat when dining out: Do not order pasta. “The food of the poor,” as she called it, could easily be made at home, and culinary excursions were designed to get in touch with your bolder side. Feeling just that, I started off with pan-fried shrimp ($14) served over grits and a spicy sofrito garnished with crispy pancetta and scallions. For my main course, the braised short rib pasta ($24) with braising sauce reduced to au jus with cream and wild mushrooms and topped with Parmesan snow was at hand. “This is the dish that’ll have you remembering me at night,” Executive Chef Brett Sparman said as he delivered it personally, under the watchful eye of a monumental photograph depicting Ms. O’Keeffe, silver hair wrapped tightly in a bun. It’s clear that restaurateur Lloyd Abrams has done it again with this Johnson Street eatery, and while it might be too early to line up contenders for next year’s Restaurant of the Year, one thing is for sure: Georgia is on my mind. (EL)
225 Johnson St., 989-4367
The smell of sweet spices lingers, reggae blasts from the sound system and fills the air, prompting the host leading guests to their tables to dance all the way there. I’m sitting underneath a sign that boasts, “Guy Fieri ate here,” but I won’t hold that against them. This is the beauty that is Jambo, a low-key eatery specializing in African and Caribbean cuisine that, now in its sixth year of operation, is a Santa Fe staple. I’m a sucker for crab cakes and the ones here ($9.95), covered in fried cornmeal and topped with Caribbean sauce, are among the best I’ve tasted. Main courses are not for the shy. If you can’t settle for just one item, try the best of all worlds—the house combination plate ($14.95)—which encompasses chicken curry, rice, roti, coconut lentils and goat stew. Interested in a side of good karma? Jambo donates 5 percent of earnings to their own kids’ health clinic in owner/chef Ahmed M Obo’s hometown of Lamu Island, located off the cost of Kenya. (EL)
2010 Cerrillos Road, 473-1269
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Joseph’s of Santa Fe
A 400-year-old, human-sized statue of St. Michael watches over the dining room—a family heirloom that’s moved with chef Joseph Wrede from the restaurant he closed in Taos to the one he opened in the Santa Fe’s Guadalupe district. Long ago, Michael lost his sword. But that’s about the only thing missing from this prime example of the city’s fine dining genre, packaged as a culinary pub that also offers a bar menu and boasts well-trained staff who work as a team to serve up a memorable meal. The dinner menu isn’t cluttered with too many choices, instead offering a few carefully selected options. A natural bison rib-eye ($38) melts in the mouth alongside local oyster mushrooms and pickled haricot verts that are part of a small salad, and a crisped eggplant entrée beefed up with French lentil tahini purée is a meatless standout ($20). For dessert, you’ll find a butterscotch pudding ($12) topped with salty caramel and a bittersweet chocolate bistro cake ($10) that are nothing short of heavenly. (JAG)
428 Agua Fría St., 982-1272
Leave your enchilada cravings at the door; Loyal Hound is here to redefine Santa Fe comfort food. Attitude-free and taste-heavy describes this newly opened St. Michael’s Drive eatery to a T, where honest pubfare is plentiful. You might consider starting things off with the deviled eggs with “frisky” jalapeños ($5), or the braised bison short rib nachos ($11), yes nachos, topped with Tucumcari cheddar and queso Oaxaca. Sip on one of six microbrews on tap and get ready for entrées like the pork and waffles plate ($11), with its Belgian waffle topped with braised heritage pork, or the never-lets-you-down “Old Skool” fish ‘n’ chips platter starring a couple of beer-battered filets served with housemade chips, green chile slaw that’ll make you want to bathe in it and malt vinegar tartar sauce that would make even a Britton become a believer. (EL)
730 St. Michael’s Drive, 471-0440
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Mariscos Costa Azul
The interior of this Cerrillos Road hub, complete with bright paintings of the tropics, does its best to help city patrons forget that they live in a dry, waterless desert. Mariscos’ meals are simple Mexican seafood fare, no more and no less. Chips and salsa here come with an avocado sauce that’s light and mild. The salsa is heavy on tomatoes and once downed, leaves a slight bite on the back of the tongue. Quesadillas ($6.95) are a hefty appetizer, enough to fill one person on their own. They’re stuffed with white cheese and an additional choice of shrimp or beef ($8.95). Mariscos is liberal in its use of tomatoes and avocado, which come as a side to
la mariscada caliente ($12.95), a heaping plate of grilled shrimp, scallops, octopus and fish. Like the restaurant, the food is humble, though an array of five different hot sauces at each table is sure to spice things up if needed. (JP)
2875 Cerrillos Road, 473-4594
Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday.
Brunch, a much-debated topic among stand-up comedians and no one else, is great, and Midtown Bistro knows how to do it right. Don’t let the elegant, understated décor fool you into thinking that you’ll be subjected to thin streaks of food, artfully clarified of all substance. The Bistro offers elegant interpretations of the classics that will leave you happy, full and ready to hibernate. Take the waffle ($12) option for example, where every element is perfectly balanced, from the fluffy, flavorful waffle, so much better than that IHOP nonsense, to the tweak of heaping it not only with bacon and syrup, but also cottage cheese and dried fruits. There are plenty of brunch staples like the omelet and steak and eggs ($11-$16). Then there are the more unusual options like the gluten-free (...really?) calamari appetizer ($9). The coffee ($2) is a little weak, the mimosas ($8) are just right, the service is superb and there’s no reason to miss out on this excellent fare. (IM)
901 W San Mateo Road, Ste. A, 820-3121
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday; brunch Sunday.
Omira Bar & Grill
A big appetite is a must for the full effect of this member of the Brazilian buffet family. Diners who pay one price ($17.95 for lunch and $27.95 for dinner) are treated to a sumptuous salad bar with creative compositions of cold and hot vegetables, soups, breads and cheeses. Then comes the meat. And it comes. And comes some more. Waiters shuttle by with skewers loaded with lamb, filet mignon, pork, chicken and shrimp for starters—all cooked in the back on a rotisserie and available if you leave on the lamp at your table. Like yours rare or well done? Most meats are ready to go at the desired temperature, with one side cooked more thoroughly than the other. Chef specialties including “fusion dolmas” of marinated shredded beef in a spicy sauce. Turn the light back on when you see these come out of the kitchen. Skewers of pineapple glazed with sugary goodness and banana fritters on the buffet line serve as dessert, and don’t forget the wine. (JAG)
1005 S St. Francis Drive, 780-5483 Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Vietnamese is king at the Solana Center hideaway where ordering might be by the numbers, but the food is near close to fine art. You can tell by the number of local chefs who go there when they hang their aprons up. Wet your whistle with some da chanh (limeade soda, $2.95) or sua dau nanh (soybean milk, $2) and feast in the likes of the No. 4 pork sausage rolls ($3.99 for two) and the bodacious No. 7, sticky rice with sausage and shrimp. OK, now take another sip of that limeade and get ready for a feast in the form of a dozen pho options (all $10.50 or under), the fantastic No. 38—fresh vermicelli noodles with grilled shrimp, pork and an egg roll for good measure ($9.95)—or any of five banh mi selections (my personal favorite is the No. 101, the combinations sandwich that mixes chicken, beef and pork for $6.59). Subway, eat your heart out. (EL)
919 W Alameda, 820-6777 Lunch and dinner daily.
Much like determining the “best” breakfast burrito, green chile or margarita in town, subjectivity (as well as a tough skin) is key. Really, there’s no winning these arguments and ultimately, like with anything else food-related, it comes down to a matter of taste. For my buck, Pizza Centro’s original location delivers with its array of hand-tossed pizzas ($12-$17) and primo toppings like baby mozzarella, artichoke hearts and truffle oil ($2-$3.25 each). A couple of pies I recently brought into the SFR editorial department—the veggie Alphabet City and the roasted-chicken-topped SoHo—were immediately wolfed down by staff. Sun-dried tomato and whole-milk mozzarella commingled on the ladder and made for a symphony of flavor. At one point, I had to fend off art director Anson Stevens-Bollen with a butter knife for the last slice. Judge for yourselves. (EL)
418 Cerrillos Road, 988-8825 Lunch and dinner daily.
Learn an important lesson here: Santa Fe’s mythic tri-cultural heritage isn’t the whole story. For one thing, it misses the role of places like Plaza Café and the huge influence of Greek families on the city’s development. That means this is also the place where you can score the best of opa and hola. Try an authentic moussaka ($15.45) courtesy of the Razatos family recipe of thinly sliced eggplant, beef seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon and oodles of béchamel sauce. Or sink into cashew mole enchiladas ($14.95) that capture the bitter spice of regional red chile with the balancing sweetness of chocolate. Portions are ample and service is down to earth. Closed for a few years after a 2010 fire, the restaurant has been lovingly restored and partly suspended in the 1950s. The beveled glass of the dessert case beacons even the overstuffed with its housemade pies and cakes. (JAG)
54 Lincoln Ave., 982-1664 Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Inside Raaga, the aromas of polished wood mix elegantly with the various spices cooking in the back kitchen. There are several appetizers to choose from, and I opt for “Raaga Tiki” ($6.95)—two crispy brown potato cakes filled with spinach, garlic and fenugreek leaves. It comes with a green mint chutney dipping sauce that tastes a bit like liquefied cilantro. For the main dish, I choose my favorite Indian plate: chicken tikka masala (small: $9.95; large $15.95). Though most standard chicken tikka masala curries are orange in color, Raaga’s is notable for its pinkish hue. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the waiter mistook my order for a plate of meatballs. The curry is thick, almost like a paste. It’s also spicy, creamy and sweet, and has the tendency to separate from the chicken chunks, a characteristic that seems to give the curry a mind of its own. Rice and naan bread, the latter of which must be ordered separately, compliment the standard Indian entrée. (JP)
544 Agua Fría St., 820-6440 Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Rustic chic traces lines throughout this bakeshop that teeters between South Capitol and downtown. One thing that is set in stone here, however, is the exceptional quality of their artisanal loaves—sourdough, Kalamata olive, whole-wheat farm and more under the watchful guidance of owners Amy Cox and Andrée Falls. Along with ambrosial pastries and quiches, the open-faced sandwiches ($6.75 full; $3.50 for a half) here are a must-try. Enjoy the tarragon chicken salad on organic earth or the tuna, Roma tomatoes and pesto on paisano. For the delectable combo of textures and flavor, the jamón serrano tartine with smashed avocado on toast (pictured) transports you to Ibiza in one fell swoop (sans the glow sticks) and reigns supreme. I hope you left room for dessert; I see you eyeing that pear almond tart slice ($5). (EL)
535 Cerrillos Road, 820-7243 Breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday.
Brian Knox of Aqua Santa and Café Escalera fame did good with his unassuming burger shack that serves up portable treats on the daily. “Dedicated to the preservation of the original green chile cheeseburger,” in the words of their website, Shake delivers that plus a fantastic NM shepherd’s lamb option ($5.50) and a fried oyster sandwich ($5.50) with red chile that’ll have you begging for more. Vegetarians can also rejoice with the Portobello mushroom burger ($5.75). Enjoy some hand-cut shoestring fries ($3.75 for a single; $5.50 for a double) to complete your meal and oh, you want a shake with that? Like its moniker suggests, options are plentiful at this Mumford & Sons-approved shed. Try an “Adobe Mud” one for $5.75 made with Taos Cow ice cream. I will wait, I will wait for those. (EL)
613 Cerrillos Road, 988-8992 Lunch daily.
Forget the three-martini lunch; go to Shoko Café for a three-sake lunch instead. Three-glass business class flight ($12) of sake is a proper apéritif. The flight includes the smooth Okunomatsu (Inner Pine Tree), the more animated Hananomai (Dance of Flowers) and the strong but forgiving Namahage (Devil’s Mask). Before the main course, the chef serves up snap peas, pickled ginger and airway-clearing wasabi. The menu offers a dozens of hand rolls and sliced rolls, including unique sushi standouts like the Philadelphia roll ($7, with cream cheese) and the Santa Fe roll ($7, with green chile tempura). There’s a tempting offering of salmon and tuna sashimi appetizers. Vegetarian or meaty buckwheat noodle dishes give an out to those who want to play it safe for the main course. But more insatiable appetites should look to bento sets. The beef teriyaki bento set ($18) starts with hot miso soup, assorted tempura (mushrooms, carrots and green chile breaded and fried), bonito (white fish) dipping sauce and two small salads—the spinach salad, drenched in tahini, is a perfect textural dance before the final act, a bowl of steamy white rice and five cuts of tender beef with teriyaki dipping sauce on the side. (JH)
321 Johnson St., 982-9708 Lunch Monday-Friday; dinner Monday-Saturday.
Taberna La Boca
This hidden sister of the posh European restaurant that won SFR’s Restaurant of the Year in 2013 is styled to function as overflow for the original La Boca and to offer a more casual atmosphere for lunch and happy hour. Unhurried service will stack your table with tapas and inch out room for glasses of wine, port and sherry, so don’t go if you’re in need of a quick bite. Instead, plan to take your time noshing on a few pintxos such as the alcachofas, roasted artichokes wrapped in grilled jamón serrano, stuffed with creamy Spanish goat cheese and served with a basil and piñón pesto. Daily special tapas can also be rewarding; on our visit it was bruschetta loaded with crimini mushrooms and béchamel sauce. Ensaladas that also vary by the day include a thick slab of watermelon and dabs of feta topped with microgreens, and they’ve got bocadillos, known to the rest of us as sandwich platters. (JAG)
125 Lincoln Ave., Ste. 117, 988-7102 Lunch Monday-Friday; dinner daily; brunch Saturday-Sunday.
There was a time when getting both a table and a parking spot during the lunch hour at Vinny’s seemed like a minor miracle. Thanks to the addition of patio seating and a lease on part of a nearby parking lot, eating here has become easier. That’s good for Santa Fe diners because even then, it was worth the fight to get in. The restaurant known as the salad bistro offers a splurge lunch or a low-key dinner that is reliably flavorful with a known healthy quotient. Salads that combine sweet fruit and pungent cheeses or spicy greens are standouts, including the “Nutty Pear-fessor,” with grilled Bosc pears, Maytag blue cheese, toasted pecan halves and a port ruby vinaigrette paired with a nice tuna steak ($19.25) or the protein of your choice. Choose to top the famous all-kale Caesar with grilled chicken ($15.75), and you’ve got a winner. Soups and sandwiches round out menu choices, and a short list of desserts includes key lime cheesecake. (JAG)
709 Don Cubero Alley, 820-9205 Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday