Late-night eating in Santa Fe is pretty skimpy on choices. It’s just one of those accepted things: You eat before 9 pm, you finish your drinks by 10 pm. The list of places worth going to that are also open after that can be counted on one hand. Even for a city the size of Santa Fe, this is pretty disappointing.

In November of last year, chef Neema Sadeghi added a new eatery to the late-night list with Milad Persian Bistro (802 Canyon Road, 303-3581). Nestled between El Farol and Geronimo, Milad opens at 11 am and closes at 10 pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday. But Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the contemporary Persian cuisine flows until midnight! That makes this the latest place to get a bite in town that isn't a bar or fast food, though the restaurant is closed Mondays.

My good friend Joie and I like to go out for late food and drinks whenever we are both in town and she suggested the new spot since neither of us had tried it. As we arrived, a storm brewed over the mountains and thunder echoed around the street. People eating on the nearby Tea House patio looked nervous. We opted for a comfy window seat.

The space is cozy, with only about 10 tables inside and maybe five more outside; Milad seats roughly 30 people. This is not a negative—cozy is good. The old adobe sits on a corner and once you enter, it feels like a nurtured space. Sadeghi has taken the time to lightly decorate the one room with artwork by local painter Sepideh Majd, and the effect is one of eating in a gallery or a home dining room; you've entered a curated environment.

This carries over into waitstaff and menu. It may seem like a small detail, but the staff all seemed to want to be there. It's easy to tell when a place isn't fun to work at, and it always changes the experience for me when I see that in the staff of a restaurant.

The menu features a substantial list of small plates and a small but thought-out selection of larger kabob plates (they spell it this way; it's closer to the original Urdu spelling). The wine list is plentiful, and there are draft beers available as well. Most of the small plates are vegetarian and a veg kabob is also available.

The small plate trend is one that I go back and forth on. It's a great way to try different options and share among friends, but the portions never fill you up. It's an excuse for many restaurants to just charge a bit more for a bit less.

First Impressions:

  • Milad has taken a different approach to their small plates. The portions are worth the price.
  • This place is open late. This is the best first impression it could give.

Opting for gluttony, we ordered the ta'chin ($9) and carrot falafel ($8) plates to share. Ta'chin is best described as a layered saffron rice and chicken cake that is crisped on the outside. It was topped with barberries and onion. The falafel was portioned into small, two-bite balls that sat on a creamy cilantro yogurt. I ordered doogh ($5) to drink. It's an unsweetened yogurt soda that is great when eating spicy or rich foods. Joie got a glass of Martín Códax Ergo Tempranillo ($9).

The crispness of the outer layer of the ta'chin reminded me of hash browns. It was good, but the chicken was oddly bland despite being cooked perfectly. The barberries added all of the flavor to the dish and there was a sweet citric layer that was definitely needed for balance.

The falafel was amazing. Rich and creamy on the inside, just enough sweetness from the carrot to balance the kick of serrano pepper, it was hard to not eat them all in one go. Yogurt is so good in savory dishes, and here it added a light cooling note.

For the main course we each got a kabob. I ordered the barg ($18), a beef tenderloin marinated in garlic and saffron. I got mine cooked medium. Joie got the jujeh chicken kabob ($14), marinated in yogurt and served with a lemon wedge.

First Impressions:

  • The kabobs all come with rice, a charred tomato and a small cucumber salad—it makes for a full plate.
  • The beef was tender and flavorful, with a decent amount of char on it. I like my beef with a bit more of a crust, but the marinade was rich enough to make up for this. Joie’s chicken was perfectly cooked and the combination of the yogurt and lemon was spot-on.
  • The cucumber salad was tangy and fresh. The rice was buttery and surprisingly rich in saffron flavor. Most people go light on this expensive spice.

For dessert we had feta-stuffed dates ($6). The dates were drenched in honey and served hot. We didn't finish them, but this says more about how much we had stuffed ourselves than the taste of the dish. They were incredibly rich and a perfect finish to the night. The rain started a few minutes later.