Facts: I'm single, I live alone, I don't like to cook but I do love to eat. This is the perfect recipe for someone who goes to restaurants and bars by themselves … a lot.
Luckily for me, eating alone in Santa Fe is actually awesome. My criteria for a favorite: comfortable ambiance, nice waitstaff, good fare and a crowd that tends to be friendly. (I may go out by myself, but I still like to talk to people.)
More Facts: It's a myth that servers treat you poorly as a one-top. I've encountered many a server who seems relieved that it's "just me"—no carrying seven entrees at once. Just always be sure to tip well, since they are missing out on some cash when it's just one person ordering. And know your limits—unless you hitched an Uber or Lyft, you're driving yourself home, so be smart.
319 S Guadalupe St., 982-2565
I go to Cowgirl quite a bit. It's right near my house, that $7 pineapple cider lava lamp (cider with a float of frozen margarita) is legit and the servers are great. My favorite C-Girl time is late afternoon. Sometimes I slip out of work early and head over to the bar, where there are always a few service-industry types from other restaurants having a drink either after the lunch shift or before the dinner shift. Most of them know each other and conversations are easy and interesting.
I watched one regular sketch another regular on a placemat; he asked the bartender to hang it by the clock. (It's still there.) I once struck up conversation with a neighbor having a burger, and he ended up being an actor and model from the mountains of Colorado—we're still Facebook friends. I'll down a $7 barbecue beef sandwich during happy hour and mull over ways to reduce fatigue with a server to my left or how hard it might be to "make it" in Santa Fe with an artist to my right.
There's also the communal table out on the patio during the warmer months. Sharing my huge dessert with another party of one from Austria (who asked me to repeat "strawberry shortcake" again and again until she remembered it) or getting a shot of Seagram's sent over from a woman in a leather jacket who called herself T-Bone were highlights.
2571 Christo’s Road, 424-8900
A few months ago I walked into the Ranch House and asked the hostess if I could just head into the bar. "Oh, sure," she said, "the manager loves you."
"I'm sorry," I said, "I think you're confusing me for someone else. I don't know the manager."
"No," the hostess said, "we know who you are. Go on in."
And that's when I realized just how often I go to the Ranch House to eat a half rack of ribs by myself. But I mean, come on. They're red-chile-honey-glazed and come with two sides (I get the butternut squash and calabacitas) and a huge hunk of green chile cornbread with whipped butter, all for $17.95. Tack on a Harvest Mule ($8), made with vanilla vodka and ginger beer, and you're set. I can't even see the word "ribs" without craving a trip to the Southside.
709 Don Cubero Alley, 820-9205
Even an Extrovert Supreme™ like me needs some quiet time. When the need for calm strikes, I head to the salad capital of Santa Fe. I'm not even a huge fan of greens, but Vinaigrette has won me over. The sun-drenched dining room is both cheery and soothing. I get a Beet Goes On with grilled chicken ($17.95), a Vinny Sunrise (grapefruit soda with hibiscus, $3.75), maybe a cup of gumbo ($5), sit back in the simple surroundings and space out peacefully. If it's nice out, Vinaigrette has one of the most underrated patios in town—it wraps all the way around the back of the restaurant and is tree-shaded, refreshing and tucked away from Cerrillos traffic.
Also of note is the soundtrack at this stop; whoever chooses Vinny's Spotify station, hats off to you. Weirdo tunes that sound decidedly non-weirdo until you listen harder are my favorite things to enjoy while I sip an aesthetically pleasing sparkling drink.