Local Living

Best of Santa Fe 2012

After the 2010 Census figures came out, revealing that close to 5,000 fewer people aged 25-34 lived in Santa Fe County in 2010 than did in 2000, I began to have this conversation with some regularity, and it always drove me crazy:

Me: We can agree it's not a good thing that young people are leaving Santa Fe in droves and no one's replacing them, right?

Unlucky interviewee: Yes.

Me: So what do you think we can do to better attract and retain those people?

Interviewee: I don't know. People move here because they like it here.

What made me so mad about that interaction, repeated ad nauseam until I finally realized that it wasn't really fair to expect an instant solution, was the fatalism of the whole thing. Are we really expecting Santa Fe to sustain itself on fresh air and some fuzzy notion of an "artistic city"? Not with these rents. The implicit suggestion—"If people really want to live here, then they can just suffer through the anemic job market and total lack of nightlife"—doesn't add up to an economic development strategy. Or even, for that matter, to maintaining a certain quality of life.

So, here we are—sacrificing jobs and social lives to live in this gorgeous, quirky, totally addictive place called Santa Fe. And we love it.

This year's Best of Santa Fe issue features some new successes and longtime favorites—and SFR contributor Chicken Joe (yes, it's a pseudonym) has a companion piece on the quirks that make Santa Fe the City Different—but ultimately, these pages are all about why we can't help loving Santa Fe. After all, we're still here.

—Alexa Schirtzinger

You're from Santa Fe if…

By Chicken Joe*

…you stop at a roundabout with no cars around
…you have the nicest house in Santa Fe, built off the shittiest road in town
…you look for the left turn arrow on the right side of the light
…all your sentences end with "eh" or "no"
…everything that's grandfathered in was grandfathered in
…you'd build into a mountain before heading south

*Disclaimer: You only tease the ones you love. So Santa Fe, I guess you know what that means: your vortex has drawn yet another soul into its grasp. I've been put through the wash cycle since moving here, but that does nothing to dull the charm of Santa Fe. This place is TRIPPY…in an ominous and divine way. Although that's likely due to the identity-seeking individuals who crowd the Matador on a nightly basis. (Chicken Joe)

Best Local Government Official

1st: Santa Fe Mayor David Coss

Santa Fe’s mayor may recently have lost his bid to serve in the state House of Representatives, but his progressive stances on the issues and frequent appearances at varying public events are enough to please many of the city’s competing constituents. On a typical day, Coss can be seen attending arts events in the morning and marching with a pro-immigrant rights rally in the afternoon. For him, this next year is full steam ahead, with a focus on expanding clean energy with the city’s Sustainable Santa Fe Commission. “We need to plan as a community,” Coss tells SFR. “It’s water supply, sustainable agriculture, transportation.” He also says the city will work hard to curb property crime by working to expand regional addiction treatment programs.

(Joey Peters)

2nd: Santa Fe City Councilor Patti Bushee

3rd: TIE: State Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe

 Best Local Nonprofit

1st: Kitchen Angels

1222 Siler Road, Ste. A


In a world where obesity is considered an epidemic and is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths, those who struggle to find nourishment every day can be easy to forget. Those unable to feed themselves rely on the charity of others, and this is where Kitchen Angels steps in. For 19 years, the nonprofit has provided nutritious, delicious meals to Santa Fe residents facing life-challenging conditions. With a paid staff of only five, Kitchen Angels relies heavily on volunteers—280 volunteers who donate 24,000 hours annually, to be exact. These “angels” are all that stands between life and death for the elderly, sick and poor of our city. (R Harrison Dilday)

2nd: Food Depot

1222 Siler Road, Ste. B, 471-1633

3rd: TIE: Esperanza Shelter

, 2845 Agua Fria St., 474-5536

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern New Mexico

, 1229 St. Francis Drive, Ste. C, 983-8360

 Best Local Nonprofit for Animals

1st: Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society
100 Caja Del Rio Road

Santa Feans love three things: the environment, caffeine and domesticated animals. In few cities is it so common to see someone sitting outside a coffee shop, dog tethered to their chair, gazing absently yet longingly into the distance at the mountains. While two of these affections have many advocates and lobbyists to ensure their extended health, pets often become victims of neglect and economic hardship. This may lead to strays and death in other cities, but in Santa Fe, we take care of our own. Enter the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society. This incredible organization is dedicated to ensuring the physical and emotional health of every four- (and sometimes fewer-) legged creature in the county. As a zero-kill facility, SFASHS aims to find a family for every fit-for-human-companionship animal or allow it to call the shelter home. And with a fantastic facility located off Highway 599, the society looks to be accomplishing just that. (RHD)

2nd: Española Valley Humane Society
100 Hamm Parkway, 753-8662

3rd: Assistance Dogs of the West
730 St. Michael's Drive, 986-9748

 Best Local Environmental Group

1st: Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary

1800 Upper Canyon Road

The Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary is part of the National Audubon Society, a nationwide effort whose mission is to "conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity." Davey was a painter and sculptor in Santa Fe whose family donated the land after his death. His works adorned the interiors of the few buildings in the sanctuary, while the natural world creates the visual motif outside. In fact, on a recent visit to the area, I spotted a large doe just four feet off the concrete path, within four seconds of exiting my vehicle. The environmental group has led conservation efforts in everything from watersheds to dragonflies, and the center holds classes and field trips for a wide range of age groups to encourage encounters with the great outdoors. (RHD)

2nd: Santa Fe Watershed Association
1413 Second St, Ste. 3, 820-1696

3rd: Bioneers
1607 Paseo de Peralta, Ste. 3, 1-877-BIONEERS

 Best Local Outdoor Public Space

1st: Railyard Park and Plaza

Paseo de Peralta and S Guadalupe St.

At first glance, the need for parks inside Santa Fe city limits seems ridiculous. Look north to the Santa Fe National Forest and Sangre de Cristo mountain chain or south to the high desert that stretches all the way to Sandia Peak and you’re right to think that Santa Fe really is nestled inside one gigantic park. But gorgeous as they are, fleeing to any one of the natural treasures on one’s lunch break isn’t fiscally feasible. So, lucky us, the city has set aside many outdoor public spaces conveniently located off central paved roads. And voted everyone’s favorite is the Railyard Park and Plaza. In addition to some serious vegetation and nifty ropes course, the plaza area plays host this summer to several free music concerts headlining major names. The park is so popular that, recently, some people didn’t want to leave for weeks on end and set up a whole camp to enjoy the best local outdoor public space! (RHD)

2nd: Santa Fe Plaza

3rd: Dale Ball Trails

Upper Canyon Road, just past the Cerro Gordo trailhead

 Best Local Youth Program

1st: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern New Mexico

1229 S St. Francis Drive

In 2011, Santa Fe Public Schools' graduation rate was 56 percent—a three-point increase from the year before, but obviously nothing to be proud of. One way to help is to volunteer your time with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Adult volunteers are carefully screened and matched with kids aged 5 to 18. They then meet two to four times a month for a couple of hours for activities ranging from hiking to shooting hoops. And it pays off. "Our kids are significantly more likely to graduate high school and go to college," Andrea Maril, CEO of BBBS of Northern New Mexico, tells SFR. Maril says 80 percent of children in BBBS programs improve in two of the following three categories: risk avoidance, educational success and social acceptance. (JP)

2nd: Warehouse 21
1614 Paseo De Peralta, 989-4423

3rd: Girls Inc. of Santa Fe
301 Hillside Ave., 982-2042

 Best Day Trip from Santa Fe

1st: Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa

50 Los Baños Drive, Ojo Caliente,


When you’re soaking in the iron spring at Ojo Caliente, contemplating the sky and your toes at once, pushing the bounds of metaphysics, it’s hard not to feel the place’s timelessness. The natural springs have been used for centuries, soothing tired bones and healing unknown ills. In its modern iteration, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa also offers massages, herbal wraps and the usual spa amenities. An all-access pass to the pools costs $18-$28, depending on the day of the week and holiday periods; after 6 pm, enjoy a cheaper sunset rate. For another $20, pitch a tent on-site and do it all again the next day. (AS)

2nd: Bandelier National Monument

35°46’44”N 106°19’16”W


3rd: Taos

36°23’38”N 105°34’36”W


 Best Local Radio Show

1st: The Big Show with Honey Harris on KBAC 98.1

What more can we say besides it’s about damn time? Well, how about Honey Harris is one of the most incredibly talented, humorous, friendly and gracious humans we’ve ever met? How about The Big Show is a straight-up institution around here? How about you hear some of the best music currently on the airwaves? “I had won a couple times back when there was a best radio DJ category years ago, but this is my first time to win for Best Radio Show,” Harris says. “I’ve gotta say I feel really great about it.” Locally/independently owned radio is important now more than ever, and tuning into The Big Show from 7-11 am every weekday morning is not just a great way to make your commute or simply hear great music, it’s your responsibility as a red-blooded American. (Alex De Vore)

2nd: Santa Fe Radio Café with Mary Charlotte on KSFR 101.1

3rd: DJ Yon on Blu 102.9

 Best Wedding Venue

1st: The Loretto Chapel

207 Old Santa Fe Trail


The subject of many newspaper articles, a television movie, an episode of Unsolved Mysteries and countless hours of speculation, Loretto Chapel’s spiral staircase offers elegant mystery for couples seeking to tie the knot. The story behind the staircase itself is compelling—nine days of prayer to St. Joseph brought a carpenter, riding a donkey and carrying a toolbox, to the chapel. The nameless man constructed a graceful spiral staircase without nails or visible means of support before melting away without accepting pay or even recognition. Some believe that man was St. Joseph himself. Regardless of personal conviction, however, the venue is scenic and its staff wonderfully capable—factors that make this the best place in Santa Fe to start a new forever. (Kris Fronzak)

2nd: Bishop's Lodge Ranch Resort Hotel & Spa

1297 Bishops Lodge Road, 983-6377

3rd: TIE: La Fonda Hotel, 100 E San Francisco St., 982-5511

Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary, 1800 Upper Canyon Road, 983-4609

 Best Cerrillos Road Business

1st: Jambo Café

2010 Cerrillos Road


“Have you been to Jambo?” seems to be the ubiquitous question around town these days. What makes this Kenyan restaurant such a draw? “It’s about making people feel comfortable and at home,” manager Abdul Soud says. Soud credits his culture (he and owner-chef Ahmed Obo hail from Lamu Island off the coast of Kenya) and its credo of welcoming total strangers for Jambo’s homey feel. And they have adopted their current location with similar zeal after trying to get a place downtown for almost a decade. “Even if a place downtown paid us to move, I wouldn’t do it,” Soud tells SFR. And that, my friends, is what we call embracing and reveling in the Cerrillos Road locale. (Laura Hitt)

2nd: Jackalope

2820 Cerrillos Road, 471-8539

3rd: El Parasol

1833 Cerrillos Road and 298 Dinosaur Trail, 995-8015

 Best Place for Free Wi-Fi

1st: Santa Fe Baking Co. and Café

504 W Cordova Road


As the country continues to live more and more “connected,” even the resistant-to-change Santa Fe cannot help but be caught up in the interactive wave of social media, smart phones and the demand for free wi-fi. Any establishment that wants to label itself a local hangout is now essentially required to supply a free, fast Internet connection. Many places have pulled it off, but none so well as Santa Fe Baking Co. and Café. With ample seating indoors and out, a smoothie bar and one of the greatest menus in town, this is a place anyone can get a food and email fix by merely bringing her laptop and $10. Comcast cable Internet provides the quick downloads. (RHD)

2nd: Flying Star Café

500 Market St., Ste. 110, 255-1128

3rd: Java Joe's

2801 Rodeo Road, 474-5282

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