Jinja Bar & Bistro
Why stick to one type of Asian cuisine when dining out when you can sample bits of it all? Jinja hops all over the map with authentic dishes like moo shu pork or tofu, Thai red curry shrimp and a host of noodle dishes and appetizers. An exotic cocktail list keeps the bar hopping at all hours.
Clafoutis French Bakery & Restaurant
A country-style French meal at this lunch-only bistro isn’t complete without staring longingly at the croissants, éclairs, baguettes, brioche, fruit tarts, quiches, muffins, old-fashioned sandwich loaves, macarons and other baked items near the entrance, all of which are prepared daily and in-house. How quickly they disappear each day is a testament to their overwhelming popularity.
Sage’s naturally leavened, hand-formed, slowly fermented breads are synonymous with the true meaning of the word artisan. It’s a word thrown around by a lot of restaurants, but few walk the talk like they do. At their downtown location, housemade desserts, croissants and espresso drinks complement a small menu of sandwiches using their addictive breads.
Parker Bachman, El Farol
It takes a lot of patience and dedication to be a great bartender, but it takes an almost-superhuman amount of those qualities to do it in a tourist town at one of the loudest, most legendary watering holes in the city. Bachman makes it look easy, and that’s what makes him a true artist behind the speed rack.
808 Canyon Road, 983-9912
2. Leahi Mayfield, El Paseo Bar & Grill
208 Galisteo St., 992-2848
3. Molly Dietz, The Palace
142 W Palace Ave., 428-0690
Whole Hog Café
When you want the smoked-meat sweats, leave it to the experts here who, in 2000, 2002 and 2008, won top honors at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Whether you fancy pulled pork, tender beef brisket, smoked chicken or ribs, these folks have you covered. Slather on one of seven traditional BBQ sauces and go hog-wild.
Tia Sophia’s A breakfast burrito is a pretty good measure of how well a restaurant interprets traditional Santa Fe/New Mexican cuisine, and this always-busy mainstay consistently sets the bar high. A mammoth flour tortilla is stuffed with your choice of soft-crisp hash browns, cheese and eggs (or meat, or both), all smothered in red and/or green chile that gives locals the heat level they crave.
None of the regulars at Harry’s Roadhouse will look at you sideways if you eat a slice of one of the kitchen’s heavenly pies for breakfast, but missing out on the huevos rancheros and blue cornmeal waffles here would still be a shame. Consider the short drive, and the sometimes-long wait, well worth it.
Santa Fe Bite
When owners John and Bonnie Eckre, who formerly operated Bobcat Bite, moved their restaurant to downtown Santa Fe, many worried that their food would suffer. Fat chance. Their griddled burger patties, made with choice, whole chuck and sirloin ground fresh daily in-house, are served on fluffy, slightly toasted homemade buns. Green chile and cheese complete this world-famous masterpiece.
Variety is the spice of life, and Cowgirl chef Patrick Lambert’s diverse catering menus deliver it in spades. From Cajun kebabs and yak meatballs to soft tacos and mesquite-smoked barbecue brisket, there’s something on the exhaustive catering menu for every occasion and palate. On-site party rooms invite groups of 20-200 to utilize the menu and leave the cleaning up to Cowgirl’s friendly staff.
On a budget but don’t want to sacrifice quality and quantity for price? Funky, unpretentious Tune-Up delivers a diverse selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner entrées that won’t leave a huge dent in your wallet. Pupusas and banana leaf-wrapped tamales share menu real estate with burgers, nachos and salmon tacos, with nothing over $15.
Ahmed Obo, Jambo
Hailing from Lamu Island off the coast of Kenya, chef/owner Ahmed Obo fuses the cuisine of his homeland with globally influenced dishes to deliver a singular ethnic dining experience in Santa Fe. Besides serving up dishes like coconut-lentil stew and East African-spiced shrimp, Obo also happens to be a genuinely kind-hearted proprietor who frequently gives back to his community.
Second Street Brewery
No one likes feasting on a grease bomb of mushy, oily julienned potatoes tucked underneath a congealed layer of ho-hum cheese, which is why people flock to Second Street for a heaping helping of well-tended hand-cut fries topped with tangy cheddar and your choice of red or green chile. Feeling piggish? Try topping it all with some pork belly.
Kakawa Chocolate House
Home of the chocolate elixir (don’t call it hot chocolate—they hate that), Kakawa also serves a variety of drinking chocolates using traditional recipes from chocolate history, such as the “Mayan full spice” elixir made with chile and Mexican vanilla. A display case filled with house made truffles, solid dark chocolates and chocolate-covered caramels is impossible to resist.
Santa Fe Cider Works
Made from pressed local apples and bottled in an unfiltered state to protect the true personality of the fruit, the non-sparkling Cider Different and slightly sparkling Enchanted Cherry ciders are about as local and sustainable as they can get. At 7 percent alcohol by volume, they also pack a pretty good punch!
Renowned for its cheap eats and happy hour specials, Del Charro also whips up superb (and heady) old-fashioned cocktails, cosmos and margaritas. Not a lot of fancy mixology or salad-in-a-glass action going on here, just straightforward drinks to go along with the bar staff’s legendary straightforward attitude.
Chocolate Maven Bakery & Café
From dense and rich Black Forest cake and Dutch apple pie with handmade crust to peach empanadas and New York-style cheesecake, the Maven has mastered the art of the final course. Swing by for a slice, or follow up a sit-down meal here with one of their earthly delights.
A longtime cornerstone of Santa Fe’s fine dining scene housed in the centuries-old Borrego House on Canyon Road, Geronimo is as big on atmosphere and attention to service detail as it is on chef/co-owner Eric DiStefano’s eclectic, globally influenced cuisine. Whether feasting on his signature Telicherry-rubbed elk tenderloin or the seasonal, vegetarian mushroom tasting menu, be confident that with the style here comes mountains of culinary substance.
Bumblebee’s Baja Grill
Expertly char-grilled mahi-mahi, salmon and shrimp tacos using soft corn tortillas, garnished with Bumble Bee’s famous “secret sauce,” only get better when topped with one of the restaurant’s freshly made salsas: roasted tomato, pico de gallo, tomatillo or the eye-opening habanero.
Bang Bite Filling Station
Although chef/owner Enrique Guerrero is now kept extra busy with his new restaurants in the Santa Fe Railyard, his Bang Bite food truck, across from Kaune’s Neighborhood Market, still attracts huge crowds. Guerrero’s insistence on freshness and compulsion to get playful with his food sets him apart from many of his competitors. His inventive burgers, sammies and “things with cheese” are just the tip of the iceberg.
Back Road Pizza
Decent gluten-free pizza crust is hard to come by, even in larger cities with solid reputations for pizza. Back Road’s version, made with 100 percent organic gluten-free flours, is a perfect example of how to do it right: crisp, chewy, light and slightly salty. It’s so popular, in fact, that Back Road has toyed with the idea of bringing its GF dough to the retail market.
Horseman’s Haven Café
A face-melting green chile that also packs tons of flavor? Yes, please. Horseman’s Haven’s owners have a secret weapon: They own the hybrid chile seed that gives their Hatch-grown chile its powerful punch. If you’re brave, ask for the “level two” chile. And maybe a side of sour cream.
Guacamole preparation at the tableside is a dying craft, but at Gabriel’s, on the outskirts of Santa Fe, it’s elevated to a fine art. Fresh, creamy avocado, tomato, fresh jalapeño, lime juice, minced garlic, onion and cilantro are blended at your table in amounts chosen by you before being served in a volcanic molcajete with warm, crisp tortilla chips.
When you call Del Charro to ask when happy hour is, the answer is usually, “Every hour is happy hour.” With no set time for happy hour at all, Del Charro still reels them in with its inexpensive cocktail menu and affordable appetizers, like the $5.75 nachos and $8 chipotle wings with ranch dressing.
Dr. Field Goods Kitchen
Chef-owner Josh Gerwin may very well roll his eyes or laugh at the word “hip” being attached to his name, but in the interest of exposing his culinary prowess, it’ll do. Gerwin is staunchly farm-to-table in his execution, and his menu is always a reflection of his rock ’n’ roll approach in the kitchen. Case in point: the “Big-Ass BLT,” made with a 9-ounce patty of ground bacon.
Swank atmosphere meets casual mood and service at this bustling downtown cocktail lounge and wine bar. Serving up snacks that range from house-rolled sushi to juicy green chile cheeseburgers, it’s a popular meet-up spot for locals and visitors alike.
Ecco Gelato and Espresso
Come lemon, come persimmon, come coconut stracciatella, come all—this is heaven in a cup. Offering a select list of choices daily from an arsenal of recipes that embrace fruit, chocolate, nuts and even peanut butter, Ecco takes its gelato and sorbet seriously. With an eye toward local and organic ingredients when available, it’s no wonder it finds itself on top.
Walking into this joint, the aroma of freshly roasted Arabica beans is enough to wake you out of a slumber, if not bowl you over. This is where many people come to fuel up for a long day at the office, but it’s also a place where old friends gather for an espresso and a catch-up in the afternoon.
Chef Ahmed Obo blends home-style Kenyan cuisine with influences from the Caribbean, the Middle East, Europe, India and the Americas to create something unavailable anywhere else in Santa Fe, and his devoted following is as legendary as his goat stew with island curry sauce and his Jamaican jerk chicken.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, this intimate neighborhood trattoria oozes conviviality without losing that ever-important intimate touch. A farm-to-table partner with an eye for seasonality, Andiamo! excels at thin-crust pizzas, pastas and other Italian classics and has a wine program to match.
With play equipment on the back patio and a bar staff that has dealt with its fair share of
adult children over the years, it’s nice to know that Cowgirl BBQ still manages to maintain a soft spot for the little ones. Menu items like the ice cream baked potato and a friendly service team make it a great place to take the tots.
Cheap burgers, nachos and wings; strong-ass drinks; plentiful seating; and no-nonsense servers make this bar a popular local hangout in the dead heat of summer and in the throes of a gnarly powder season at Ski Santa Fe. No frills and no nonsense. This is your Cheers.
Santa Fe Spirits
Santa Fe Spirits owner-operator Colin Keegan took a chance on whiskey in the desert—and he won. His Colkegan single malt whiskey and apple brandy are gaining national attention, but he doesn’t stop at the basics when crafting his spirits using locally harvested botanicals. Try the newly-ish-released Atapiño, a liqueur made with roasted local piñón nuts and sweetened with local pine resin.
Drop the lunchtime burger, buddy, because salad never tasted so good. Owner and farmer Erin Wade knows her way around fresh produce, and here it’s served up in a dizzying array of combinations. Take a fork-stab at the “All Kale Caesar” with Marcona almonds and anchovy dressing, or go veggie with “The Beet Goes On,” a combo of baby greens, arugula, goat cheese, chopped pistachios, balsamic roasted beets and honey-balsamic vinaigrette.
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen
Every margarita on Maria’s extensive margarita list is made with 100 percent agave tequila (not mixto tequila), but still: more than 100 to choose from? This adventure could take some time. Also, they’re all made with lemon juice, not lime juice, for “consistency.” Recommended: the house silver and the “Grand Old Opera,” a mix of El Mayor 100 percent agave silver with Grand Marnier.
As the Shed’s accomplished little sister, La Choza also excels at chile-smothered fare such as cheese enchiladas, chiles rellenos and burritos. Tender posole (made with pork) and beans accompany many dishes, and there’s plenty of chile on the plate to sop up with an extra side of sopaipillas.
Santa Fe Bite
Chile cheeseburgers might be the Bite’s world-renown bread and butter, but don’t sneer at the menu’s carnitas tacos and cast iron-fried buttermilk chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy (Sundays only on the chicken). There’s comfort in everything from the food to the service here, a reputation built over decades of serving a small selection of well-executed classics—only now at the new downtown location.
La Choza Call it Mexican, call it New Mexican…one thing is certain: La Choza has captured the hearts and appetites of chile heads. Affordable food, quick and friendly service and plenty of free parking make it a magnet for locals seeking an authentic red or green fix away from the downtown retail madness.
Second Street Brewery
Second Street Brewery brewmaster Rod Tweet has been serving up his frothy inventions in Santa Fe for almost 20 years. Using 80 percent hops and barley from the Pacific Northwest and 20 percent from Western Europe, Tweet delivers traditional and seasonal beers that run the gamut from cream stout and extra special bitter to a headier British-style “Winter Warmer.”
What began in the late 1980s as a small winery with a few acres in southern New Mexico and elsewhere has blossomed into one of the world’s most recognizable brands of American-made sparkling wine. Although the bubblesmay grab the lion’s share of Gruet’s sales, many of its still wines are equally transcendent.
La Casa Sena
Despite the recent pinning of a diner by an errant cottonwood tree branch, La Casa Sena’s patio is still a legendary destination for drinkies and a New Mexico-inspired nosh created by chef Patrick Gharrity. Now sporting a sleek, covered outdoor bar surrounded by lovely plants in full bloom, ground-floor patio dining just got real.
Back Road Pizza
Cornmeal in the crust and a tangy housemade tomato sauce give Back Road’s standard pies their particular je ne sais ’za. In 2015, Back Road owner Piper Kapin celebrates 12 years as the head pie boss on 2nd Street. Could it be the housemade sausage? The killer gluten-free crust option? Meatballs made with New Mexico beef and pork? All of the above.
If you’re looking for a place to take a prospective client, with or without a booze component, look no further. Chef Fernando Ruiz and his crew will hook you up with Santacafé staples, like crispy calamari with chile lime dipping sauce, and wow you with seasonal items like the lobster roll with pommes frites. Lunch service is swift and not fussy.
The Bull Ring
Big hunks of delicious red meat are offered in this place with a storied Santa Fe history. The Bull Ring is a landmark destination for carnivorous devotees and politicos that dishes up gobs of butter-drenched filets, NY strips, rib eyes, T-bones, porterhouses and prime rib. Salad? What’s salad?
Earthy and slightly spicy with a hint of sweetness, the Shed’s red chile is an exercise in…oh hell, let’s just face it. The Shed’s red chile, made from pods and not powder, is New Mexican red chile perfection…
…which is why its sister restaurant ties this year for best red chile. Is there a difference in the recipe from place to place? Argue amongst yourselves about it, and get out of line to do it. We need enchiladas, stat.
Mucho Gourmet Sandwich Shoppe
Not sure if a “Santa Fe Cheese Steak” and the “El Grinder” Italian-style sub qualify as gourmet, but who cares? These hearty, made-to-order sandwiches and others like them have sustained hungry lunch-seekers in Santa Fe, especially those along the St. Michael’s Drive corridor, for nearly a quarter of a century, all thanks to the dedicated folks at Mucho.
Mariscos “La Playa”
Start with some tostadas de ceviche and mountainous, avocado-rich shrimp cocktails with saltine crackers, and move on to the “Caldo Vuelve a la Vida” (a “come-back-to-life” soup of scallops, shrimp, calamari, clams, octopus, crab legs and calamari). “Mojarra Frita”—a deep-fried whole tilapia marinated in a garlic sauce—is a favorite among locals.
Shohko’s hand rolls, maki sushi, sashimi and nigiri are a part of Santa Fe’s enduring culinary legacy. First opened on Water Street in 1977, the restaurant opened the city’s first sushi bar in 1982. Today, the current location continues to draw sushi-loving crowds for its fresh ingredients, variety and attention to detail.
Whether it’s a quick in-n-out pickup or a leisurely lunch outside the unassuming Felipe’s Tacos space, you’re going to get a lot of bang for your buck here taco-wise. Choose from pollo asado, carne asada, al pastor, tilapia and vegetarian (with frijoles) on soft corn tortillas for $1.75-$2.75 per taco.
Second Street Brewery
The original Second Street Brewery usually offers up to nine beers of its own on tap plus an array of special seasonal offerings. A sprawling patio and a dining room that includes a bar and occasional live music breathe beer-centric life into the bustling 2nd Street corridor.
Owner Erin Wade’s 10-acre Las Portales farm in Nambé has a lot to do with the freshness and localness of Vinaigrette’s vegetarian-friendly menu. So, too, does the kitchen’s ability to take the blahs out of eating your veggies. Classic and signature salads keep things interesting, texturally and flavor-wise.
Standing outside the iconic Pantry Restaurant for a table is a rite of passage for locals and visitors alike. Once you secure that table, you’re treated to some of the friendliest servers the town has to offer. Efficiency and gregariousness strike a hard balance in this business. These folks are the Olympic champions of it.
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