Best Burrito Heiress

Berenice @ El Chile Toreado

Lines at El Chile Toreado (950 W Cordova Road, 500-0033) are commonplace. Be it to get your chorizo breakfast burrito fix ($6.75), munch on some heavenly tacos de adobada ($7.27) or go to town on a Polish sausage hot dog ($6.75), the little white hitch sandwiched between Whole Foods and a tire shop keeps 'em coming back. The secret? Berenice Alejandra Medina on the spit, maintaining her family's recipes and staying true to her father Luis Medina's vision when he opened up 10 years back. Five years ago, the elder Medina sent his daughter to Le Cordon Bleu to, as she says, "pump it up." The results are obvious. "Our hopes and dreams are to get a spot to sell our salsa on the market and just spread out food, spread out love," Berenice says. A first good step is packing up an antique wooden food cart (the one her dad started with) and taking the legacy of El Chile Toreado to the Plaza. As to the ingredients of their iconic green salsa, Berenice lists jalapeños and cilantro. "My dad says that if you want to know anything else, you're gonna have to marry either him or my brother." (EL)

Best Dish Worth Driving 26 Miles for

Angelina's Restaurant
1226 N Railroad Ave., Española, 753-8543

One could only imagine that a good dream for proprietors Angelina Gutierrez and Chris Quintana ends with them slaughtering all the sheep they were counting earlier and having a line outside the block the following day. Sure, New Mexico staples like green chile rellenos ($8.99) and carne adovada-stuffed sopaipillas abound, but the real insiders order from the "lamb specialties" portion of the menu. I'm talking house-ground lamb burritos ($7.50), steaming lamb fajitas ($10.99) and the crown jewel, the costillas—I'm talking about 10 ounces of lamb ribs ($8.25) that you wish would never end, accompanied by a bowl of whole beans with your choice of red or green and a lone wet-nap. The ribs are delectably crispy, the soupy beans (drenched in red for added smokiness) are mouth-watering and the two sopaipillas the dish came accompanied by worked overtime. Houston, we're gonna need more wet-naps. (EL)

Best Food Stand Rivalry

El Molero Fajita and Roque's Carnitas

On two opposite corners of East San Francisco Street, there is a battle being fought, which benefits everyone looking for a quick, cheap meal. Well, maybe the stakes aren't that high. The corner of Lincoln and San Francisco is home to El Molero Fajita, a charming wooden food stand that serves…fajitas—for just $5. What's not to like? Especially at a time when the $5 lunch has too often been replaced by the unseemly $8.50 lunch. On the other corner, where East San Francisco meets Old Santa Fe Trail, we have Roque's Carnitas. At a whopping $6, his beef carnitas topped with onions and peppers have long been a fixture of the Plaza. While waiting for him to put your order together, you might hear Roque muse on the character and characters of the city—like an elder statesman, he seems to know everything and everyone. That makes the extra dollar worth it. Antagonism never tasted this good. (NA)

Best Fucking Muffin I’ve Had in My Entire Life

Blueberry Muffin @Dulce
1110 Don Diego Ave., Ste. A, 989-9966

There is no shortage of awesome bakery options in Santa Fe, and yet it's somehow difficult to find a truly amazing muffin around here. Too dry, too small, too crumbly (I'm looking at you, Whole Foods—you should be ashamed of yourselves)…the list goes on. But the day I ducked into Dulce for a quick coffee and almost fainted at the sight of their gorgeous pastries and deserts, all the prior sub-par muffin knowledge in the world couldn't have stopped me from picking up that blueberry muffin and going to town on that bad boy. The top, so brilliantly crispy with grains of sugar cascading down its dome-like shape and bursting with fat blueberries. The stump, so perfectly moist and easily detachable for maximized eating potential. The size of the thing itself, perfect for a snack or even a serious stopgap between actual meals. It is the muffin of dreams, the pastry of your heart, the kind of muffin that hovers in ethereal fashion at the forefront of your subconscious like a siren call. Look, I'm not out to over-sell this thing, but every other muffin that has been or will be made in this town is like a pile of hot garbage compared to this thing, and I…OK, so I literally worked myself up writing about it and had to go pick one up. Seriously. (ADV)

Best Restaurant News to Hit Santa Fe Since Tecolote Café Opened in 1980 and then Closed on Easter Day 2014 with an Uncertain Future

Enrique Limón
Enrique Limón | Enrique Limón

It's a no-brainer, really. Welcome back, Tecolote Café (1616 St. Michael's Drive, 988-1362)! New digs, same great menu, same friendly staff plus some newbies, and yes, still: NO FREAKIN' TOAST. It's rare that Santa Fe institutions like this recover at a new location, but Tecolote has risen again with much aplomb, bringing its historically delicious bakery basket along with it. But really, the owners of Tecolote say it best in a recent social media post: "We realized something traveling to this point, making all of our plans and how the opening had to perfect, and stressing, and blah. It wasn't the building. It didn't require a ceremony from old to new. It doesn't take all that. It's you. It's all of you. It's your memories. It's our memories. It's us trying our best to honor all of those memories and help create new ones. Thank you for sharing with our family for so many years. We look forward to many more with you!" (RDW)

Best Condiment You’ve Never Tried

SF Mushroom Co. salt

"Pass me the garlic salt," you say under your breath as you try to spice dinner up. If only there was something different, you think. If only there was something that both makes my dish more savory and reinforces my nostalgic love for Super Mario Bros. Enter Santa Fe Mushroom Co. and their aptly named "magic mushroom powder." On sale since March at the Farmers Market, the company's Wesley James describes the flavor as "umami in a jar, basically." Per James' own estimation, each $10 jar has about a pound of oyster mushrooms, guaranteed to make your dishes sing. Bland food doldrums no more. (EL)

Best Foodie Comeback

Chef Estevan Garcia

Anson Stevens-Bollen
Anson Stevens-Bollen | Anson Stevens-Bollen

While many were eagerly awaiting John Sedlar's return to Santa Fe and all its hullabaloo, Sedlar's former partner Estevan Garcia stealthily set up shop at the old Tías Cocina. Garcia's eponymous restaurant brings back some of his legendary Café San Estevan fare (carne adovada ravioli in Chimayó red chile ragout, anyone?) and serves 'em up with a side of personality. "We started with all French food," he recalls about the days he and Sedlar started Manhattan Beach's Saint Estèphe on a dime. "Then we did a menu within a menu called 'Southwest Food,' and that's how it started." The result was the birth of modern Southwest cuisine. Each plate at Estevan's reflects this history and pays homage to Garcia's homespun roots. "I didn't go to school, I went and spent my own money, and I went to restaurants, ate, wine and dined." For a party in your mouth, make sure to try the heavenly flourless almond cake ($8) for dessert. Is that crème Anglaise, Chef, or are you just happy to see me? Please repeat that to him. (EL)

Best Nontraditional Espresso Drink

Red Chile Mocha @Travel Bug
839 Paseo de Peralta, 992-0418

Travel Bug, best known for its adult language classes, help in planning trips and varied selection of maps, is an impressive coffee shop. Most people who've been there know this, I'm sure. And even though Travel Bug helps people get out of Santa Fe, they have one drink that celebrates the area: the red chile mocha. The traditional mocha (espresso, chocolate and steamed milk) gets a Southwestern twist: Red chile flakes are placed over the filter, and after it is brewed, the coffee runs through the chile and becomes spiced. At first, all one tastes is the traditional mocha, then the kick comes, complementing the often too-sweet taste of melted chocolate. Red chile and chocolate is really a natural combination, and when combined with coffee, there's not much else to ask for. (NA)

Best Fair-Priced Bulk Salad Feast

Souper! Salad!
2428 Cerrillos Road (inside College Plaza), 473-1211

The only salad buffet in town and therefore the "Best" by virtue of being the "Only." While Whole Foods has come under scrutiny for overcharging for their green stuff, Souper! Salad! was a mainstay along Cerrillos Road long before the organic movement came to play. It's been a fixture here for more than three decades, offering an all you-can-eat buffet of salad, soup, potatoes, pizza, hard shell tacos and dessert. And you don't have to worry about how much the salad weighs. Just pile it on your plate and go back for seconds, if you so choose. It only costs $8.64, including tax. In a day of obesity and fast food, what's exceptional about Souper! Salad! is that if you want to eat healthy and you're in a hurry, you may do so, but if you want to pig out, you can do that, too. It's all up to you. Nobody's stopping you. It's one of those fine lines you have to learn how to walk, but usually the baked potato and the hard shell tacos win me over. Oh, and a little salad on the side. (TR)

Best Restaurant that Constantly Makes You Wonder Why the Hell More People Aren’t There

Red Enchilada
1310 Osage Ave., 820-6552

As I cut into my incredible Christmas tortilla burger at Red Enchilada during a recent dinner, the same thought occurred to me that always occurs to me when I'm dining in the midtown establishment: "Why isn't this place packed?" From the insanely affordable menu that represents the best of Mexico, New Mexico and Central America to the delicious pupusas and best sopaipillas in town, it's the place to go for breakfast, lunch or dinner or for any occasion. It might have something to do with our lousy restaurant attitude in town that finds us claiming misguided loyalty to the downtown set of overpriced standbys, or it might just be that Red Enchilada's sort-of-weird location nestled in a strip mall between a bank and a grocery store makes it look like it's not great. Well, stop it! Hear me now and believe me later, Red Enchilada is some of the best food our town has to offer, no matter your tastes. (ADV)

Best First Step to Throwing Your Own Sausage Fest

Big R Ranch Supply
725 St. Michael's Drive, 820-0895

In addition to selling bedazzled jeans that are going to make your butt look great at the party, the new Big R chain on St. Michael's is the place to go for all your sausage-making supplies. The stunning DIY section has accoutrements for every step of the process, from ammo for your hunting trip to dipping sauce for completed meat sticks. Start with the dead animal of your choice and run it through the fancy grinder that you've bought and bolted to your kitchen counter—the store offers models that range from Kia to Cadillac. Then, add spices like the ready-made Smokehouse Polish Sausage mix. Next, grab a package of casings made from dried intestines, and lastly, cram all that stuff way down in there. Or, if this is really grossing you out, go a few aisles over to check out the beekeeping section, which includes a full protective suit with a netted hat. (JAG)

Best Date Night

Lemon and date bars at Iconik
1600 Lena St., 428-0996

Dating is tough. Dates, as in the Mediterranean staple, are far more pleasant. Drop into the bench seating or the repurposed schoolroom chairs at Iconik and enjoy a little of the latter. Their lemon and date bars ($3.50 apiece) are just a little sweet with hints of citrus and a crumbly layer of oats for topping, and a cappuccino provides an enjoyable companion, whether you like the conversation or not. Wash it down with one of Iconik's espressos, which are brewed from a seasonally rotating blend of beans that draws from the freshest coffee harvests from all over the world (this summer's mixes beans from Ethiopia, Honduras and Mexico) to pack the best in flavor potential into every sip. Take a 14-ounce bag of their six options of single origin beans or their espresso blend home for $18.50. Just don't actually go for date night. They close most days by 6 pm. (EM)

Best Exotic Iced Coffee with a Side of Man Musk

Caveman Coffee
1221 Flagman Way, Ste. B1, 992-2577

Anson Stevens-Bollen
Anson Stevens-Bollen | Anson Stevens-Bollen

Tucked away in the burgeoning Baca Street Railyard is an unsuspected business combo that's part CrossFit gym and part coffee shop. But this isn't the joint to order your skinny latte with two pumps of vanilla and extra foam. Bam-Bam, meet Caveman Coffee. While power lifters grunt and drop barbells in dusty, floor-shaking clangs in the adjoining Undisputed Fitness gym, you can supercharge your morning with a creation from gym founder and health food guru Tait Fletcher that will make even the scrawniest dude feel like pumping the iron. This summer, we suggest an iced "Putting on the Spritz." Like most specialty drinks here, the $4.50 concoction includes espresso blended with butter, which the gurus say helps you burn fat, along with mineral water, which provides a bright note of hydration. Lastly, catch on to the secret ingredient: a refined coconut oil known as MCT, a miraculous, flavorless liquid that has way too many purported benefits to list here. Healthy coffee. Go. (JAG)

Best Buzzed Artist Encounter

Duel Brewing
1228 Parkway Drive, 474-5301

Trent Edwards, owner of Duel Brewing, says he may not be sure quite what they're doing with the brewery, but he knows what they're trying to do, which is, at least in part, make good beer (check) and serve it in an inviting, sociable atmosphere (check again). What he's stumbled into is a list of beers that will invite reminiscences of a liberal arts education and that one art history class, or afternoons in a distant art museum. There are blondes named for post-impressionists Cezanne and Whistler (pints run $4.50-$10 and drop $2 during happy hour), an imperial porter that shares a name with Renaissance-era German painter Grunewald and a golden strong ale named for his Italian contemporary Titian. Feeling a little more like dense and obscure prose? Go for the Marcel witbier. (EM)

Best Use of Color in Oatmeal

The Teahouse
821 Canyon Road, 992-0972

Aside from a wayward red cranberry or a dot of raisins, oatmeal is missing the visual appeal that makes its breakfast competition more appealing. Banish the bland and keep all the goodness of the hearty mush with a bowl of steaming vibrant purple oatmeal at this Canyon Road hideaway. While it might take you a solid hour to fully explore the extensive menu and make your first tea decision from a global selection, don't debate too much about whether the dish will fill you with happiness. It will. The Teahouse oatmeal ($7) includes oats, sure, and buckwheat groats. But the real star that gives the royal concoction its color is the forbidden rice. Don't pass on the dual dose of maple cream and whipped cream that comes on top, which along with strawberries or bananas (add $2) tips the scale toward breakfast dessert. Bonus: It's also gluten-free. (JAG)

Best Place to Feel Unsettled and You’re Not Sure Why

The Food Court at Santa Fe Place Mall

I see a merry-go-round carrying a single child, wood paneling, stone pillars, three eateries and a group of people who seem to have no aim. I'm sitting in the middle of the food court at Santa Fe Place, where the chairs are arranged as if it were an outdoor plaza, yet no matter how many windows there are to let in the light of the sun, the stuffy air is enough to remind me that I'm indoors. Millions of dollars and a name change later, this mall is lacking the life that it promised to bring to the area. Where are the shops, the setting and the people who would make this a lively city center? I note this as a touring train passes by, empty. A small child stands a foot away from me and simply stares. Is this a dream? Is Fellini capturing this from behind the walls of Foot Action? No. This is boredom. (NA)

Best Under-Two-Buck Meal

La Loncherita Salvadoreña

There's a new arrival on Santa Fe's flourishing food truck scene: La Loncherita Salvadoreña. Propped on a stretch of land next to the Mandela International Magnet School, the swimming-pool-blue truck does one thing and it does it right—pupusas. Tracing its roots to Mesoamerica, the stuffed masa treat comes in an array of fillings and, at $1.75 a pop, fills you up on the cheap. Handmade options include chicharrón con queso, queso y loroco (a traditional vine with edible flours) and a combo one that'll make you feel like you struck foodie gold in the streets of San Salvador. They are served daily except for Wednesdays. Vilma Peraza flips the good stuff inside the former birria truck. "I don't know," the Chalatenango native says when asked what makes for good pupusa. That's OK, just keep churning those mouthwatering babies out. (EL)

Best Green Chile Cheeseburger outside the City Limits but Still within Easy Driving Distance

Frankie's at the Casanova
12 S Main Street, Pecos, 757-3322

Santa Fe has a problem with thinking a drive of more than 10 minutes is too far (not counting drives to places that have free booze), but if you can ditch the 'tude and make plans for a day trip out by the Pecos River, you'll be able to discover a semi-hidden secret that will reward your taste buds and help you to realize a 20-minute drive for an amazing green chile cheeseburger is totally worth it. Frankie's at the Casanova in Pecos may be well known to that town's denizens, but to us Santa Feans who often act like we wrote the book on the green chile cheeseburger (to be fair, we pretty much did), it might just be the kind of semi-secret menu item that's worth a drive and another stamp on your mental foodie passport. Throw in the restaurant's excellent ambience and the friendly wait staff and you've got yourself a fun little day trip, complete with one of the best damn burgers the state has to offer. (ADV)

Best Way to get an L.A.-Style Asian Street Taco Experience without Leaving Santa Fe or Feeling Guilty for not Having a Boss Tan

Bonsai Asian Tacos
3668 Cerrillos Road, 316-9418

When chef Juan Carlos Ruvalcaba opened Bonsai earlier this winter in the parking lot of Pawn City, between Richards Avenue and Zafarano Drive, the positive response to his pulled-pork tacos and vast vegetarian options was immediate. Now, with the city's new food-truck ordinance in place, Ruvalcaba is frequently on the move, serving up his tasty fare downtown at gallery openings, public events and other 505 doings. The Bonsai still calls Cerrillos Road its permanent home. To keep up with where they are on any given day, follow them on Facebook. (RDW)

Best Restaurant for the Morning After

Restaurante El Salvadoreño
2900 Cerrillos Road, 474-3512

Inside the kitchen, Elsa Coto, a Honduran, cooks menudo, a Mexican soup, then Roxana Guerra, a Salvadoran, delivers it to my table while the owner, Eddie Aguilar, of Albuquerque, looks on. I begin to eat the menudo, a hearty tripe broth that is supposed to cure hangovers in Mexican culture. Usually it's only served on weekends, but at Restaurante El Salvadoreño on Cerrillos Road, it's prepared every day, something of an aberration in the world of cuisine. The soup comes with onions, cilantro and limes; a pig's foot, in my case, is thrown in as an audible. I decide to gnaw on it. All good stuff. What's Aguilar's secret to serving up menudo on a daily basis? "I never expand the menu," he says. "It's pretty short and sweet." It turns out the Salvadorans also have a special soup that cures hangover, sopa de bolos, only it doesn't come with chile and hominy—the staple of Mexican menudo. Both soups are the same price: $7.95 for a small and $10.98 for a large. The cost of curing a hangover? Priceless. (TR)