Practically every corner of Santa Fe is filled with top-notch dining, and for a sleepy mountain town with a population of 80,000, it's something that brings us pride here at the Santa Fe Reporter. We're a paradise for the foodie's heart, from our age-old hole-in-the-wall type places to innovative high-end fine dining and everything in between; the one thing that's hard to find is plain ole' bad food.
With all these incredible choices, someone passing through for the weekend might be a little stymied. For those of you who can't extend your trip a few days, we've put together this list of our favorite restaurants so there's plenty of options for now and the next time.
These restaurants aren't our corporate sponsors; they're the places we truly love to eat, we recommend them to our families and friends, and now it's our privilege to recommend them to you.
Ten choices hardly does the town justice, so we've got a list of our 15 Faves too.
Restaurant, art space, oxygen bar. Sanctuary spa. Adventure. Apothecary is so very Santa Fe. You can walk in to take a load off and sip an elixir while sniffing pure oxygen in the rarefied air that is this downtown spot. You can order healthy entrees while kicking back on a couch. You can sit at the counter and peruse CBD oil offerings (available in food for $4 or $6). The whole place has a fantastically New Age soda fountain vibe. There's plenty of room to wander on the menu, which begins with drink offerings like buttered chai elixir ($6) and earthy, tangy kava cocktails like the karavan ($9). Teas are mixed and designed to address specific emotions such as grief and love, or to revive your weary self or soothe your belly ($5-$6). The menu includes plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, and many dishes, from nachos ($13) and avocado toast ($10) to jackfruit frito pie ($14) or the bibimbap bowl ($16), can be supplemented with an assortment of proteins ($3-$8). The Om-mani Pad Thai ($14) is excellent, with mung bean noodles, sugar snap peas, crispy bell peppers and a tamarind almond sauce that elevates the dish. The dessert menu is modest but decadent, and if you can find the key lime pie ($10) with coconut cream, get it. And split it. (Matt Grubs)
Can one even complete a restaurant guide without mention of this storied and brilliant monument to New Mexican cuisine? The sister restaurant of Plaza-adjacent eatery The Shed, La Choza's decades of existence have served it well, growing from a small house-like restaurant to an always-packed and freshly remodeled powerhouse with the huge margarita list, that famous chile and a few items—such as tamales and sopaipillas—its big sister doesn't have. Meat eaters and vegetarians alike can find common ground at La Choza, from the vegetarian quesadilla on the appetizer list and meat-free enchiladas ($10-$14.25) to the stuffed sopaipillas complete with your choice of green chile chicken, red chile beef, red chile ground turkey ($10-$14.25) or whatever combination of those things your heart desires. Find also a stellar dessert menu featuring the world famous frozen mocha cake ($4), a long list of beers both local and not and an old world charm made possible by a commitment to all things Santa Fe from longtime owners, the Carswell family. When visitors ask where they should go to eat in Santa Fe to get the most authentic experience, this should be at the top of anyone's list, as it should be when it's time for locals to grab a bite. Make sure to get reservations for dinner and show up early for lunch—it's first come-first served. (Alex De Vore)
The change in scenery is so abrupt, it's almost like getting beamed up by Scotty. One moment, you're immersed in the earthy adobe of Santa Fe, the next, you're at Izanami, high in the verdant forests of what feels like Japan. This setting, and the spot-on culinary execution that chef Kiko Rodriguez and his team are known for, make Izanami an all-around favorite. The extensive sake list intrigues with zen-like names that translate to phrases such as "true mirror" and "wind of the woods," and the menu is traditional Japanese izakaya with some Southwest flair. Think elote ($8), Mexican corn salad, but with yuzu mayo and seven-spice shichimi togarashi. Those who come expecting sushi used to be sorely disappointed but recently, when fresh fish is available, it has been making an appearance on the menu as a special. In addition to other special experiences, like wagyu beef ishiyaki (starting at $24 depending on your choice of beef) where diners cook thin slices of premium meat on a hot stone, there's the omakase chef's choice tasting menu ($79), six courses featuring fresh fish of the day—ahi tuna sashimi, avocado and daikon roll and Chilean sea bass and veggie ramen in a ginger-lemongrass coconut broth. (Zibby Wilder)
As soon as the sign went up on Cerrillos Road in the old Pizza 9 location, the social media world was ablaze. Was it true? Was a dedicated ramen spot returning to Santa Fe? Indeed—it was true, and from the family behind shuttered sushi restaurant Shohko. For our part, we were there as soon as humanly possible, enjoying the brief early days before a line out the door became common and reveling in the spoils of their efforts. Mampuku is wonderful, by the way, an authentic and darling experience in an unassuming space full of light and full of ramen. Thus far, personal faves include the vegetable ramen with miso broth ($10.95) and green chile tempura (an extra $2.50), which is cleverly served on the side to avoid potential sogginess. The meat eaters among us can't say enough nice things about black tonkotsu ramen with pork, a generous serving of noodles, broth and meat. Find appetizers as well, like good old standby edamame ($4.50) takoyaki ($5) and others, but make sure you time your visit to circumvent the obvious and overwhelming demand. Fingers crossed this one sticks around a long time. (ADV)
1965 Cerrillos Road, 772-0169
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday
If you're the kind of person who shares a flaming volcano of rum with six co-workers, you are probably also the type to go to a steakhouse and order the bone marrow whiskey luge appetizer ($14 plus $10 for the shot of Bulliet rye the waiter will pour through it after you're done eating). That's just how our splurge dinner began. Up next was a bacon and butter salad, delightfully amended with pinon nuts and a lemony goat cheese that bound to the butter lettuce ($16 and perfect to share). We loved that our steaks come just as ordered (7-ounce filet, $38 and a 10-ounce flat iron, $30), centered on a plate with just one herb sprig and a few cloves of roasted garlic. Rather than choosing just one of a dozen steak toppings, we try all of them in a flight for $12. Side dishes are enough for three diners to share, so our pair had plenty of the creamed spinach ($12) and wild mushrooms ($11) to take home. The wine list has glasses that range from $11 for Washington pinot noir to $30 French Bordeaux, and bottles for days, but the service isn't pretentious and pushy on the alcohol front. It's no wonder Market Steer was named Best New Restaurant in SFR's 2019 Best of Santa Fe readers poll. Since we're suckers for spectacle, next time, we are determined to save room for the table-side s'mores ($15). (Julie Ann Grimm)
Paper Dosa is a distinctive experience, in part, because owners Paulraj Karuppasamy and Nellie Tichsler have elevated South Indian cuisine on their menu. Also, they do it extremely well. That means lots of lentils and stews, and spices that are often refreshingly different from the North Indian fare that dominates "Indian food" in America. A dosa, the namesake dish, is a giant crêpe-like pancake made from a fermented, lentil-based batter. Here, it can be filled with ingredients from Indian to Italian to French and New Mexican. The classic ($10.50) is a good place to start. Uttapam are similar, but thicker and smaller with the ingredients baked in. The prawn moilee ($18) is a thin curry stew in which flash-fried shrimp are immersed, quickly taking on the rich flavors. The inspired watermelon and paneer salad ($11) is among Santa Fe's best and features warm chunks of Indian cheese and cool cubes of watermelon tossed in a slightly spicy dressing with spinach and sprouted mung beans. Dessert has nods to local faves paletas ($4) and La Lecheria's coconut sorbet ($8). The wife-husband pair have carved out what's fast becoming a Santa Fe institution and you'd do well to try it. Many dishes are or can be prepared vegan. And though the always-lively space off Cordova Road fills up fast on weekend nights, smaller parties can often find space at the bar. (MG)
Puerto Peñasco Restaurant
It's Friday night, smack dab in the middle of sweltering tourism season and we don't have a reservation. We also don't have to fight for parking, and we don't have to wait at all to get a table in the cool dining room at Puerto Peñasco. What we find then is a vast menu with every single item written in Spanish and English and friendly, non-obtrusive but extremely courteous waitstaff. Chips and salsa are joined by avocado creme as we pore over the choices. Welcome to the restaurant that Ruben Rodriguez opened and named after a memorable family vacation 13 years ago. We're salivating as two plates of sizzling fajitas go by and land on another table, but we have zero order regret from the filete creme chipotle ($11.95), a sizeable portion of white fish swimming in a thick creamsicle-colored sauce with enough jalapeño kick to rate "extra spicy" on the menu. Well-cooked rice that comes along was a given, but a small pile of french fries was a surprise addition to the entree—and those steaming taters longed to be dipped in the sauce. A mango agave wine margarita with a chile rim ($5.25) helped chill it down to a tolerable lip-burning level. For dessert, we share a single flan ($4.25) that is generously drenched in caramel sauce and so sweet with condensed milk and eggs that it disappears quickly. Not us. We'll be back. (JAG)
4681 Airport Road, Ste. 1, 438-6622
Lunch and dinner daily
Rowley Farmhouse Ales
There's no farmhouse at Rowley, but it is hidden back far enough off of Cerrillos to be country quiet. The farmhouse here refers to Rowley's award-winning beers, that is, farmhouse ales. Many different styles fit under that moniker, but the beers Rowley is known for tend to be perfect for drinking on a farm: funky, earthy, tart and dry. Easy drinking is made easier by the laid-back yet well-curated menu of rustic pub food from chef Jeffrey Kaplan. There are the comfort foods that sizzle in a cast-iron pan, such as a three-cheese (mozzarella, parmesan and blue) mac and cheese ($11), and more refined options highlighting nature's bounty including a farmers market risotto ($14) studded with local, in-season vegetables. Sandwiches and burgers require steady hands and many napkins. The wild Gulf shrimp po' boy ($17) overflows with salty, sweet, flash-fried shrimp in a dripping current of spicy remoulade. Rowley's kitchen achieves the impossible with its Impossible burger ($14), coaxing crunchy, charred edges out of a product notoriously difficult to cook correctly. And no rustic meal would be complete without a sweet finish, the kind you might find cooling on a farmhouse window sill. Rowley doesn't disappoint, offering a seasonal fruit crumble ($7) (in summer, tart cherries paired with sweet peaches) and a hearty Challah bread pudding ($6). Though many come for the beer, it's the food they stay for. (ZW)
Trattoria a Mano
Fresh pasta is totally having its moment. Anyone with a penchant for collecting kitchen gadgets probably has at least one pasta machine on their counter right now and two others waiting in their Amazon cart. But when the novelty of the toy wears off, you'll still be in love with pasta a mano—handmade—and Trattoria a Mano has just what you need. In the spring and summer, the menu shifts to the south of Italy, featuring more seafood, but the winter menu is dedicated to northern Italian cuisine. Traditionally, pasta is just the second course, so consider starting with a light caprese salad ($15) featuring the mildest, sweetest burrata, tart tomatoes and balsamic vinegar pearls. For something richer, the grilled octopus ($16) comes with a satisfying char and a Nduja sausage sauce. Each pasta dish features a unique type carefully paired with toppings to complement the texture. The orecchiette al sugo ($15/$26), Italian for "little ears with sauce," demonstrates the restaurant's mastery of the craft, and though we would have tried all the pastas, we wanted to save room for a main course: namely, grilled branzino ($30) served with crispy, briney Sicilian-style cauliflowers and salsa verde. We're definitely looking forward to going back when it's cold out and digging into some of the best pasta in town. (CR)
Vinaigrette won big points earlier this year when owner Erin Wade announced she was doubling down on sustainability. This means parallel programs, dubbed the Compost Club and The Reusables, that incentivize composting and a reduction of single-use to-go containers. Yes, there's a $20 deposit, but diners can opt out anytime and, after 20 punches on the included punch card, a free item or two, depending on whether you're eating in or out. Meanwhile, Vinagrette maintains its commitment to fresh and delicious salads and sandwiches. We can never recommend the Omega ($12.25) enough, with its generous toppers of piñon and avocado mixing with kale, bell pepper, tomato and blue cheese vinaigrette dressing. But other salads like the Chop Chop ($12.50), a romaine, arugula and kale mix with cauliflower, tomato and chickpeas over salami and herb roasted chicken, impress as well. Don't even get us started on the Cuban torta ($13.50)—a melt-in-your-mouth pork shoulder roasted with mustard plus green chile ham, onions, Swiss cheese and avocado—or the mushroom stew ($5-$8) and desserts like a flourless chocolate cake ($6.25) that stuns with a fudge-like goodness, or carrot cake ($6) that's so delicious, you'll rethink why you ever doubted it. (ADV)