Fresh, often locally sourced flavors build around a backbone of French cuisine at 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar. Executive chef and owner Louis Moskow spends his Tuesday and Saturday early morning hours at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, selecting local produce. Particularly later in the week, the board of nightly specials adds seafood entrees to the list of options that begins with appetizers such as fresh shucked oysters, crab claws and wild Mexican shrimp. When the Farmers Market is less robust during wintertime, Moskow keeps sourcing from local farms’ hoop houses and greenhouses. Ensconced in the dark, warm wood tones of the bar on a night the doors to the already full patio were left open, I started with a glass of Guado al Tasso Vermentino ($14), a dry white wine, to pair with grilled salmon on a bed of spinach, topped with shishito peppers, corn, cauliflower and onion rings ($34). Bar menu options, just $8 each, include housemade potato tots, shrimp and grits, and a charcuterie or artisanal cheese plate.
There are many factors that propelled Café Castro to our Top 10. The expert nod to Northern New Mexico cuisine, their attentive service and the fact that a sign on one of its windows alerts to overflow parking available at neighboring Cheeks. Any given day, co-owner Julia Castro can be seen taking orders on the phone, bussing tables or working the cash register. Chips and salsa are de rigueur and, at only 3 bucks, an addiction in the making. Ballers should opt for “El Trio Sabroso” ($8.50), which also adds guac and queso to the mix. Local fare is where it’s at here, and even diners who go at it eenie, meenie, miney, mo-style on the menu won’t be disappointed. Try “El Plato Grande”—a heaping plate that, true to its name, is a feast on a plate, boasting a chile relleno, a pork tamal, a cheese enchilada—salivating yet?—beans, refried beans and posole that’ll make it rain on your tastebuds.
Tucked away off the city’s famous gallery thruway, this stalwart of fine dining has been making the splurge worth it since the 1960s. The dining room’s smooth white mud walls, a view of dozens of sparkling stemmed glasses laid out on each table and the impeccable appearance of the attentive staff combine to create a soothing upscale atmosphere. Perhaps a little-known fact is that some of the most coveted seats are the eight that surround its sunken bar, where the full menu is available, along with the chance to converse with new friends. And, ah, the food. With a juicy hunk of the inch-thick veal porterhouse in your mouth, there’s nothing left to do but clutch your chest and roll your eyes in ecstasy at the treasure on the plate ($46), topped with chanterelle mushrooms, bacon and tomatoes, and served with sautéed kale. For dessert, the deep-fried pound cake with bourbon peaches is all the best of a state fair funnel cake and the orchard ($9). Don’t lick the plate. This is a classy place.
All good things come to those who wait. Case in point: Estevan Restaurante. The food was served quickly, yet it takes roughly 36 hours to prepare the demi-glace with red chile, which makes the Black Angus rib-eye steak ($24) a must order. The red chile is bought straight from the Chimayó grower after it’s picked in the fields; buying locally has always been Estevan Garcia’s trademark. But it is here on the second floor of Hotel Chimayó where Garcia utilizes his years of French cooking talents, combining them with the Southwest. He’s also been known to venture into the Pacific Ocean. Try the Hawaiian calamari, which is thinly sliced and served in a delicious lemon parsley butter sauce ($10). It’s something, the chef claims, you won’t find in all of Santa Fe among myriad ho-hum marinara sauces. Or, dame tres of that dessert, tres leches ($9), a trio of condensed, evaporated and regular milk that’s as moist as it is memorable. But chances are you won’t share it.
It’s best to dine here with partners willing to let you steal a bite off their plates (but try not to drip on the linen; you’re sitting at one of the few places in the city where one can procure valet parking, after all). From the selection of warm rolls to the dreamy creamsicle cake ($12), all the finishing touches at Geronimo are in place. In the spirit of playing with your food, choose the Hawaiian ahi tuna sashimi and tartare appetizer ($19) and its tiny pancakes, upon which you heap the minced fish and avocado, laying on as much caviar, wasabi crème fraîche, soy lime syrup and sriracha with olive oil as you dare. If you’re not in the mood for the signature Tellicherry-rubbed elk ($42) for your main course, consider that they’ve taken all the work out of the mesquite-grilled Maine lobster tails ($43), with tender meat just barely attached to the shell, allowing the buttery joy of sea bug without the potential for flying crustacean. What will fly are your spirits.
I once read that eating like a bird is a misnomer, as birds eat a lot compared to their size. Whatever the case might be, and perhaps aided by the aviary motif at Joseph’s, eating 250 pounds of food here sounds like an absolute dream. Fine dining gets a hint of cool at Joseph Wrede’s culinary pub, where choice wine and beers flow like manna and fancy meets fun in the form of apps like grilled New Mexico lamb lollipop ($14) served with a smear of red chile apple sage jam, local bone marrow served with molasses-glazed mushrooms ($14) and the sea bass ceviche ($18) accompanied by plantain fritos. The half-duck confit ($32) is solid, but the true leader of this flock is the steak au poivre ($42), natural Colorado grass-fed tenderloin in a Madeira reduction with an oyster mushroom sauce served atop a fluffy bed of smashed potatoes. It’s OK to lick the page, we won’t tell.
Peruse the carefully cultivated wine and beer selection and then dive into a menu on which there are no wrong turns. In addition to the stellar dinner options, Restaurant Martín has an approachable lunch and brunch menu, with options beginning as low as $9 for lunch specials (one day, a steak sandwich with pepper jack). In choosing to explore what refined American cuisine (blended with Asian and Southwestern influences) lunch entails, we were treated by a blackened salmon sandwich ($15) that was flavorful and satisfying, the salmon filet spiced and accompanied with bacon, aioli and avocado, and sided by fresh greens and French fries. Just because it’s lunch doesn’t mean it’s not time for dessert. So finish with the blueberry panna cotta and French cheesecake ($11). A tart grapefruit sorbet balances sweet cheesecake and berries topped with wafers of merengue. Or keep to the chocolate route with a chocolate devil’s food cake ($14) served with orange vanilla custard, berries and Bailey’s ice cream.
At the junction where American cuisine and Southwest flair meet lives Santacafé. Bringing ’em in since 1983, the downtown spot was a beacon during the Santa Fe-style explosion of yore and continues to hold its ground today. The “classics” listed on the menu are just that: morsels that not only hit the spot, but deliver a tasty dose of culinary history to boot. Starters like calamari ($10.50) with four-lime dipping sauce, which achieves the perfect balance of chew and crunch, and the shiitake mushroom and cactus spring rolls ($11) that come squired by a lemony ponzu sauce. Entrées like the pan-seared Cornish game hen ($27) also impress. Room for dessert? Hell, yes. Overwhelmed, I ask my server what his favorite is, and he quickly responds, “The coffee bean ice cream. I first had it 18 years ago.” Well damn, anything that memorable is certainly worth trying. Did the sweet treat ($8.50) topped with a piñón crisp and lightly doused with cajeta live up to its reputation? The night’s receipt now calls my scrapbook home, so you be the judge.
Many cried green chile-tinged tears when Bobcat Bite on Old Las Vegas Highway met its maker, fearing that the homegrown goodness experienced in every bite of their signature burgers would not translate to a downtown spot. A couple of years into the move, it’s clear that’s not the case. The locale is festooned with Route 66-style tin signs, including a prophetic one reading, “Good food. Good friends. Good times.” Taking a cue from my server, Fernando, I go with a classic, the 10-ounce bacon green chile cheeseburger ($14.10). “It’s the best in the whole world!” he quickly tells me, and he wasn’t kidding. Even my vegetarian companion was impressed with the heartiness of their beet-based veggie burger ($11.65). Secret’s in the sauce and in their custom cast-iron griddle, co-owner Bonnie Eckre says, along with the special beef blend (chuck shoulder and sirloin) and an affable staff. “I have a great kitchen. They love to play, and they’re always playing with new ideas…it’s fun,” she beams.
Andrew Cooper, the chief chef at Terra Restaurant at Four Seasons Rancho Encantado, has managed to turn melted cheese into a delicacy that’s to be shared with everyone at your table. It’s his twist on queso fundido ($12), a Mexican dish associated with pico de gallo and chorizo. But leave it up to Cooper, who’s known for his green chile cheeseburger, to turn it into a whopper by adding onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, avocados and local chile. You forget that the chorizo, the main ingredient, is even there, making it, in his words, “a New Mexican-style cheese dip.” It’s one of the more filling appetizers on the menu, whose very unorthodox dishes pleasingly range from blue corn crusted trout ($22) to sweet crab chile relleno ($17). The trout is a healthier version of fish and chips. The batter is blue corn, soaked in buttermilk, and the trout is
coated with blue corn meal before it’s fried. There is a chipotle dipping sauce. As for the sweet crab chile relleno, it’s as sweet as the relleno is amply stuffed, making it one of the best around.
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