You can’t really beat summer in Santa Fe. We don’t really do humidity here, it almost never feels too hot and our countless local eateries are home to some of the nicest patio dining areas in all the land. It is, in fact, so hard to choose favorites that our crack team of outside-ologists spent weeks agonizing over their recommendations. In the end, we decided to split them up across town. And though we know this list pales in comparison to your Santa Fe patio options, with three suggestions for outdoor dining downtown, in Midtown and on the Southside, you’re bound to find something you love (or already loved) no matter where you live.
Iconik Coffee Roasters Lupe: 314 S Guadalupe St., 505-428-0996; 7:30 am-5 pm daily
Iconik Coffee Roasters so gradually and so masterfully wound up in three locations around Santa Fe, we barely even noticed, and it’s kind of hard to recall a time without our town’s leader in third-wave coffee. And while the original Lena Street location will always hold a special place in our hearts, and you know we’ll be ordering up an Americano next time we get a chance to visit the Collected Works Bookstore location, something about Iconik Lupe—the company’s newest, though not new location—makes it the can’t-miss location of the three. And it’s expanding. Nobody really knows when the Guadalupe Street shop’s patio grew from a snug few tables behind a gloriously private white wall, but the larger brick-laden patio that’s now available feels just right for drip coffee daydreamers, espresso-laden laptoppers or latte-swilling buds coming together at long last following a year of loneliness. Find delectable menu items as well, from affordable breakfast tacos ($4.50) and prosciutto eggs Benedict ($9) to a seasonal salad ($9.50) and homemade pasta ($6.75). That’s not even mentioning the award-winning coffee in any variety you like, all of which is served under those trademarked Santa Fe summer skies. Roll on, clouds. We’re just getting caffeinated.
Fire & Hops: 222 N Guadalupe St., 505-954-1635; Dinner daily
Setting aside the challenging parking near one of the busiest sections of Guadalupe Street, the gastropub fare from Fire & Hops co-owners Joel Coleman and Josh Johns has always been one of the most reliable bets for a solid meal, and its totes adorbs outdoor patio space wows alongside its commitment to sustainability. Fire & Hops isn’t one of those massive-menu kind of places, it’s a testament to chef Coleman’s focused selection of items made well. Fried brussels sprouts ($9) are a more flavorful and exciting appetizer or light snack than you ever thought possible, and by applying the theory of salt and vinegar chips to actual potatoes ($7), Coleman creates a flavor that’s somehow all at once familiar but brand new. As summer rolls on, small plates like ceviche ($12) and kalua pork tacos ($10-$13) won’t weigh you down in the heat, but will leave you feeling satisfied for a post-dinner downtown stroll. Miso ramen and sesame udon ($16 each) bookend the dinner mennu, but find a burger ($15) or Cubano sandwich, too ($15 each). Did we mention the varied beer list? It’s a real chef’s-kiss situation with brews from Bow & Arrow, La Cumbre and more. That’s not even getting into Coleman’s other project—La Lecheria ice cream. Special flavors arrive with the seasons depending on what’s fresh, and you can get it by the pint at Fire & Hops. You might wanna take that home, though—it might otherwise melt as you linger on the patio.
The Shed: 113 1/2 E Palace Ave., 505-982-9030; Lunch and Dinner Monday-Saturday
The true classics never go out of style, and after more than six decades serving up New Mexican dishes, The Shed remains a must-have dining experience for locals and visitors alike. With the type of patio people write home about, the house the Carswell family built serves up the massive margarita list and chile-infused super-menu one dreams about, and it’s excellent for either lunch or dinner. As a stop-off between errands or shopping, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more comfortable or Santa Fe-centric restaurant. When it comes to dinner under the stars? The Shed weaves downright magic with its focused offerings, be they a simple #5 enchilada plate smothered in famous Shed red ($10.50-$12.25) or the pollo adobo ($15.25). Our perfect summertime Shed patio nosh? The summer-only chilled raspberry soup ($5-$8), blue corn burritos (smothered X-mas; $10.50-$12.25) and a slice of the ice-cold mocha cake with fresh-made whipped cream ($4.75). Toss in the winning service and a Silver Coin margarita with El Tesoro tequila and Cointreau ($10.50), and we might have won summer. Oh, sure, there’s much to be said of the patio and expansion at The Shed’s sister spot La Choza, but when we’re looking to immerse ourselves in old-school Santa Fe feels or even just impress some out-of-town friend with our iconic culinary institutions, almost nothing else will do. Heads up: The Shed fills up fast for dinner and doesn’t take lunch reservations. (Alex De Vore)
Meals from Midtown
Cafecito: 922 Shoofly St., 505-310-0089; Monday 8-7 pm; Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 8-3 pm, Thursday-Saturday 8-9 pm
Cafecito is one of my favorite places in town—probably the world. A unique blend of Argentine and eastern European fare, Cafecito’s Andres Paglayan and staff are the kings, queens and nonbinary rulers of local empanadas, be it the verdura with baked spinach and ricotta or the humita with sautéed onions and cheese. Vegans will find a black bean and sweet potato option, too, all at $3.95; and Cafecito’s specialty options, like the tango empanada with beef, onion and a mix of spices for $4.95 seals the deal. A patio platter of empanadas goes great with the two outdoor dining spaces hugging the periphery of the Midtown café. Well-shaded amidst a gently lulling water feature, it practically screams relief from the summer heat, and the chance to stretch your legs away from the busier parts of town comes with clinking glasses, singing birds and soft chatter from the patrons. Yes, it really is so nice that you won’t even remember you turned off bustling Cerrillos Road to get into this little hideaway. Beneath a pergola roof, one can sip away selections from Cafecito’s espresso menu, or order a pot of botanico andino tea ($4.75)—a unique option of Patagonian blends. Try the frutos rojos red tea with berries for a refresher. We all need one after this last year.
Tortilla Flats: 3139 Cerrillos Rd., 505-471-8685; Lunch and dinner daily
Old-timers from the pre-Meow Wolf days might recall when Tortilla Flats marked
the heart of the then-barren Rufina Circle area, even if it was under the haze of self-induced New Mexican food comas and second margaritas. A staple of easy Santa Fe dining, Tortilla Flats remains unchanged even as Meow Wolf and other startups bring more traffic into the neighborhood. Tortilla Flats has just always been there. Of course, you can find a similar joint anywhere in the Southwest, but Santa Fe’s version comes with the no-mess promise of solid meals done well. Does Tortilla Flats boast the kind of patio for a marriage proposal or a first date? Maybe not, but its sea of wrought-iron tables and cushioned seats under drooping string lights makes for a winning combo where eavesdropping on your fellow locals on a light summer evening is the custom, and a plate of stuffed sopaipillas ($11.99, and you better smother it in red) pairs well with everything. Throughout the day, proper shading invites diners to dive deeper into Tortilla Flats’ dishes without working up a sweat. Find marinated red chile caribe pork ($15.95) or the sizzling fajitas ($17.29) served to you on a skillet, and while it’s technically not unique in presentation, Tortilla Flats proves you don’t need fancy clothes or big bucks to say “I made it past the pandemic.” We just need a little night air on Tortilla Flats’ patio, watching confused tourists trying to find Meow Wolf.
Rowley Farmhouse Ales: 1405 Maclovia St., 505-428-0719; Lunch and dinner daily
If your brewhouse isn’t tucked away on some side street smack-dab in the middle of a residential area you’ve never before had a reason to visit, is it really worthwhile? That’s the first score for Rowley Farmhouse Ales, a gastropub and brewery specializing, shockingly, in sour and farmhouse ales. From the dedicated minds of John Rowley, Jeffrey Kaplan and Darrick Williams, Rowley’s patio is like a night out at a classic German brewery right here in little Santa Fe. Head Brewer Rowley is a Los Alamos chemist and Kaplan boasts decades in the hospitality biz, but the staff’s expertise doesn’t mean the brews are lab-tested or hastily made for the broadest appeal possible—Rowley Farmhouse Ales uses a mixed-culture fermentation process, taking inspiration from centuries-old Belgian and French brewing techniques so people can find their niche tastes on tap. Don’t worry, stout-heads and IPA nuts, Rowley has enough for you, too; 4-oz. draughts range from $1.25-$5, with 10-oz. glasses running $5-$12. Most brews peak around $8, but you’d pay more, and sucking down a pork belly corndog ($8) or the famous chicken biscuit sandwich ($15) pairs well with Belgian ales. Just remember Rowley isn’t packing a huge space even before social distancing guidelines, so maximize your visit during off hours, especially if you’ve got a hankering for an Impossible burger ($15), farmers market salad ($12) or other vegetarian meal. Ales in the summer sun (while catching up after a disastrous 2020)? We think yes. (Riley Gardner)
See the Southside
Santa Fe Brewing Company: 35 Fire Place, 505-424-3333; Noon-9 pm Monday-Wednesday; Noon-10 pm Thursday-Sunday
Travelers on I-25 who followed the billboard to the brewery south of Santa Fe once found themselves at the end of a dirt road with no actual glasses of beer in sight. It’s come a long way, baby. Santa Fe Brewing Company’s (santafebrewing.com) full-fledged beer hall venue is connected to its actual brewery and canning line at the HQ on Fire Place, just off Highway. 14 north of the intersection with 599. Ample parking, wide views and choices for your whole gang are the theme of our picks of Southside patios for al fresco dining, drinking and soaking up the summer vibes. This place has all of that.The grand opening in December 2019 was all but lost a few months later when you-know-what went down, so the beer hall comes with all the new-venue smells, plus the earthy odor of beer brewing nearby. Thank the water reclamation system for the green grass in the courtyard and the curtain of green hops vines that creep higher each day through the season. Find a variety of picnic tables and comfy lounge chairs for a moveable feast, or perch on one of two second-story balcony seating areas, where hanging out offers south-facing vistas of the Cerrillos Hills and Sandia Mountains.
San Ysidro Crossing: Zafarano Drive west of Cerrillos Road; Various days and hours
A handful of restaurants have held down the San Ysidro Crossing shopping center since it opened. In recent years, as the anchor Regal movie theater shuttered, the pandemic upped an already righteous patio game that’s hidden enough from Cerrillos Road but pretty much on the way to everywhere—especially if your date night/lunch also includes a trip to Lowe’s. We love the accessible, expanded seating on the tree-lined plaza bordered by Plaza Café Southside (505-424-0755), Santa Fe Capitol Grill (505-471-6800) and Pizza Centro (505-471-6200). Each restaurant has its own designated outdoor service area, but there’s also an open space for takeout from any of the center’s other nearby offerings such as Cleopatra and Milagro, with plenty of tables spread out. A few steps away is the Tribes Coffeehouse (505-473-3615), which has added sails to its southern wall and increased the number of outdoor tables to two sides of its storefront. On the menu are a highly praised chai ($3), a smattering of house-baked goods and breakfasts to die for, among much more. If you’re looking for more recommendations, go for the Impossible burger ($14.95) and a milkshake ($5.25) at the Plaza Café followed by the Diva cocktail with vodka, lime, blood orange and a sugar rim next door at the grill ($9).
The Pantry Dos and Oshara Plaza: 20 White Feather, 505-365-2859; Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Wednesday-Monday
Not only do diners at The Pantry Dos avoid long lines and the Cerrillos Road main drag of the OG spot, the location south of Rodeo is also adjacent to a nice park and plaza adorned with colorful sculptures. The restaurant’s patio faces the bricked space and offers a straight-line view of the Sangre de Cristos. Those inclined toward bicycle adventures from the city might consider heading south on the Rail Trail to Rabbit Road and then making the short jaunt through the Oshara subdivision. Just a stone’s throw away from the Santa Fe Community College and Santa Maria de la Paz church, and not too far from the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, find dos times the fun, but be forewarned, it’s closed on Tuesdays. Order all your Northern New Mexico favorites, but also try the avocado toast with two eggs for any meal ($10.50). (Julie Ann Grimm)