Cover Stories

25 Things We Love About Santa Fe Right Now

Our annual shout-outs

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

In the immortal words of Chaka Khan, “Tell me something good.” Please turn and sing this line to the person nearest to you. We’ll wait. The annual issue featuring “25 Things We Love About Santa Fe Right Now” is just that: good feelings for good times.

We offer these shout-outs about don’t-miss desserts and dinners; destinations for shopping, relaxing and more; plus fun facts about some of our city’s distinctive features. It’s our last issue of the year, so take your time. SFR will return with its blend of news and culture in print on Jan. 4.

Plus, there’s another agenda afoot. Please consider this a gentle reminder about our annual Best of Santa Fe reader poll, which will pop up before you know it. Nominate the things you love at sfreporter.com/bosf starting Feb. 1. Final ballots are live during the month of May.

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

1. You can still pick up an actual newspaper on the street corner

You pass them every day and probably don’t pay too much attention unless a headline grabs you. But these boxes are a vanishing breed in American cities. You won’t see many when you’re walking around cities like Phoenix or Denver, where the local newspapers have been gutted by far-off corporate owners who have all but given up on selling actual newspapers. (Or even in Washington DC, where a physical copy of the famed Post is hard to come by.) Santa Fe, on the other hand, is that rare town where you can still easily find two daily newspapers and an alt weekly sitting on street corners and outside shops. The dailies remain locally owned and boast reporting staffs bigger than chain-owned newspapers in many larger cities. Each has its own politics. Love these papers or hate them, each little newspaper box is a small monument to the local residents who wake up every morning interested in reading about their community. Even the vandalism is a reminder that people really do live here and have something to say. (Andrew Oxford)

(Courtesy littleglobe.org)

2. Locals rule on Littleglobe TV

During the height of the pandemic, it seemed as though everyone was creating online content. We’re here for it. And especially for Littleglobe TV, which released its 11th episode this month. Co-founders Katy Gross and Chris Jonas, who is also executive director, are piloting fun and relevant work with lots of other local artists and collaborators in the mix. Don’t miss shorts from participants in the Neighborhood Historian/Community Storytellers program that trained people in video recording, interviewing and other skills. Their documentaries tug on the heartstrings, including a portrait of Santa Fe Trails bus driver Ed Montoya, by Doug Conwell, and the tale of a Vietnamese woman who now calls Santa Fe home, by Terry Ngo. Plus, the episode features mini-docs about important local orgs, including The Food Depot food bank and The Sky Center for youth suicide prevention. And there are 10 more episodes where that came from. Watch them all on YouTube. (Julie Ann Grimm)

(Courtesy lalecherianm.com)

3. La Lecheria serves coffee after 5 pm

Hi, Santa Fe, it’s me—your neighborhood coffee fan. I’ve talked it over with a number of writers, artists, foodies, friends and night owls, and we all agree that if there were a local coffee shop open in the evenings where one could hang and get stuff done, we’d probably all be there pretty often. Especially in the summer. Especially when facing a deadline. Especially just because. For now, our best hope is Joel Coleman’s flagship La Lecheria (500 Market St., (505) 428-0077) ice cream shop in the Railyard, which serves up coffee and more ‘til 9 pm on weekdays, 10 pm on the weekends. Sure, you can get your popular flavors and rotating experiments like green chile and corn, but you can also pick up a hot cup of mud developed just for Coleman from the folks at Java Joe’s. That’s two layers of local support, killer treats and a caffeine boost for those who can’t bring themselves to be in bed by 8 pm. You’ll get friendly service, too, and a few tables at which to hang. Catch us coffee fanatics there in the summer months, though, when plein air seating is the norm and we need a little boost before SFR’s Best of Santa Fe party, some free show or, honestly, just because. And don’t get us wrong, we love all our local shops. It’s just...Lecheria has the nighttime edge. (Alex De Vore)

(Nagel Photography / Shutterstock)

4. The Capitol art collection helps make the Roundhouse feel like our house

A state Capitol building should not just be an office for the politicians who work there. It should tell a story about a state and its people. Our Capitol tells New Mexico’s story through an expansive art collection that conveys the state’s beauty, creativity and diversity far better than a bunch of monuments to famous men possibly could. Managed by the Capitol Art Foundation, the entire collection includes nearly 500 works, from pottery to paintings, carvings and photographs. It’s easy to make a spiral through the round building and see all the works dispersed throughout the Capitol’s public hallways, but don’t forget the annex on the north end. It may be the best free museum in town. And for those who spend a lot of time at the Roundhouse, “Buffalo”—a mixed-media work by Holly Hughes made of various trash —can be a lodestar when navigating the building, in addition to a crowd pleaser for field trips. (AO)

(Andy Lyman)

5. Hangouts at the Santa Fe Brewing Company HQ

Not all New Mexicans love IPAs. Hell, not all New Mexicans love beer. But most of us have an unwavering pride for our state. Many probably remember the first time they spotted a can of Santa Fe Brewing Company’s Happy Camper, emblazoned only with the noble Zia symbol covering nearly the entire vessel. OG Santa Feans can probably also recall all the iterations of Santa Fe Brewing’s HQ over the years. The company’s flagship location (37 Fireplace Lane, (505) 424-3333) is now a full-fledged hangout, equipped with a grub spot with tortas and birria tacos; a gift shop full of swag; and a spacious outdoor area that features a giant chess set and cornhole. The next several months may not provide many days for lounging outside, but inside is a sizable list of beer options ranging from hoppy with high ABV to more mellow flavor profiles with manageable potency levels. Not a fan of the taste of barley and hops? The Co. has you covered with a variety of seltzers, ciders and, thanks to a change in the state’s liquor laws, bonafide cocktails. (Andy Lyman)

(Courtesy CloudTop)

6. The comedy scene is a-sploding

Last summer, Santa Fe’s CloudTop Comedy Festival returned after a triumphant inaugural lineup in 2019 and then a pause for COVID-19 doldrums. “I had this dream to put on a fest for a long time,” festival founder Jessica Baxter told SFR in the lead up to the return, and then a million comics basically kicked everyone’s asses for a full weekend. That is but one piece of the puzzle, however, because the fact is, Santa Fe now has access to standup comedy in a way we haven’t since the ‘90s. Stalwart decentralized troupes like Wayward Comedy preside over open mics and touring acts while up-and-coming Indigenous funny people like Ricardo Caté and Kory Herrera take the stage on the reg. Celebrated Norteño comic Carlos Medina will even have taped his first-ever special by the time you read this, and that’s not counting pop-up events at various restaurants, bars and clubs in Santa Fe, Rio Rancho and Albuquerque. Come to think of it, Santa Fe might never have had it so good when it comes to the yuks. (ADV)

(Alex De Vore)

7. Cafecito’s croissants

The empanadas are worth the trip but don’t overlook the croissants, described by more than one well-traveled source (and our own critic) as the best they’ve ever tasted. This restaurant (922 Shoofly St., (505) 310-0089) opened at The Trailhead in the Baca Street Railyard in 2019 and we’re glad it’s surviving the pandemic, as it is offering something a little different. The menu blends the food of its owners’ roots in Argentina, Armenia and Italy. Stop in for a cup of coffee or make a night of it with dinner and enjoy a space that blends indoor and outdoor, designed by Serquis and Associates. But again, we cannot emphasize this enough: Do not forget about breakfast and the croissants. (AO)

(Lacey Designs)

8. Local artists and craftspeople make feel-good shopping a breeze

If you happened by Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery for 2022′s annual String of Lights market, you’ve seen what New Mexico artists, makers, craftspeople and so forth can do. Same goes for Second Street Brewery’s semi-annual Nightmare on Rufina Street Halloween cover band show. Ditto the Farmers Market Pavilion-based market from the Vital Spaces nonprofit; the one at Wise Fool with the Alas de Agua Art Collective; ZineFest, Sticker Fest; bric-a-brac at the Santa Fe Woman’s Club; the Institute for American Indian Arts; the Santa Fe Community College...we could go on. What these events all have in common is a commitment to showcasing locally made goods. Can’t afford an original piece from such-and-such artist? Maybe they’re selling prints at some market. Want stationery with a handmade twist? Yeah, we got that. When fall rolls around, the markets pop off, and supporting local brands like Matron Design, Opuntia, Indigo Baby, Tia Coco Chocolates, Astral Weaves and so, so many more feels right. Your giftees will thank you, too. (ADV)

(SFR File Photo)

9. It’s never been easier to cook with authentic chile

Let’s say you thought you had enough chile in the freezer, but your fall stew and enchiladas regimen has already depleted your stash. Fear not. We love the new packaged chile sauces from Plaza Cafe and Plaza Cafe Southside. Leonardo Razatos, son of Plaza Cafe founders Dan (Dionysus) Razatos and Beneranda Saiz, told SFR earlier this year that the ventures he now owns with his husband Juliano launched the to-go sauces with “fresh taste” in mind. Grabbing a 16 oz. ($9.95), ready-to-cook plastic bottle from the restaurants means you’re on your way to whipping up your own dish at home. (We’ve recently dumped one on top of a pork roast in the crockpot, for example.) Keep a bottle each of red and green on hand, as they’re fridge-stable for up to four months and a big step up from the white tub of frozen Bueno. Plus, enjoy vintage diner-style everything on the shopping trip. Why not a milkshake, too? (JAG)

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

10. Drive-thru cannabis spots

Drive-thrus are kind of a hallmark of lazy-ass Americans, but have you ever tried a drive-thru…for weed? It’s a game changer, especially for those who have a hell of a time getting in and out of their rides for their much needed medicine. Luckily, Santa Fe has two different options to grab your cannabis from the seat of your car. The building that houses Kure (3365 Cerrillos Road, (505) 471-4507) was formerly a drive-thru coffee shop and was also, briefly, a drive-thru sushi joint. There is a walk-up window if you have some detailed questions about what they’ve got in stock, but you’ll want to place your order ahead of time if you’re driving in order to keep things moving. R. Greenleaf, (403 W. Cordova Road, (505) 962-2161), gets a solid A for effort. This dispensary has a drive-up window, too, but only when enough staff are working. New Mexicans of a certain age will remember how widespread drive-thru liquor stores once were and how we collectively decided that was a terrible idea. So, hey, let’s all agree to wait until we get to where we’re going before consuming so we don’t ruin it for everyone. (AL)

(Alex De Vore)

11. The community shows up in times of crisis

It was a tough year, 2022, for Santa Fe’s creative community. In March, we lost artist/security guard/fried chicken side hustle champ Shontez Morris. In July, Meow Wolf co-founder Matt King died. By October, we added Facing the Fearbeast creator Tigre Mashaal-Lively (pictured) to that list and, just last month, Santa Fe musician and artist Mikey Rae. This isn’t counting, however, many other deaths due to COVID-19, old age, suicide and so on, but it’s the response to these high-profile deaths that hit us right in the feels. The community showed up—and we mean in droves, from dance parties and solemn memorials to private gatherings, live music events, ceremonies and more. No one is saying it’s easy to face down loss after loss, but in the space our community holds for each other in their wake, we found true and loving magic. (ADV)

(Courtesy supremecourt.nmcourts.gov)

12. The New Mexico Supreme Court building

This isn’t a commentary on the court itself, in case you were hoping for a big mess o’ politics in our annual list of things we love about Santa Fe. But the building that houses the justices, the state Court of Appeals, a badass law library and a collection of the coolest books (more on those in a sec) we’ve ever seen? Yep. We’re all in. Commissioned in 1934 and completed three years later, it’s the only structure in New Mexico built through the Works Progress Administration still being used for its original purpose. The Supreme Court Courtroom is a wonder: WPA artisans hand-carved every piece of wood therein, and they fashioned the chandeliers, too. Those flourishes are still around, as is the original cork floor. “Over the years, damage to the flooring has occurred from women’s high heel marks,” quips the court’s website. The courthouse on Don Gaspar was listed in 2002 on the National Register of Historic Places. (That took way too long.) And those cool books? Yeah, they are several bound volumes of the Roll of Attorneys at Law, the state’s effort to have all who enter the legal profession here commit their names and places of residence to paper. The volumes date to the 1870s. (Jeff Proctor)

(Courtesy tumblerootbreweryanddistillery.com)

13. The mid-level venue making it easier for a variety of acts to perform

You may consider this entry a love letter to Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery (2791 Agua Fría St., (505) 308-3808), which has, in its relatively short lifespan, become quite the bastion for touring acts, local acts and more genres than you could shake a stick at. Did you know Bob Mould, Quasi and Jon Spencer have all taken the stage at Tumbleroot in recent memory? That you can catch metal shows with Street Tombs, punk shows with The Illegal Aliens and country shows with the likes of John Moreland? These are the kind of events that would make the folks behind the old Club Alegria—which occupied the space in years past—proud; a reminder that Santa Fe can still pack ‘em in when the event is right. Shows from The Decibel Foundry, AMP Concerts and the Outstanding Citizens Collective hip-hop group come at a constant flow; the food pop-ups aren’t bad, either, and the beers and spirits really hit the spot. We’re begging you, Santa Fe—keep this place alive. (ADV)

(Courtesy Atalaya Outfitters / Facebook)

14. Getting geared up for the outdoors got easier

If you haven’t spent time cruising the De Vargas Center lately, you’ll be surprised the next time you do. Now the mall boasts two stores that are part of the TJ Maxx family: HomeGoods, which is very sparkly and full of something others refer to as “decor,” and Sierra, a discount outdoor retailer that, despite the store’s relatively recent opening in October, is already very popular with Santa Feans who thrive on fresh air. Make no mistake, this should not replace the high-quality gear to be found at adjacent local stops in the same mall, such as The Reel Life, The Outdoorsman or On Your Feet, for big purchases. But for a new backpacking first-aid kit, freeze-dried meal, base layer in any size and material, or home fitness equipment replacement object, this could be your spot. Plus, there’s a whole section of dog stuff and scented candles. (We don’t make the rules.) If you’re vibing in the opposite direction of the mall, and you don’t mind limited shopping hours, Atalaya Outfitters Upcycled Gear has also joined the Santa Fe outdoor stuff scene. The business that moved from online only to its storefront (142 Daniel St., (505) 819-3615) this year is only open a few days a week, but also by appointment. Check atalayaoutfitters.com for the most current schedule, and consider consigning your gently worn gear if you’re moving on. (JAG)

(Courtesy Pixabay.com)

15. Something in the air

As radio becomes increasingly centralized and corporatized, Santa Fe remains home to perhaps an unusual number of local DJs. The city is unusually rich in newspapers and chock full of local radio stations. KSWV-810 AM continues to blast out classic New Mexican music and oldies and serves as the sort of public square radio stations can and should be—a must-stop for politicians and local leaders. KSFR-101.1 FM still broadcasts City Council meetings live and is home to a solid cohort of local genre-busting DJs. Hutton Broadcasting has several stations, and KMRD-96.9 FM is also pumping out an eclectic mix of music from Madrid. Meanwhile, KUNM-89.9 FM delivers NPR news and music but also airs projects like Overnight Dreamform that remind us that public radio should not just be headlines, but a place for exploring audio as an art form. (AO)

(Courtesy NPS)

16. Southside’s historic as heck, too

You can’t walk two blocks downtown without encountering a bronze plaque (or several) from the National Register of Historic Places. But this year, the organization offered well-deserved love to Santa Fe’s Southside. In December, all 500 acres of El Rancho de Las Golondrinas’ La Cienega-based living history museum were added to the list, joining the Agua Fría Schoolhouse Site in the underrepresented south-of-Siler section. Let’s be honest, those sparser area listings hint there’s more Southside history that still needs honoring, but it’s exciting to see the process start. And Las Golondrinas is one of those magical Santa Fe places that reminds us that past and present are more intimately connected than we realize (post-jousting Renn Faire Poki Takos, anyone?)—and that history isn’t just for the Canyon Road crowd, if you know what we mean. (Siena Sofia Bergt)

(SFR File Photo)

17. SFR readers have proven to be great friends

If you caught our recent cover story on newspaper giant Gannett slashing newsrooms across New Mexico, you likely know that journalism is vital to community health. You might also know COVID-19 was a scary time for businesses, especially those as tiny as ours. But something amazing happened during those early pandemic days, and is still happening now, as we speak: Our friends turned up. Through SFR’s Friends of the Reporter program—which technically started before the pandemic, but became so much more—countless Santa Feans (and non-locals) stepped up to donate on a recurring basis (or even just once, which, frankly, is plenty). Community members from local organizations started writing us love letters, too, explaining how they perceive us—and we’ve low key kinda been crying since they started back in 2019. Anyway, we’re not trying to toot our horns over here—more like we’re trying to express how much it means that you’ve helped keep us alive through good times and bad. To quote the bard Bryan Adams, everything we do, we do it for you. And we couldn’t do it without you, either. Dang, we love you nerds! (ADV)

(Julie Ann Grimm)

18. Ojo Santa Fe for an in-town getaway

Communal hot-tub soaking was in short supply there for a while in Santa Fe with Ten Thousand Waves limiting its social tub to lodging guests, then recently branching into community soaking by reservation only. Never fear, spontaneous stripping down and sweating it out with complete strangers in a serene setting is back with the newest iteration of Ojo Santa Fe (242 Los Pinos Road, (877) 977-8212). You might know this La Cienega spot as Sunrise Springs, but it’s been seven years since the partners who own Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa purchased the 70-plus acres and began renovating. We love that day passes now run from 10 am to 10 pm on Monday through Thursday for $45. The long day allows for a real sense of a break, and the three separate soaking areas with lots of groomed and growing open spaces between give it a distinct resort vibe—even if you are driving home later to finish the laundry. We’re also consistently amused by the curation of the gift shop, especially the Pendleton print yoga mats ($65) that we know have gone back East on many a first-class flight. Kudos to Ojo Santa Fe for making it work for locals, even if we don’t buy that mat. (JAG)

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

19. The catfish plate at Harry’s Roadhouse

OK, let’s get one thing straight right up front: I am from the South. Kentucky, to be precise and, though one of my favorite humans insists that means I’m from the Midwest—plus, you know, the whole Mason-Dixon Line thing—I am, indeed, a Southerner by birth. Many of my culinary proclivities track with this immutable fact. So imagine my years of suffering in New Mexico as I searched for a proper catfish dish; now imagine my delight on discovering just such a thing at Harry’s Roadhouse (96B Old Las Vegas Hwy. (505) 989-4629). The filets have never been anything but flaky and perfectly breaded, and they do a thing with the tartar sauce I’d heretofore not encountered anywhere on Earth. And the sides? Deeply flavored and spicily nuanced collard greens, plus a little hint of New Mexico with some green chile infused into the cheese-grits. Yes, please. And in case you aren’t buying my Southern bona fides, former SFR staff writer Katherine Lewin, a Florida native (no one’s gonna quibble with her credentials) is a huge fan of this dish, too. We hit up Harry’s every chance we got in the before-times. Get a silver coin margarita, too—they bring the extras in the mixing cup. (JP)

(Bella Davis)

20. Tenacious neighborhood advocates

Santa Fe, fair or not, has a NIMBY reputation. Attend any public meeting and you’ll likely hear impassioned voices advocating for open space preservation or pushing back against huge solar projects, and those voices are among the many special things about Santa Fe. Advocates may not always be successful, but their efforts are evidence of dedicated and committed residents. Santa Fe has more than 100 homeowners associations, which might sound like a bad thing to some. But when the city suggests connecting two sections of Richards Avenue, they better be prepared to deal with the Vista Del Prado Homeowners Association. The Tiempo Lindo Homeowners Association has been front and center in challenging a housing development on South Meadows Road and calling out Santa Fe County for quietly selling off a plot of former open space land. Agreeing with these community advocates is not necessary to see that they truly care about the world around them and don’t take things lying down. (AL)

(Courtesy sarweb.org)

21. New Mexican pots are getting a New York City spotlight

As a wee New Mexican in the early aughts, many of my best childhood memories of art took place in the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture’s Here, Now and Always exhibit. There was just something about walking through that dark tunnel and hearing the sound of running water that made the work inside feel meaningful in a way I was too young to understand. And 2022 has been a pretty fantastic year to be a MIAC fan. Not only did we get the unveiling of Here, Now and Always’ long-awaited rebirth; we also saw the museum’s Grounded in Clay exhibit, produced in partnership with the School for Advanced Research, catch the attention of the country’s most famous museum. The Native-curated exhibition is heading to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art next summer, and this particular potteryhead couldn’t be prouder. (SSB)

(Courtesy santafeyouthworks.square.site)

22. YouthWorks bakes dangerously good biscochitos

By the time this newspaper hits your hands, the pre-order period for the Christmas holiday version of YouthWorks’ Social Justice Kitchen will be over. But this is a good time to follow YouthWorks on social media or sign up for the nonprofit’s email list so you don’t miss the next bake sale. We’ve eaten YouthWorks catering at city events and private ones and we’ve never been disappointed. Plus, the crew came to our Best of Santa Fe party in the Railyard and gifted everyone with free brownies, outta sight pulled pork and other goodies last summer. But our last-minute decision to supplement the pumpkin pie scene with a dozen biscochitos from YouthWorks at Thanksgiving led us to surprise and delight everyone who tried them—the cookies have the perfect flaky blend of sweetness that melts in the mouth. What’s more to love is that the bakers are learning culinary skills and raising cash for the nonprofit’s mission. (JAG)

(Andy Lyman)

23. Southside Branch Library

What’s better than a good book? A free good book. That’s why libraries are the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas, or as the kids say, the GOAT. The list of reasons to visit the Southside Branch on Jaguar Drive includes a giant kids’ room with cool little reading nooks; a couple of spacious reading rooms; and a whole dang shelf devoted to jigsaw puzzles you don’t even have to check out. (They just ask you to bring them back when you’re done.) Also find a seed library where you can snag the annual of your choice to drop in your home garden. If all goes as planned, you’ll have some seeds of your own to bring back. The branch boasts shelves full of Spanish-language books, lots of windows with some pretty fantastic views and plenty of seating to take in said views, or you know, read a book. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have a library card. The staff is super friendly and will get you set up before you can say Dewey Decimal System. (AL)

(Courtesy Old Santa Fe Association)

24. Shiny, new look for a good old train

You know the train park. No, not the one with train tracks next to it in the Railyard—the train park. Map-readers and history-buff types know the place as Salvador Perez Park, and this fall its most prominent feature received a facelift. The Old Santa Fe Association “adopted” the train, then cleaned up the site and hired local company Xtreme Painting to apply a fresh coat of rust-resistant paint. Volunteers restored the hand-lettering and painted the trim in time for a bell-ringing ceremony in November. It’s like a whole new train! Only it’s a pretty old one, truth be told. We mentioned earlier how much Santa Fe loves history. This is just another example: Our city Parks Division plopped this machine—built in 1944 for the Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe Railroad—on the edge of the park to preserve it for future generations whose cars will fold up into little briefcases when they walk into their floating offices. (JAG)

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

25. The commute from Albuquerque

Remember when I said I was from the South? Well, I’ve lived in Albuquerque—or, “that hellscape you call a city,” per SFR Editor and Publisher Julie Ann Grimm—since 2002. And as SFR’s news editor, that means I am a commuter, typically rolling up Interstate 25 two or three times a week to make the newspaper y’all love so well. It’s a fascinating 60 miles, and it’s never gotten old for me. Watching the landscape change between Bernalillo and Santo Domingo Pueblo; that moment when the Sangre de Cristos appear; the 10-degree temperature drop from my place to the newsroom (OK, OK, that one’s not as great in the wintertime). Each of these things is precious to me. And the drive back can knock your socks off via sunsets and vistas if it’s taken at the proper time of day. Also, I’ve had a wild time in recent months with vehicle repairs, which has given me occasion to carpool with Andy Lyman, one of my best friends whom we hired in September as a staff writer. With four-plus hours in the car each week, Andy and I have deepened our friendship, solved the world’s problems and hatched conspiracies to continue assaulting the powerful in the pages of SFR. Winning! (JP)

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the former club inside Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery as Club Luna. It was formerly Club Alegria.

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