Santa Fe for Foodies: Red, Green and Beyond

Photo by Ken

Take delight in James Beard-award winning choices and holes-in-the-wall in Santa Fe

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Santa Fe is an international arts destination—and the culinary arts are no exception. Foodies will relish the impressive list of places to eat and drink in the New Mexico capital city. The city boasts a handful James Beard-Award winning and nominated best chefs who set the white-table-cloth standard for fine dining within Santa Fe and across the Southwest. Its also local food cognoscenti crop up in farm-to-table restaurants and New Mexican food restaurants serving the region’s signature chile-smothered fare. Unbuckle your belts, or heck, just go straight for the elastic-waist pants, here are the best restaurants and bars for a foodie tour of Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Day 1: Coffee, elevated bar food and progressive American cuisine

Fuel up for the day at Iconik Coffee Roasters, where the beans are roasted on site and build-your-own bagels (with toppings like scrambled eggs or veggies and hummus) offer a simple but flavorful start to the day. A creative vibe percolates in the coffee shop, with artists from the studios along Lena street stopping in for a cup of Joe between painting sessions.

Relative newcomer Rowley Farmhouse Ales quickly earned a spot as a local favorite. It serves Belgian-style ales and elevated bar food, like Korean-style chicken wings. It’s a fitting spot for a lunch stop.

To continue the brewery tour, head to the original: Santa Fe Brewing. Opt for a tasting flight that includes the Happy Camper IPA, State Pen Porter, Nut Brown, and Chicken Killer (barley wine ale), three of its flagship creations.

For dinner, reserve a table at Restaurant Martín. Santa Fe local Martin Rios won the hearts of locals by working his way up in kitchens across the city. Now the James Beard-Award finalist for 2017 Best Chef Southwest earns the admiration for his progressive American cuisine.

Day 2: New Mexican, from the ‘red and green’ to grasshopper tacos

Just off the plaza, Tia Sophia‘s serves homey, classic New Mexican dishes. Opt for a breakfast burrito—Tia Sophia’s was one of the first to serve the egg-and-potato-stuffed staple. Ask for it “Christmas” to try both green and red chile. Tia Sophia’s often battles local alt-weekly reader polls in the high stakes best-chile contest. To visit its chief rival, head to The Shed for lunch. The Shed’s smoky red chile smothers New Mexican fare from enchiladas to burritos.

For a happy hour cocktail, step inside St. Francis Hotel to taste homegrown Gruet Winery’s homegrown still and sparkling wines.

Conclude this New Mexican–themed day with fresh Latin American cuisine at Sazón. Chef Fernando Olea serves upscale takes on traditional Mexican cuisine, with dishes like grasshopper tacos and pork-belly taquitos.

Day 3: Colourful decor, dazzling views and gold standard margaritas

It may not be fancy (though that’s changing with recent menu updates emphasizing local and organic ingredients) but Plaza Cafe has been a Santa Fe institution since before New Mexico was a state. Stop in for diner fare and impeccable service.

For lunch, stop in one of the City Different’s most colorful restaurants—the Coyote Cantina. Here turquoise seating pair with Mexican oil-cloth table cloths. The views from the second-story patio bar are just as dazzling.

Like New Mexican food, margaritas are the gold standard in Santa Fe cocktails, and there’s an entire trail devoted to them. The Santa Fe Margarita Trail features more than 30 stops across the city. Pick up a passport from the local visitors bureau to mark your progress and get discounts along the way. Lest you think you’ll tire of the tequila, citrus, and agave combo, each restaurant and bar has its own unique take.

Nestled beneath cottonwoods along the Santa Fe River just off the historic stretch of Canyon Road, The Compound is a landmark restaurant. It’s equally notable for its decor and its food. Chef/owner Mark Kiffin, notable as a leader in Southwestern cuisine, gives regional ingredients modern twists.

Day 4: Green-chile cheeseburgers and chocolate-chile truffles

For another New Mexican favorite, cruise to local favorite Tecolote Cafe. It’s known for its crave-worthy huevos rancheros—potatoes, pinto beans, and eggs (served your way) over a tortilla and smothered in red or green chile.

The source of the best green-chile cheeseburger in town is a hotly contested topic of conversation. There are several annual competitions to determine which local restaurant has that year’s bragging rights. It is consistently on the tip of locals tongues, thanks in part to its meatloaf-thick burger patties and spicy green chile.

The state has a long and tasty history with chocolate, and Kakawa Chocolate House is a prime spot to cue up chocolate overload. Start with a dainty cup of chocolate elixir—just how the Aztecs used to drink it—and grab a chocolate-chile truffle or a decadent brownie for later.

For dinner, head to the State Capital Kitchen, where the American bistro cuisine is fresh from local farms, ranches, and foragers.

Day 5: French flaky pastry, salads, and field to fork fare

After four days of indulgence, start light today with a flaky breakfast pastry from Clafoutis, a French country-style spot known for house-made baked goods. Its new location next to one of the city’s top fitness studios may inspire you to join a yoga class. After a dreamy vinyasa, head to Vinaigrette. At this salad-centric lunch spot, the greens are fresh from the farm. In the afternoon, stroll the art galleries along Canyon Road before ducking into the Tea House for an afternoon cuppa. Top off your Santa Fe culinary tour with reservations at Cafe Pasqual’s, a colorful local staple best known for its savory sauces and field-to-fork fare.

Don’t forget to add on a visit to Albuquerque, 50 minutes to the south, and Taos, 90 minutes to the north.


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