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Any recommendations for excellent food in Santa Fe?

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  1. The nicest restaurants in Santa Fe are hugely expensive, especially the ones on Canyon Road. They can be good, but I think they are way more expensive than they should be. Pink Adobe is totally overrated. I like a few smaller places. About 10 minutes north of Santa Fe along the road to Taos is a place called Gabriel's -- great place for margaritas and chips/guacomole. Both are among the best I've ever had and it has a gorgeous view. You can sit outside most of the year.

    2 Replies
    1. re: glutton

      I've been totally underwhelmed by Gabriels and won't go back... even with it being only a hop skip and a jump from the Santa Fe Opera,

      1. re: scottso

        I wouldn't go for anything other than chips, guacomole, and margaritas. Those, at least, are good. And the view is nice. The other food is probably passable at best.

    2. Search the board and you'll find many recommendations. Forget Gabriel's - it's totally underwhelming, you can do much better in Santa Fe and not have to spend a fortune, unless you want to. A few suggestions:

      Plaza Restaurant. New Mexican, locals & tourists. Excellent sopapillas and posole.
      The Compound. My favorite for upscale and expensive. Like it better than Geronimo.
      Coyote Cafe. Almost a cliche, but the food is still great.
      Paul's. Unassuming, creative and low key. Middle of the road, price wise.
      Il Piatti. Italian and always wonderful.

      1. Friends who live in Santa Fe like El Nido in Tesuque out on Bishop Lodge Road, we have gone there a few times to celebrate special birthdays. Seems to be a favorite before the Opera, if you time it right, you might enjoy a stop at the Shindoni Foundary and Gallery which is nearby. They have a large area with many of their bronzes on display and there are some days the foundary is open to view pourings.

        1. i was there a couple months ago and really enjoyed the restaurant at the georgia o'keefe museum, as well as the plaza restaurant.

          1. I posted the following trip report last year. I don't think too much has opened in Santa Fe since then.


            1. We had excellent meals at The Compound and at Aqua Santa (have also seen it listed as Aquasanta) only a couple of weeks ago. We've had excellent meals at Geronimo the past two years, but wanted to try something different. I must say that I enjoyed The Compound more than Geronimo (more spacious). Last summer at Geronimo we sat in a rear room and were absolutely sharing our conversation (unintentionally) with tables to our left and right. And I thought the food at The Compound was every bit as good! Aqua Santa is less expensive, more low key. Open kitchen indoors, covered patio outside.

              1. Recommend the Southwest Chicken Salad at Guadalupe Cafe on Santa Fe Trail. Best salad we've ever had anywhere. One order is more than enough for two and it comes with great homemade bread.

                1. We had one great trip to SF. Looked for best bets and Bobcat Bite was the place TO go for greenchili burgers. We were not disappointed.

                  1. Ate two meals (breakfast and dinner) at Pasqual's - just as wonderful as always. This restaurant was focusing on local food before the local food movement was cool.

                    The Pantry on Cerrillos (not too far from Jackalope) was a great local diner with an outstanding huevos rancheros.

                    1. Quickly, just to buttress other opinions here:

                      Breakfast: Guadalupe Cafe (carne papas burrito), Pantry (breakfast burrito with chorizo and red chile)
                      Lunch: Santacafe (dine on patio, reasonable at lunch), Adelita's (Mexican as opposed to New Mexican), Il Piatto (Italian)
                      Dinner: Tomasita's (New Mexican for locals and visitors), Shed (New Mexican close to plaza), La Boca (Tapas)

                      If you are driving north, Gabriels's is a nice place for fresh guac and a beer.

                      www.tandaapproved.com Restaurant reviews for Santa Fe and northern New Mexico

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: tandaapproved

                        Good recommendations, but I'd offer a word of caution on Gabriels. Until recently, I loved Gabriels. Loved going there around sunset for a couple margaritas and guacomole. It was a tradition on every one of our Santa Fe visits (we go about three times per year). The last couple times, however, it really disappointed. They were not making the margaritas from scratch, which is a serious no-no in my book. And the guacomole was fine, but it just wasn't quite as good as previous times. I don't know how the guacomole suffered because it's still made tableside and the ingredients appear to be reasonably fresh, but there was something missing the last couple times because it did not have the same sharp zing of lime and fire from the jalapeno. So, the guacomole might be a mystery, but I can say that the margaritas are no mystery - they were using mix, even after we asked them to be made from scratch. That made the cost of Gabriel's seem pretty steep.

                        For good, made-from-scratch margaritas, you might try Maria's on Cerrillos.

                        And for a good, hearty lunch, you might try Tesuque Cafe, which is a bit outside town, past Bishop's Lodge and that area. Cool little place. I go with the frito pie and then I don't need to eat for the rest of the day...

                        1. re: glutton

                          This thread is from 2006 so some of the comments may be dated.

                          I have heard that Tesuque Market has really gone downhill and should be avoided.

                          La Choza is a favorite of locals.

                          Andiamo! is a great place when you have had enough of chiles; if that is possible!

                          1. re: DebitNM

                            The lunch I had one day last December (2008) at Tesuque Market was pretty good. It certainly is not on par with Pasqual's, but it was a decent meal. The setting is different, the people are nice, and the drive out there is gorgeous. I'd go back, but I have to limit myself to one frito pie every five years if I want to live a long life... (Their other menu options are healthier, so don't take my comment about the frito pie to be a comment about their entire menu.)

                        2. re: tandaapproved

                          My husband and I will be in Santa Fe in a couple of weeks. I went to the web site for Shed based on tandaapproved's recommendation of the restaurant. Now, I need help!

                          The menu looked very appealing, but as an East Coaster, my husband and I have very little exposure to this type of food. Therefore, I read the restaurant's warning about its food with fear and trembling: "For those unaccustomed to eating chile, OURS IS SPICY." (Emphasis theirs!!)

                          Our struggles with extremely hot food isn't limited to Southwestern cuisine. We're also not huge fans of the numbing Sichuan Chinese food or searing Indian vindaloo. Medium is our idea of hot! Will we be able to enjoy a meal at Shed? If so, what would you recommend we order?

                          If not, can you recommend a Southwestern restaurant that will offer more levels of heat among the dishes?


                          1. re: Indy 67

                            Solution is pretty easy for most dishes -- ask for the chile on the side. That way you can use a much or little as you want. Also, ask for both red and green. Sometimes one is hotter than the other; you can also decide which you like better as each has it's die hard fans. Also, you can't be sure which is hotter by color,each restaurant's will vary and even within a restaurant, heat can vary day to day.

                            I like LaChoza better than The Shed, owned by same people. It is more locals than Shed.

                            There are many non New Mexican places to eat where you won't be subjected to chiles.


                            1. re: DebitNM

                              Thanks for the words of advice and encouragement. We won't have a car, so we were attracted to The Shed for its central location. I don't know where LaChoza is located.

                              We've got reservations for two non-New Mexican places for dinner: Geronimo and Trattoria Nostrani. Can anyone tell me about particularly wonderful dishes at each of these places?

                              We are considering The Shed for our third dinner, but I'm happy to get other advice.

                              Should I want to eat a green chile burger?

                              Where should I want to eat lunch considering we'll be touring the galleries on Canyon Road one day, visiting the O'Keefe museum another day, and visiting the Shidoni Foundry another day. I know we'll have to be at the foundry around lunch since that's the only time the public is allowed to tour. I don't necessarily know that we'll be on Canyon Road or at the O'Keefe museum at lunch the other days. If there's a do-not-miss restaurant in either place, we can certainly arrange our activities to overlap lunch.


                              1. re: Indy 67

                                No car - hmmmm, how are you going to get to Shidoni? In the past, I would have suggested Tesuque Market for lunch, but I have heard it has deteriorated greatly.

                                LaChoza is in the Railyard, the newly developed area near the lightrail terminus. Walkable from the Plaza.

                                Last time I had lunch there, I had chile rellenos with posole which was excellent. DH had a carne burritos. Sopapillos were served on the side, nice and light and fluffy.

                                905 Alarid St www.sfshed.com/lachoza.htm

                                Andiamo! for wonderful Italian done simply and at reasonable prices. We went there for NYE. We never go out that night, crowds, rushed service, so so food. This was a really good experience. DH had fried oysters with aioli, I had gravlax and arrugula salad. We both had rack of lamb for dinner. DH had flourless chocolate torte and I had profiteroles with fudge sauce and ice cream.

                                322 Garfield St http://www.andiamoonline.com/

                                La Boca for tapas . We ordered a few plates to start. Olives, almonds, duck. All were very good. I was sure we were going to have to order so many plates because the portions were so small. The service was slow, so by the time we got the first round of plates, we were full and didn't order anymore.

                                72 West Marcy St, http://www.labocasantafe.com/

                                We had lunch at Torino's 227 Don Gaspar Ave., Inside Santa Fe Village and again, away from the crowds. You wouldn't know it was here if you weren't looking for it..Italian/French home style cooking at great prices. DH had a caprise salad and I had a salad nicoise. Both were really good and great price.

                                We like Paris Cafe on 31 Burro Alley Street, around the corner from Lensik Theatre for a bistro meal that is very good.


                                1. re: DebitNM

                                  Thanks. There's one food type that I have in my head that doesn't appear to make your list -- and for all I know may not even exist. I'm especially interested in a place serving modern American cuisine with Southwest flair. Any recommendations?

                                  1. re: Indy 67

                                    This IS the southwest, all our food has a SW flair!! As a former NYer, I think you are meaning you want Bobby Flay kind of food? Is that what you mean? Most of the high end places in SF have that sort of thing.

                                    1. re: DebitNM

                                      I actually don't know anything about Bobby Flay's style of cooking. I certainly know his name, but, unfortunately, I associate him with some of the lamer shows on The Food Network like The Next Food Network Star (or something like that) rather than with what I assume are genuine cooking chops.

                                      Washington DC used to have a restaurant called Red Sage restaurant where I enjoyed some fascinating cooking -- and superb margaritas. It has been closed for a long time, but as best as I remember the cooking, that's the sort of place I'm looking for.

                                      I traced down a web site about Red Sage that used the phrase "modern cuisine based on the traditions of the American west." Here are two dishes from the Red Sage web site that strike me as modern rather than traditional Southwest cuisine: Chorizo and Black Bean terrine with Goat Cheese and Tomatillo salsa AND Chipotle Shrimp on a Buttermilk Pancake.
                                      Correct me if I'm wrong, but those dishes don't feel like the food I'll find at The Shed.

                                      Could you recommend some of the high end places that really deliver great eating? (I know later in this thread there's some discussion about our lack of a car. While I don't want to seek out rstaurants that require 20 minute + taxi rides, we're happy to take reasonable taxi rides.)

                                      1. re: Indy 67

                                        Taxis are difficult to come by in Santa Fe.

                                        That said -- I asked my very knowledgeable friend Sheila where
                                        you might find food that fits your request, she said,
                                        "I would lean towards La Casa Sena, Café Pasqual’s (excellent dinners), Geronimo is iffy these days. Also, Ristra has been good and exciting fare in the past. SantaCafe is overrated in my opinion and has a pissy staff with not-so-great food. " I trust her implicitly.


                                        1. re: DebitNM

                                          I differ in opinion on SantaCafe -- we've had nothing but excellent meals the last three times we've gone there. My parents go there even more often and have never had a complaint to my knowledge. They serve exactly the type of food you were describing -- modern with New Mexican and southwest flavors.

                                          La Casa Sena is a very nice option. They have a casual bar area and a formal restaurant area -- both are good. the menu is more limited in the bar, but you can sometimes convince them to let you order off the restaurant menu. Some nights in the bar, they have a musical act, which can be entertaining.

                                          Pasqual's, in my opinion, is the star of the show -- local ingredients, excellent technique, wonderfully tasty food. Tables are hard to come by because it's small, but put your name in and wait.

                                          You can certainly enjoy a lot of Santa Fe on foot, but I think it's a mistake not to have a car. You won't get to see the expansive sky on the drive out of town (especially to the north), for example. You won't have any chance of seeing one of the pueblos. You won't have a chance to go up to Los Alamos, to see the two thoroughly fascinating museums about the discovery of the nuclear bomb. Rent a car for one day so that you can see the things further afield.

                                          1. re: glutton

                                            After some tinkering, here's our dinner line-up (reservations in hand): Pasqual's, Trattoria Nostrani, and La Casa Sensa.

                                            We haven't figured out what we'll be doing each day. That will obviously affect our lunch destinations, but I hope we'll be able to make it to Santacafe and The Shed, with one more lunch still TBD.

                                            ON the topic of a car... We're now exploring using the services of a tour guide for a cultural/geological tour ourside of the city VS a self-drive option. If we were to visit a pueblo, would we find guides on site? Are there Georgia O'Keefe sites outside of town that are worthwhile destinations? (Since I'm a docent at a museum in my hometown, I have a strong bias in favor of using the services of a trained guide. I know how hard my fellow docents and I train to make visits enjoyable for others and I've found guides really enhance visits to every place we've traveled.)

                                            1. re: Indy 67

                                              the pueblo offers both guided and unguided tours.

                                              The best O'Keeffe experience is going out to her house in Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. It's a hike outside of town, but it's very interesting. It's in the middle of nowhere, so to get a bite to eat, you'd probably have to drive over to Espanola on your way back to SF. It's hard to get tickets for Abiquiu, so make reservations now.

                                              Enjoy Pasqual's -- it's a favorite of mine. Everything I've had there has been wonderful, with the exception of one of their lunchtime salads. But I look back at it and wonder why I was ordering a salad at a place that has such wonderful food. Bad decision on my part.

                                2. re: Indy 67

                                  You don't mention Pasqual's on your list, so when you're in town, that's where I'd go.

                                  You could also go to SantaCafe, which is excellent in my opinion. That's walking distance from the Plaza.

                                  You could also get some fajitas from the portable stand in the Plaza and sit on a bench, watching people, and eating the fajitas. It's a very good fajita, for what it's worth, and the experience of watching time pass by in the Plaza is quintessential Santa Fe.

                                  Lastly, you can go to Rio Chama, which I think is a great place. Sit in the bar area for a more casual meal or sit in the dining room for a more formal meal. The restaurant is gorgeous with all the wonderful artwork (Gerald Peters owns this restaurant and his eponymous gallery). The food has been good everytime I've eaten there. It is close to the Loretto Chapel and the Pink Adobe (which is overrated IMO).

                                  1. re: glutton

                                    My list wasn't meant to be exhaustive, just trying to think of some places for Indy without a car and some things not NM cuisine.

                              2. re: Indy 67

                                getting the chile on the side gives you control, so that should solve most of your problems. That said, I have not found the New Mexican food to be as spicy as a vindaloo, issan thai, or sichuan chinese food. New Mexican food can definitely be very spicy, but I've typically not seen that in most dishes. I don't think you have reason to worry.