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Apr 14, 2007 06:56 PM

Roadtrip/Santa Fe/Taos/Durango

Help! Need advice on good food in Santa Fe, Taos, Durango or any towns nearby for a roadtrip the middle of May. We will be spending most of our time in NM, with a short trip to Durango for the train trip & Mesa Verde - So Santa Fe & nearby will be where we will be spending the most time. We like mexican food, but not too hot, otherwise just like great food (any kind) & not too stuffy an atmosphere - relaxed & casual - with an occasional upscale dining experience that's worth the price!

I've received great recs in the past from Chowhounders on other boards - so any advice would be very welcome! Thanks so much!

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  1. If I'm in Durango, I'm usually hanging at Lady Falconburgh's Barley Emporium. Very good to excellent pub fare with a nice variety on the menu. HUGE selection of beers.
    Free WiFi. Pretty much heaven on earth...

    1. Durango
      Ditto on Lady Falconburgh's.
      Season's, for more upscale and relaxed. Not outrageously expensive.

      Orlando's for New Mexican.
      Joseph's Table
      Relleno Cafe

      Santa Fe
      Plaza Restaurant
      Il Piatti
      The Compound
      Bobcat Bite

      5 Replies
      1. re: IslayMan

        I can only speak for Taos (lived there for two years), but -

        get a Chile Breakfast Burrito from either the South Side Mary Janes or from Mante's Food Cart (ironically, Mary Janes is in a trailer, and the "Food Cart" is a proper building).

        Taos Cow homeade ice cream in Arroyo Seco

        Hash Browns at the Taos Diner

        Joseph's Table on the plaza is generally excellent. Lambert's in nice too, but I would go to Joe's first.

        Guadalajara Grill (I like the one on the south side of town better) makes good tacos and great shrimp dishes.

        The Adobe Bar at the Taos Inn is my favorite spot in town to sit and sip on a top shelf margarita. Their bar food is not so great in general, but they offer a generous portion of really good nachos, and also make a goat cheese and roasted garlic thing that is good.

        Sheva Cafe (in the Overland Sheep complex north of town) offers great and affordable Israeli food - great fries and falafel, and great dishes with local lamb.

        Pizza Outback makes a really good pie.

        I like Antonio's over Orlando's for "New Mexican" food, but really, don't think either are that great.

        Had one great meal at Byzantium, behind the plaza.

        Dragonfly Cafe is a great "fancy brunch" spot on a nice day. Good food, good coffee, sweet atmosphere, but service is dicey.

        If you need a place to stay in Taos, let me reccomend my friend Richard's B&B - he lives for this work, has a great place and is a great chef.

        Have a great trip!

        1. re: andytee

          Not sure when you lived in Taos but I've been visiting there for 1-2 weeks at a chund, 2-3 times a year for the last 27 years. My opinion, shared by many, is that Orlando's is consistently excellent. I recommend his green chile on anything, especially when you build your own bowl with a posole base. His carne adovada is also at the top of the list along with many other dishes.

          I don't consider Antonio's New Mexican. He is from Mexico (region escapes me) but he does many creative, interesting regional dishes. I love his relatively new Rellenos Cafe for lunch.

          1. re: IslayMan

            I lived there 2005-6 and ate at both many times.

            I know a lot of people like Orlando's better than Antonio's. I'm just offering my two cents.

            I do agree that the chile bowls with posole are the way to go at Orlando's.

          2. re: andytee

            I am going to reiterate that the Sheva Cafe has closed. I hope that the comment won't be deleted this time!

          3. re: IslayMan

            My son has lived in Durango for 4 yrs, so I've veen there A LOT. IMHO, best restaurants in town are Ken & Sue's, East by Southwest, Chez Grandmere and perhaps Cyprus Cafe. There's also a sushi place right across fr East by Southwest that is very fine. I can never remember its name. Gazpacho tucked into a side street is better (and less expensive) than the Main St Mexican places. Go to amd click on Dining Diary. Also some Santa Fe info there.

          4. Thanks for the rec for Durango chow to GroovinGourmet. We'll give it a try & report back. And a BIG thanks to IslayMan for your nifty list for all three places! Can't wait to try some of these.........any that stand out as "do not miss?"

            2 Replies
            1. re: MaryJane

              Orlando's in Taos.
              The Compound in Santa Fe.

              1. re: IslayMan

                Best food in Santa Fe is eaten at The Compound. Also, you can have a nice lunch in the indoor patio room at La Fonda downtown. If locals steer you to Geronimo (Canyon Road like The Compound), do not make the mistake of dining outside the restaurant's front. It's about four feet from the street and the unmuffled cars with their boom-boxes will ruin your experience, like they did ours. Food was OK, though unspectacular.....

            2. I always have to eat at Francisco's Restaurante & Cantina when I go to Durango. I love their ground beef sopapillas! Le Rendezvous is a really good Swiss bakery/restaurant on Main St. as well. All their baked items look amazing. One final recommendation would be The Brickhouse Cafe. It's an old historic home they converted into a restaurant. Great atmosphere, friendly service, and very good food.

              13 Replies
              1. re: jasonaz

                Thanks to everybody for the great tips! I can't wait to try some of these places! I'm sure this will add so much to our trip experience & memories. Thanks to mardy and jasonaz for the lastest two posts. The Compound seems to be universally liked and I am so grateful for the tip about seating at the Geronimo - and the Durango places sound so good from jasonaz - Francisco's is a definite on our list & we will try the beef sopapillas! Love really good bakeries/restaurants & my husband & I seek out historic homes & buildings that have been converted into dining establishments - we went to two of those in Manitou Springs Co. last fall & will never forget them! (The Cliffhouse Inn & Briarhurst Manor) I will difinitely report back with reviews when we return.

                1. re: MaryJane

                  I'll never forget the Cliffhouse was the worst, dining/hotel experience I've ever had and the rooms were $400/night which is obscene. I couldn't believe how inexperienced the staff was or how fourth-rate the food was while pretending to be first rate. Manitou Springs was the quintessential tourist trap.

                  On another note, if you want a truly local experience between Santa Fe and Taos try El Paragua in Espanola which is in a wonderful building and serves New Mexican food as well as Mexican dishes although the owners are native norteno's (the Atencios's). I live in Santa Fe and every time I come down from skiing at Taos I stop at El Paragua and get some posole or carnitas. Plus, we make frequent pilgrimages from Santa Fe for lunch. So good.

                  Also SantaCafe in Santa Fe is excellent for an elegant dinner but even nicer I think in the summer for lunch on the patio or inside. It's on Washington St.

                  The Compound is good as well and in a wonderful building (former home of Alexander Girard) but pricey. Personally I wouldn't bother with Geronimo's except for a drink in the bar to check out the beautiful building. But from a visitor's perspective it might be interesting.

                  Maria's on Cordova Rd. has good NM food and a local atmosphere (especially the bar)....can't beat the margs there! Also, surprisingly, there is wonderful Mexican seafood (fresh believe it or not) restaurant called Mariscos la Playa up the road from Maria's on Cordova. Simple restaurant...great food.

                  1. re: iwannaeat

                    My experience at the Cliffhouse was just the opposite as yours, iwannaeat! When did you go? Don't you find that the waitstaff can really make or break a dining experience? - but altho we did not stay there, I did get the impression that it was pricey lodging. Could it have been a way-off night?

                    We started with a coral colored goat cheese pimento spread on wonderful lavosh crackers, followed by a complimentary pastry tart consisting of chopped beef tenderloin & spiced apples (very good). Soup: lobster bisque (wonderful). I had salmon oscar & hubby had veal stuffed w/lobster complimented by madeira sauce & chocolate souffle with a godiva sauce that was fabulous! The waiters were great & friendly and the evening perfect. We enjoyed Manitou Springs - we were there on open-gallery art walk evenings with great complimentary snacks & drinks & some interesting art - bought some great pottery in Old Town Colorado Springs - did the Pikes' Peak Cog Train, Royal Gorge - had a great time!

                    Thanks for the tips on El Paragua, SantaCafe, The Compound, Maria's & Mariscos la Playa. Sometimes those simple restaurants with great food are the most memorable - we do both elegant & simple - guess it depends on your mood!

                    1. re: MaryJane

                      Yes, I think the waitstaff can make or break an experience and the first sign that they broke it was when we were seated we waited about ten minutes before we could get any service despite asking a waiter nearby who replied that we weren't his table. He continued to spray cleaner on the table next to us and we continued to wait.

                      Finally when our server did arrive he was about 18 years old and completely inexperienced. Food was mediocre at best. The only hightlight was a bottle of 2000 Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune that they had completely mis-priced on the wine list. And since we were staying the night and had already been completely disappointed with our water closet of a bedroom (for $400) I guess it all just added insult to injury.

                      1. re: MaryJane

                        The Compound and SantaCafe don't qualify as simple. They are both fantastic, my favorite is The Compound. Elegant, pricey, innovative. But, simple they ain't.

                    2. re: MaryJane

                      In Taos, the Alley Cantina, just off the Plaza is in the oldest house in town. It's a fun place to relax for a drink and some casual food. Lady Falconburghs in Durango has never disappointed us.

                      Jerry Saywell

                      1. re: Jerry Saywell

                        Personally, I wouldn't recommend the Alley Cantina. Terrible food, drinks are bad to medicore, and the place reeks of smoke. Even when no one is smoking in it, so much cigarette odor has embedded itself in the adobe walls of that place, is still stinks. I've been a few times, and if a good band is playing its barely tolerable. Otherwise I'm not a fan.

                        1. re: Jerry Saywell

                          Sorry to disagree with you but the Alley Cantina is one of the absolute worst places around. The food barely qualifies as such and as Andytee said, it stinks to high heaven. For relaxing with a drink in Taos, my favorite place is the patio at the Taos Inn. Don't take that as a rec for Doc Martin's because the food there is ordinary at best.

                          1. re: IslayMan

                            You might go to Alley Cantina once. But you'll probably never go a second time. That was our experience......

                            1. re: mardy


                              Has the Alley Cantina gone downhill, or is it just that we have picked times in the fall when the doors were open and it seemed fresh and airy?

                              Jerry Saywell

                              1. re: Jerry Saywell

                                I've been going to Taos since 1980 and the Alley Cantina has been pretty consistently rotten since then. Every 5 or 6 years I feel the need to walk in, have a drink and appetizer and see if anything has changed. What I've found is that the only variants are the parolees that are the regulars.

                            2. re: IslayMan

                              The Alley went non-smoking last fall. That said, it is more a bar (albeit one that serves burgers) than a restaurant.

                              1. re: jjones21

                                The smoke will be oozing out of the adobe walls on that joint for at least another 50 years.