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Sep 14, 2007 06:27 AM

So what's new in & around Santa Fe?

My wife & I will be returning to New Mexico for our anniversary from 10/20-10/25. We are planning return visits to Sugar's BBQ (because we barely got a taste last time and it was intoxicating), The Trading Post in Rancho de Taos (because it's one of our 5 favourite restaurants in the world), and Bobcat Bite (do we really need a reason?).

Is there any place that has arrived on the scene in the last two years or so that we should check out? We're looking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. I'd prefer to not spend more than $100 on a dinner for 2 (we're more likely to order wine by the glass than by the bottle), but will break that ceiling for something exceptional. We're staying at the Sage Inn. will have a car, and distance is no obstacle.

If anyone has visited any of the following recently, I'd be interested in your impressions:
Zia Diner
La Casa Sena
Pinon Grill
El Meson
Tia Sophia
Dave's Not Here

Many thanks!

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  1. The one new place that I would definitely recommend is called Trattoria Nostrani. It's located on Johnson Street, just behind the O'Keefe Museum, right where Rociata used to be. It's Italian-centered continental cuisine and they are REALLY doing a great job. Had a superb meal at 315 back in February, they seem not have lost even half a step, despite the fact that the Exec. Chef is occupying most of his time with his new place, Railyard Cafe and it's sister restaurant in Boulder, CO. I highly recommend a visit to this charming little French bistro. I would swing well clear of the Zia DIner and Tia Sophia. Locals aplenty disagree with me here, but I have never been impressed with any dish I've had from these spots, and I've given each multiple chances. Another spot, not new by any means, but worth a special night, for sure, is Ristra. Kind of an ecclectic continental menu in a cozy little house on Agua Fria, I had a birthday dinner there on Monday night that was utterly fantastic. Their's was the simplest, most elegant foie gras preparation I've enjoyed in many years. The elk, the filet and salmon were each superlatively good as well. Great, reasonably priced wine list too. On the BBQ tip, if you love good texas-style smoked meats, check out Josh's BBQ in the San Isidro Plaza, over by the new Regal 14 Cinema. And please tell me about this Sugar's place, been here 7 years and this is the first I've even heard of it! Happy anniversary and safe travels to you!

    2 Replies
    1. re: IHateKiddo

      If you go to Nostrani, you'll want to be sure to observe their "no scents" policy, lest you be ejected.

      I've been to Zia Diner and Tia Sophia's in the last week. They're the same as always.

      1. re: IHateKiddo

        The board is acting a little strangely today; this is in reply to IHateKiddo.

        I had read about Sugar's before our last trip (about a year & a half ago) in a book called NEW MEXICO CHOW by Scott Sherot, and it sounded pretty good. We found it by accident while we were on our way to dinner in Taos. I pulled off the road in Embudo because I was beset by tailgators (very annoying anytime but especially on an unfamiliar road in unfamiliar mountains). I suddenly realized that I had pulled into Sugar's parking lot. Figuring that Old Lady Karma brought us there for a reason, we had a couple of brisket tacos that were amazing! Even my wife agreed for once that stopping for a snack on the way to dinner was good idea. But the tacos were all we had time for, and we have been determined ever since to get there for a full meal.

        I'll be sure to post a full report after our return. And thanks for the info, especially re 315. Ristra sound interesting too.

      2. Baleen at the Inn at Loretto (right off the Plaza) might be worth a look. Eclectic Continental, again, and with a nice wine list. I ate there twice on a recent visit, and was delighted each time with the dishes and service. We came in at around $75 per person but that was with three courses all around plus multiple bottles of wine so we were higher end. They have a starter called the lobster fundido which was absolutely divine (basically a queso flameado); I've been thinking about it ever since. Lovely scallops, lovely pork tenderloin. They had a nice caprese salad interpretation with heirloom tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and a basil granita topping. Look for amuse bouches that are indeed amusing.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Frequent Flyer

          Baleen - no no NO! Don't do it! When we were in Santa Fe last year we tried this. The menu looked interesting and the patio was really nice. the night we went the weather changed and it was too cold for the patio. Too bad that would have been the only redeeming part of the experience. The food was very disappointing. The service simultaneously terrible and pretentious. It was our last night in town and we really regretted our choice. There were only two other tables seated that evening...we now know why!

          1. re: Frequent Flyer

            As a Santa Fe resident and frequent diner, here is my opinion: Geronimo: Great food, Terrible Wine list. La Casa Sena: Great Wine Program, Terrible food. Coyote Cafe: On a downward spiral. Santa Cafe: Not what it once was, also sprialing downward.

            If you are going to spend that kind of money:

            Trottoria Nostrani

            1. re: berty

              Geronimo--not a great wine list but not terrible, either;
              La Casa Sena--good food but not as good as some other places;
              Coyote Cafe--very good the last times I was there and other reports I have received confirm that;
              Trattoria Nostrani--...and a bizarre "no fragrance" policy!

              1. re: bhoward


                Geronimos Wine list is limited and overpriced.
                For instance based on the list on line at:
                Domaine Serene Evanstad
                Wholesale:$40.00, Geronimo $145
                Stags Leap Artemis
                Wholesale:$36.00 Geronimo $130

                This is almost a 4x markup, while most restaurants will mark up only 2.5x

                Although Nostrani has a "bizarre" policy, they have great food and a wonderful wine list.

                1. re: berty

                  I didn't say the Geronimo wine list wasn't limited or overpriced; I said it wasn't "terrible" and it isn't.

                  I didn't say Nostrani didn't have great food; I said it had a bizarre "fragrance policy" and it does.

                  1. re: bhoward

                    Relax, y'all. Like I said, we're more likely to order wine by the glass rather than the bottle, It has been reported here many times that the prices for wine in Santa Fe restaurants are out of whack, so we will take that into consideration.

                    But wasnt there a lot of drama involving Geronimo recently? Something about the owner disappearing and a chef quitting suddenly, or something like that? Or am I confusing Geronimo with someplace else?

                    I have read about Nostrani's 'no fragrance' policy. While I truly dislike people who choose to marinade in their perfume or aftershave, I'm not sure I want to deal with it as policy. But we'll take the recommendation under consideration.

                    No one has weighed in on Dave's Not Here, El Meson, or Pinon Grill yet. Any input on those?

                    1. re: Fydeaux

                      I do think that there were rumors about Geronimo--all unfounded as I have come to understand. I totally agree that wine prices in Santa Fe are nutty. I have never been to Pinon Grill and think the other two places you ask about are a bit more casual than this thread inquired about.

                      1. re: bhoward

                        I'm sorry that I didnt make myself clearer originally: $100 for dinner for two is the upper limit of what I'd like to spend. I have no lower limit at all, and would just as much love to hear about a place with great green chili cheese fries as I would about elk tenderloin. We're open to all suggestions. The places I mentioned in the OP were places I had heard interesting things about and am hoping to hear more.

                        1. re: Fydeaux

                          I'll be in Santa Fe the same weekend. Last time I was there, April, we ate at The Compound. I thought the food was quite good. Geronimo hasn't really been getting good reviews by the locals. That's a fact regardless of what is said here on the board.
                          As far as breakfast, go to Harry's Roadhouse and get the Migas. Great food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Not sophisticated or upscale though.

                          1. re: Fydeaux

                            We also had a great meal at Harry's Roadhouse. Particularly the pie! We also really enjoyed la Choza and breakfast at Cafe Pasquale(definitely preferred breakfast to dinner here). And we founf the fajitas cart on the plaza served up a pretty tasty snack!

                        2. re: Fydeaux

                          I'm not a local, but I went to Dave's on my visit for a green chile cheeseburger (Labor Day weekend) and didn't think it was all that. The meat was good, which is what matters, but it cost a bit more than I expected for the size. Cheese appeared melted (lots of it, running off the sides) but then I bit into it and unmelted shreds came out. Green chile to me, does not have much flavor. Was not a fan of the fries, dry, not much crisp, no salt (and you can't really add salt at the table, it doesn't stick).

                          Um...not to sound terribly down on it, it was a very cute place. But I'd like to try Bobcat Bite next time.

                          1. re: NancyC

                            Green chile, just like any produce is going to vary greatly in flavor. I've had green chile that was bland except for spicy and I've had green chile that had so much flavor that the bite was the background.

              2. Ive eatin at Pinon Grill, possibly 2 years ago, had a WONDERFUL ribeye, decent price and good service. Dave's not here is great for a "dive" type of resturaunt, especially if you want a green chile cheeseburger.The Zia Diner had the WORST food I've ever encountered in Santa Fe, we had breakfast there and our whole party was very dissapointed- how do you mess up breakfast that terribly? Fuego is quite the treat, in fact we will be dining there October 5th and I am very much looking foward to it. Also if you are looking for a great non-pretinsious but cozy place to get cocktails after dinner I recommend the Hotel St. Francis, there bar is cozy and comfortable and very nice.

                1. Fydeaux -- right behind you. We're going to SF during XMAS and are in the same price range with maybe one super pricey meal. Last time we went to Geronimo -- little confused what we should try now for our "fancy meal" -- locals? Live in L.A. so rather not do Italian or French, something more authentic.

                  Also, fryeaux, pls tell me more about Sugars an in particular Trading Post & where it is -- thanks!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Silverlaker

                    Please see my reply to IHateKiddo above for some more info on Sugar's. As I said, I'll be posting more after our trip.

                    As for the Trading Post Cafe, it is one of our favourite restaurants of all time. It is in Rancho de Taos. We have been there twice now, and loved every bite. In typical Taos fashion, it is a very laid-back, relaxed kind of place. I am attaching a link to their menu; I am afraid that you may find it to be too close to Italian for your taste, but honestly, I tend to think of it as more of a New Mexico restaurant with an Italian slant to the menu. Look it over and decide for yourself, and I hope you will give it a try.


                    Additionally, if you do a web search for "trading post cafe ranch de taos", there will be links to plenty of reviews.

                    Enjoy your trip; Christmas in Santa Fe should be gorgeous!

                    1. re: Fydeaux

                      I would send the Pinon Grill. Also recommend Pranzo's, Ristra, and Il Piatto, although I'll most likely be a the Blue Corn Cafe.