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Santa Fe: OK, so here's what happened

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I’m doing this mostly from memory, so please bear with me.

After a Friday night flight and driving up from Albuquerque, we arrived in Santa Fe around 1:30 AM. So Saturday, 10/20 was our first full day there. The first thing we did was hit the farmer’s market, now moved from it’s former location across the street from the Sage Inn to an interim location behind a shopping mall. It was never-the-less wonderful, full of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that we love so much. It’s apple season there, and the variety was amazing, as were the breads, and especially the cheeses from Sweetwoods Dairy. Also, that guy that plays accordion, guitar, and fiddle is an excellent singer; it was the most soulful version of “You Don’t Know Me” that I had heard since Ray Charles passed.

Lunch that day was at La Choza, about which much has already been written here, so I need not elaborate except to say that it was wonderful.

Dinner was intended to be at Bobcat Bite, but we got there and it was closed! Closed? At 6:00 PM on a Saturday night? What the hey! We never did find out.

Not to worry, Harry’s Roadhouse was up the road, and we were planning a return trip there anyway. Harry’s has also been well-discussed. I won’t except to say that our food was excellent, but our waiter was a bit of a dim bulb, and very distracted, it seemed. He asked for my drink order and I gave it to him. Then he asked for my wife’s. She got as far as, “OK, I’d like” when he said, “That’s OK, take your time,” and walked away! When dessert time came, he gave us a very strange notion of what a pots de crème is, explaining that it was just like chocolate pudding. If their pots de crème really IS like chocolate pudding, I’m glad we opted for something else.

Well, our food was really good.

Sunday we stopped for lunch at the Ore House on the Plaza. Someone here had suggested that it was eminently missable, and they were correct. I ordered crab cakes which were not bad but a little blacker than should be on the bottom. My wife had green chile stew which she liked, but was far from great. And again, our waiter seemed to be a bit ‘confused’; I had to point to the crab cakes on the menu to show him what I wanted.

This was our 13th wedding anniversary, and we chose 315 for our dinner. We were not disappointed at all. My wife started with French Onion soup, followed by Salmon (from the daily specials), and Crème Brulee. I had the Country Pate, a sirloin (also from the specials), and the Pots de Crème (decidedly NOT just like chocolate pudding). We loved every bite. We ordered a bottle of Beaujoulais that I thought very fairly priced (contrary to some other discussions that have gone on here), and our waiter was (gratefully) 100% on the ball. We look forward to returning on future visits.

Monday was our day to venture north, and we finally stopped, intentionally this time, at Sugar’s BBQ in Embudo pass for lunch. The brisket burritos with green chile were worth the cost of the whole trip. Good fries too. I hope to someday try their ribs, and even the chicken-fried steak. But the brisket burrito is so hard to get by, I’m not sure I ever will. It is still for sale, but I bought a Powerball ticket, and when I win…

Our beloved Trading Post in Rancho de Taos is closed on Mondays, so after a day at the Taos pueblo, we decided to return to Santa Fe for dinner, making the drive while it was still light out (unfamiliar mountain roads, aging eyes, etc). I had it in mind to try Dave’s Not Here for dinner, having heard good things about their green chile cheeseburgers. But again, we arrived to find them closed! So we ended up at the Railyard. We knew that this place is owned by the same people who own 315, so we were expecting great things. What we got was a sports bar with better than average food, but far from memorable. My wife liked her Chipotle Chicken soup starter, while I ordered the Crispy Calamari with assorted dipping sauces. This dish was served very attractively with the calamari in a paper cone held in place by a sort of wrought-iron “cone holder’. It was lovely presentation, but quite impractical if one wished to use a fork. It’s kind of hard to explain; it was good but difficult to eat. Our waiter (returning to the dim bulb type that we found ourselves afflicted with) never did explain what the dipping sauces were until we made a point of asking him (it turned out that our guesses were pretty much spot-on). My wife enjoyed her Southwest Salad, and my Smokestack Lightning burger was just fine; desserts were also good, but I don’t remember what we had. Our waiter disappeared to take care of a late-arriving (8:30) party of ten. A waitress comped us for our coffee (the waiter neglected to add it to the bill), and apologized for the waiter having moved on. I can understand the complications caused by a unexpected party of 10, but it could still have been handled much more gracefully. It has to be at least somewhat telling that well before we finished, it was us, one other table of 4, and the unexpected party of 10.

But then came sweet, sweet Tuesday. Whoever it was that suggested Josh’s Barbeque, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Smoked Carne Adovada! Brisket! Even the potato salad was to die for! Well worth braving the wondrous horror that is Cerrillos Road. (And that is no small thing!)

I searched the Southwest board and only found one previous mention of Café Paris in Burro Alley, and that was unfavorable. I can only assume that locals want to keep this incredible place to themselves. We found it quite by accident the previous Monday afternoon when it was very cold and windy and we ducked in for a snack and maybe a cup of hot chocolate. We got a look at the bakery case and decided on desserts and coffee. We ended up having such a wonderful time chatting with the owners and other customers that we made it a point to return for dinner.

Knowing that dessert was inevitable, we skipped starters. My wife had Penne with chicken , vegetables, and herbs de Provence and I had Seafood Croustade, along with a bottle of Cote du Rhone recommended by our (once again, gratefully) extremely competent waiter. Desserts were Profiteroles and a blood orange ricotta cheesecake. Every bite of this meal was pure heaven. And if it hadn’t been for those little business cards that restaurants leave in racks in hotel lobbies, we never would have heard of it!

We had driven by Dinner For 2 several times, stopped once to look at the posted menus, and decided to try it for lunch on Wednesday. Again, there only seems to have been one previous mention of this place on the Southwest board, and that is around 2 years old. While it could be brightened up a bit, that atmosphere was sophisticated without being at all stuffy. The menu is something of a small-plate concept, and each dish in each course costs the same. I had escargot and a sandwich they call a Gilbert (a Rueben with green chile instead of saurkraut) which I loved; my wife had a stuffed chicken breast sandwich which she was very happy with. This place is definitely worthy of more attention. If you go, I’d suggest parking on a side street; parking in their very small lot will probably require trying to back out right into Guadalupe St traffic.

Wednesday night we tried Amaya, another restaurant that has been mentioned rarely on this board. It is in the Hotel Santa Fe, and I think it may suffer from a consequent prejudice against hotel restaurants. (Once upon a time it seemed that all the best restaurants in any city were in hotels, but I think that era ended in the 60s). It is certainly unwarranted in Amaya’s case. The hotel (and the restaurant) are owned by the Pecuris Pueblo, and I’m pretty sure that the bison served in the restaurant is from the herds maintained by the tribe.

On the downside, the menu had just undergone its seasonal change two days before, so the mixed grill that I had my heart set on was no longer being served. But the short ribs braised in Guinness were a very tasty substitute. My wife had the pan-seared salmon which was also delicious. A charming French hostess and a very well-informed waiter made for a perfect final Santa Fe dinner.

So with sadness in our hearts but plenty of Chimayo chile and Sweetwoods Dairy cheese in our luggage, we left Santa Fe and drove down the hill to Albuquerque. A stop at Garcia’s Kitchen on Central was mandatory; my breakfast Carne Adovada and my wife’s breakfast burrito were a fine last New Mexico meal before heading to the airport and home.

Thanks, New Mexico! We’ll be back soon.

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  1. We LOVE Cafe Paris. It is one of the few places where we can get frogs legs and they do them so well! It is a tiny place, hidden from view, so that may account for it being unmentioned. It is very busy after performances at the Lensic Theatre.

    Glad you had a good time and you seemed to have done very well in the food department!

    1 Reply
    1. re: DebitNM

      I am glad that there is local support for Cafe Paris; it keeps up the liklihood that it would still be there when we return. From our conversations with our waiter, it appears that the owners treat their staff very well too. Being the father of a part-time waitress, we appreciate this a great deal.

      We did have an excellent time, gastronomically and otherwise.

    2. Also... Bobcat Bite was closed that week. They do that a couple of times a year, and you just hit it at a bad time. Sorry you missed out.

      Thanks for this detailed review of your stay. I'm itching to get to Sugar's again.