Santa Fe and Taos ... Your Recommendations
We'll be spending a week in Santa Fe and Taos in mid-May, and we're looking for restaurant recommendations that offer the flavors, colors and ambience that are quintessentially New Mexican. This is our first trip to the area, and we're really excited. We'll have a car, so driving a reasonable distance beyond these two towns isn't a problem. Your recommendations...?
Just a note: in Taos, Bravo's has closed and Apple Tree is up for sale and I believe has let their liquor license go and was talking about not accepting credit cards but they may have changed their mind on that. Also Lambert's has been bought by the Taos Restaurant Group (partially owned by Joseph Wrede of Joseph's Table) but they have re-opened with the same menu and a new chef brought over from Joseph's Table. Also, Five Star Burgers has opened and has great gourmet hamburgers, lamb burger, salmon burger, salads, etc. It's at 1032 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, across from the movie theater and just south of Wal Mart. Haven't tried El Meze yet but it's Spanish/Northern African open where Antonio's used to be, with the great view of Taos Mountain.
Restaurant is very good; up there with the best in Taos (previously mentioned Joseph's Table and Lambert's mentioned by others). Hotel itself is very interesting - a pioneer in being "green" - allow time if you eat there to wander around.
Half of the dining room is trying to be "luxe" and is, therefore, to me a bit stuffy. Other half is an indoor garden setting thus it feels more relaxed to me. All food offered is available in either setting.
Impressive chefs seem to come and go and after a year move on. Taos IS small so when things are slow it might be frustrating to them. First chef did a Duck/Duck/Duck burger at lunch (ground meat/duck bacon/foie gras as I recall), similar to something I believe Daniel Boulud originated in New York (might be wrong on the who there) but anyway, it was to die for. Worth a detour as the Michelin guides say. I only mention this as a sort of disclaimer as I can't vouch for "today's efforts".
The wine list is exceptional but pricey as it is everywhere, sadly, in New Mexico. Service, too, can be a bit haphazard if the room is really empty.
I'd say Horseman's Haven, Bobcat Bite, The French Pastry shop at the La Fonda, La Boca, Here is a snippet of my trip there last year.
I hope you have as good a time as I did. The food is fabulous. Be prepared to be asked red or green, as to which chile you want. Please try the flat enchiladas anywhere.
Hopefully we'll be going through there again this summer. Have fun!!!
After re-reading this I apologize for it being all over the place. This is my first post here and I think I got carried away. It also occurred to me that working downtown in Santa Fe has it's perks. And one more revelation...I am not the hugest fan of NM cuisine but I know people who are.
Disclosures: I have lived in SF for 11 years and do not work for any of the places I mention. I now realize where all my money goes. Caveat: some of the truest NM restaurants have only a beer/wine license. That means your margaritas are made with agave wine. You may care, you may not. Caveat Dos (II): There is a very wide swath of service, service styles, and a sense of urgency around comestibles. Be proactive. Some places that I think would be cool I have left off because of the horrible service I have had in the past.
Summary of Top Places I would take folks who want to get SF cuisine...(excluding Taos because I don't get there much)
Breakfast...The Plaza or Counterculture or Pasquals (usual SF fav), The Club at the St Francis (where I wind up taking people because the line at Pasquals is too long and I like their food, caticorner from Pasquals) or Baleen
Sunday Brunch...Fuego at La Posada
Lunch...The Plaza, La Casa Sena, Bobcat Bite, Harry's Roadhouse, The Shed or La Choza, Cowgirl, Compound, O'Keeffe Cafe, Compound,
Dinner...O'Keeffe Cafe, Geronimo, La Casa Sena, The Shed, Harry's Roadhouse, Bobcat Bite
Drinks/Apps...Marias for margaritas (be staying close or call ahead for a cab...you need to reserve a taxi here to be safe. Not kidding) Apps are good but generally I don't think the food is stellar. But some of my friends do. http://www.marias-santafe.com/
Dragon Room Pink Adobe
On the way to Taos...Gabriels is a good place to meet your friends from the lab if you live in Santa Fe. Handmade tortillas and at your table guac. http://www.restauranteur.com/gabriels/
Also on my radar now in Pojoaque (po wah kay)... the O Eating House...the food was good to very good. Service was weird. I would eat at the bar. Interesting wine list http://www.poehcenter.com/center/poeh-news/oeatinghouse.html
Finally...if you need some wine or spirits...stop at Kokoman in Pojoaque. While the look of it may be a bit daunting, get in there. Great prices on hundreds of wines and spirits. If you are looking for the high ends, check their cellar. They really have one. The funniest thing about them is that for the selection and clientèle, you are very likely to find people that they no longer serve...Those that have bounced checks there. The NSFs are on the marquee. To make sure, I pay with credit card. Find this before Cities of Gold. If you get to CoG, take the right and go back the frontage road.
Places I like Downtown/Canyon Road
Geronimo (High end) - http://www.geronimorestaurant.com/ Eric DiStefano will only be there for a short while longer so get it while it's awesome. (he's moving on to Coyote Cafe and seems to be in both places right now). Known for their elk.
O'Keeffe Cafe (High end)- the food is delicious and a perfect end to the tour of the Museum. If you like wine, go on Sunday when the bottles are half price. While not necessarily NM only cuisine, the space, food and wine are great. http://www.okeeffecafe.com/menu.htm
The Old House at the Eldorado (High end)...More NM influence sometime excellent, sometimes just good. http://www.eldoradohotel.com/restaurants/oldhouse.htm They also generally do a happy hour in the Old House bar that has surprisingly good empanadas
La Casa Sena (High End)...beautiful to sit outdoors on the patio. Had lunch there in February and everyone loved it (folks from Scottsdale). The space is beautiful and this is probably my favorite SF food influenced restaurant. New wine bar which I haven't tried yet. Romantic area. Fun, weird, and quirky shops in the courtyard around it. http://www.lacasasena.com/
High End Lunch - the Compound. Still not super SF flavors but delicious.
I am also a fan of Baleen at the Inn at the Loretto for any meal. Rumor has it that the name of the restaurant will be changing but I think that I have eaten there with the new chef and had the best breakfast burrito in a long time. The Chapel is a fun see and if you want to get married or renew your vows, Mark Childress is in charge of the chapel events, a stunningly gifted organist and a great fellow. http://www.innatloretto.com/
High End Brunch...the end all, be all of the Sunday brunches that I have had in Santa Fe is the Fuego brunch at La Posada. If the service had been more crisp and knowledgeable it would have been the second best ever. (Commanders NOLA #1) This has definite SF flavors and the restaurant and grounds are beautiful. http://laposada.rockresorts.com/info/din.fuego.asp
El Meson-tapas so Spanish not NM but good. El Farol gets a lot of press and it is good. Love their pulpo. But El Meson gets my pick. Less precious. They have tango, music etc. I go early to miss it but you may enjoy ; ) http://www.elmeson-santafe.com/
Cafe Dominics ...sister restaurant to the Burrito Company downtown and worlds better. They have good carne adovada and breakfast burritos. 320 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe - (505) 982-4743 No website...that bugs
Zia Diner...good breakfast, not super special but good http://www.ziadiner.com/
Tomasita's...one of the tourist locations...great sopapaillas and adovada...also fab dolmathes. The owners are greek/part greek. They are related to the folks that own the Plaza Diner (agree with the above recommend...especially for breakfast ), and Tia Sophia's. Good green chile cheese burgers.
None of these have websites that I can find either. This bugs as well. The idea that they don't have to have a website will catch up with them. Bobcat Bite has one and it is so more cool than these three or Cafe Dominic.
For coffee and a hint of the counterculture...go to the Aztec coffee shop on Aztec.
There is also a place called CounterCulture (a block down from Tecolote Cafe on Baca) that is one of the best displays of fun food in Santa Fe with a bit of just about everything. They are doing dinners now too.
Santa Fe local cuisine alert....I realize that I have forgotten The Shed and La Choza, another set of sister restaurants that are the epitome of Santa Fe cuisine. The Shed is down town, La Choza in the Railyard district. My husband loves them. http://www.999dine.com/nm/lachoza/menu.html ; http://www.sfshed.com/home.html (since I just complained about websites... la choza doesn't have one but at least their sister restaurant does? Am I playing favorites?)
Any visitor that I have kicks up their spurs at the Cowgirl. Decent food (bbq, enchiladas, sweet pot fries) and funky atmosphere plus it is the first place I ever ate in Santa Fe. We like it because you never know who you are going to see.
For a fun night a splash outside of Santa Fe, go to the Bobcat Bite for dinner then head back to Harry's Roadhouse for dessert. Neither place takes reservations and they are always full to the gills. It's worth it. The Bite is quirky and a menu for carnivores only but ridiculously good. No alcohol but the iced tea is stellar. http://bobcatbite.com/Photos.html';
Places that are Santa Fe notables that are 'meh' with me but could be great for you. These are more high end places and I can't justify the cost/time (both dollar and opportunity).
SantaCafe http://www.santacafe.com/ Usually eat there for lunch. Nice space food is fine. Patio is really nice. I will have to go there again to remind myself what I didn't like last time because it is sounding pretty good.
Coyote Cafe http://www.coyotecafe.com/ Eric DiStefano is here part of the time now (or maybe full time). The food was pretty good but not what I expected it was going to be. Drink menu is fun and tasty (apple rosemary martini...delicious)...I don't like the venue. Open kitchens are nice but this one is super busy and super smokey. Try the cantina for a drink/apps instead maybe... A very hip/hot place to be in SF.
Inn of the Anasazi http://www.innoftheanasazi.com/dine1.cfm Had dinner there a few months ago. Fabulous. Lunch is ok but it takes forrrreeeevvveeerrrr. I go on my lunch hour and ask for the check after I place the order. Rude? yes. But if I want to keep affording to go there I know what I have to do.
Pasqual's - I have a vendor that eats there for breakfast every day that he is in SF. It seems that poetry has been written and lives changed from meals here. Not mine. No reservations accepted except for huge parties. A lot of communal tables. Seats are very uncomfortable. I do love the butter that they use though. Don't know what it is but it is tasty.
Pink Adobe – Now under new management but a landmark. Maybe stop for drinks/apps at the Dragon Room? http://www.thepinkadobe.com/
If you move here, I have another list.
Have a wonderful trip to our little city.
Lots of good undiscovered restaurants but if you are in taos, one breakfast you have to check out is El Taoseno. I grew up in Taos and there is no place that better exemplifies what Taos is. I second Orlandos as well. The old burrito wagon was amazing but one of my friends took it over and ruined it, don't go there.
Have to agree with wagger's comments... but...
If you've never been to Rancho de Chimayo, just go. There IS better food to be had but that at this place will do just fine. The drive alone is worth it. And, of course, one MUST visit the adjacent Santuario.
Most of the other recommendations by others are fine too.
What has not been mentioned that are musts are a visit to Harry's Roadhouse for any meal (breakfast is my favorite) and a stop at Bobcat Bite for a Green Chile Cheeseburger. Both places have been mentioned many, many times before on ChowHound.
In Taos, Joseph's Table for a high-end meal; Bravo or Graham's Grill for a lunch. Avoid The Apple Tree. Doc Martin's is fine for drinks and ambience; wish the food was better. Orlando's, on the northside of Taos is a must-have lunch as well. I live in Tesuque just north of Santa Fe and I'm driving to Taos tomorrow for an Orlando's lunch !
Orlando's for lunch! I'm jealous! Give me a bowl of his posole with green chile, onions, tomatos washed down with a Fat Tire and I'm in heaven! But, I'll be there at the end of the month for Memorial Day week-end.
I can never remember to recommend Graham's Grill but that place has been terrific since it opened.
I used to pass through Santa Fe frequently, and I second Tecolote--best New Mexican breakfast IMO. Get something smothered in green chili. A pricier but excellent (for my budget) dinner option is Pasqual's (or is it Pascal's--going to need a local for verification). You can/should make a reservation--it captures the local flavor perfectly and it is popular as well!
While you're in Santa Fe, stop at Tara's Organic ice cream. After reading a review in National Geographic Adventure, I made a point of stopping there when I went to see my mom in March. So, so good!
She has a lot of really creative flavors. I especially enjoyed the pink peppercorn, goat cheese / raspberry, and basil varieties. I'm still thinking about it! I think it's on, Second Street (?), across from a brewery.
We travelled through last weekend and had several really great meals. Breakfast at Tecolote is superb - the fresh fruit with yoghurt & fresh granola (with the local speciality of toasted pine nuts and pecans) was great! Just be prepared to wait a bit - it's a fairly popular place.
Also, you can't beat the Plaza Cafe - there are 2 locations, the original on the Plaza and newer locale on Cerillos Road. We went for New Mex flavors and the sopes plate was memorable. Both are diners, not fine dining ,but worth an enjoyable meal.
Of course, Rancho de Chimayo is always worth a visit when your in the area. Enjoy!
I highly recommend Rancho de Chimayo as well. A great New Mexican experience, the restaurant is built around the old family hacienda. The upper patio is a great place for lunch on a nice day! The young lady shown in the opening photo was our server.
In Santa Fe, the aforementioned Plaza Restaurant is always great. Horeseman's Haven for breakfast and green chile. If you're REALLY brave, get a side of the level 2 chile which is not on the menu. Be sure to have plenty of milk/yogurt and tortillas on standby.
My favorite in Taos is Orlando's for New Mexican. This is fabulous. Also in Taos for higher end dining is Joseph's Table although it can be uneven at times. I'd stay away from Doc Martin's in the Taos Inn. It's really bad. But, drinks on the patio is a great way to unwind and watch the people/traffic show. Dragonfly Cafe, Rellenos Cafe and Lambert's are all sure bets, too.
Haven't been to Embudo Station between Santa Fe and Taos for awhile but it always was pretty solid.