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Just moved to Santa Fe, had some questions about the chow basics (coffee, pizza...)

Hi Santa Fe hounds!

After 10 years in Boston, we're really excited to have moved home to the Southwest for some sunshine, friendly people, green chile, etc.

There already seems to be plenty of great info on the board about Mexican, upscale places, etc., but I was hoping I could pick everyone's collective brains to compile a list of some of the basics. Questions:

Coffee - we've long loved Flying Star (since well back into the Double Rainbow days in ABQ), but were hoping for something a little more artisinal, especially for espresso drinks. Where's your favorite cappuccino? Drip coffee? Whole beans?

Pizza - favorite American-style? Does anyone do Neapolitan-style? Does anyone make a better green chile pizza than Dion's?

Bakery - again, pretty good pastries and bread at Flying Star. To be honest, I haven't been thrilled with Chocolate Maven, finding the pastries to be more big than tasty. I think the bakery at Whole Foods is actually pretty good, but it's just so...anti-chowish. Anywhere else I might check out?

Bagels - stumbled on NY Deli earlier this week and was pretty darn impressed. Really respectable bagels, surprisingly smoky smoked salmon to go on top, and coffee that really wasn't half bad. Anywhere other places I should know about?

And we haven't even broken the seal yet on: sushi, Chinese, Indian, more "exotic" Asian (Thai? Vietnamese? Korean?)

Anything else I haven't thought of?

Thanks in advance -- looking forward to being part of the Santa Fe and Southwest CH communities!

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  1. I can offer 2 suggestions:

    French Pastry shop in the La Fonda has wonderful pastries, Cafe Paris [around the corner from the Lensic] also.

    For Pizza, wood fired oven, try IL Vicino, excellent beer, and food too:
    321 W San Francisco St
    (505) 986-8700


    1. Coffee....check out Holy Spirit on San Francisico St. It's a tiny place, closet size, and I'm always excited to get back there. Absolutely the best espresso in Santa Fe and ask to talk to Billy who'll direct you to the finest beans.
      Bakery...I love the Brioche at Cafe Paris and they have some of the best quiche I've ever tasted.
      Whole foods is Whole Foods....nothing to rave about, even in Santa Fe.

      1. The Montanita Coop has some nice pastry options, including vegan. I've enjoyed everything I've tried there.
        Lots of raves about Clafoutis, but I haven't been there yet.

        1. Thanks all for your replies so far (and please keep 'em coming!). A few quick reports:

          Cafe Paris - dropped in to pick up a few pastries and was really impressed. Raisin roll had a great texture and an nice depth of flavor; I'd never seen a raisin roll before with an apple cinnamon filling, but it worked. The texture of the brioche was a smidge soft for my personal taste, but it was still undeniably outstanding. Beautiful looking desserts too. Can't wait to get back here for dinner -- we walked by at night and everything looked fantastic. Nice, if overpriced selection of retail French wine too.

          French Pastry Shop - rather bad, actually. My cherry and almond pastry looked nice, but tasted like it had been made with some sort of generic puff pastry, to say nothing of the fact that the weird temperature differentials throughout seemed to suggest it had been frozen, then poorly thawed. Sandwiches were ok, on decent bread, but I was annoyed by the details, such as little ketchup-style packets of too-sweet Heinz Dijon mustard.

          Sage Bakery - haven't been to the actual bakery yet, but I've found the bread at several places around town, and found it to be pretty darn good. Looking forward to a field trip...

          Again, thanks for all the responses so far and please keep adding if you can; I'll definitely add my findings as well!

          5 Replies
          1. re: finlero

            Clafoutis has wonderful pastries and the best baguette in town. Lan's on Cerrillos Road has delicious and fresh Vietnamese; I do not recommend Saigon Cafe (greasy and always leaves you with a tummy ache). Mu Du Noodles is pricier but truly delicious. I think Shokho has the best sushi, fresh and delicious. I've never found a good Thai restaurant in Santa Fe and I've never heard of a Korean restaurant. Rooftop Pizza has lovely thin crust, creative-topping pizza (the BLT pizza is addictive). Bagelmania makes a decent bagel, but I do think NY Bagel is better. Sage does make some of the finest bread in Santa Fe, and their pastries are tasty. Happy Eating!

            1. re: Sarodeo

              Going to respectfully disagree with you on the Saigon Cafe call. At least for the entrees we've eaten (spring rolls, egg noodles, rice noodles, and vermicelli) I don't detect a greasy vibe. The rice noodles are pretty obviously stir fried in oil, but I don't find it cloying. They also have a really nice smoky character that I particularly like. Agree with most of your other comments though (except for Clafoutis and that'll require a re-visit). Didn't know about Lan's..will have to give it a try. Bummer about the Thai situation.

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

            2. re: finlero

              The frogs legs at Cafe Paris are really good. Glad you like the pastries.

              I am sorry about the bad lead on French Pastry Shop - my husband loved their Baba Rhum. It has been a couple of years since we bought anything there, so my info is obviously dated.

              Check out IL Vicino for the pizza, that will be excellent and should make up for the bad lead.

              1. re: DebitNM

                No apologies necessary -- a few wrong turns are part of the process, and besides, I'm tremendously grateful for the Cafe Paris tip.

                Il Vicino is definitely on the short list; I think we tried one of their branches in Albuquerque a number of years ago and enjoyed it, so very excited to check it out in SF.

                Has anyone tried Mangiamo Pronto? The short, focused Italian menu looks really appealing to me: www.mangiamopronto.com

              2. re: finlero

                You must go and eat at the Chocolate Maven, the best food around. Its in a warehouse area, but don't let that fool you!.Weekends they don't open til 9 am I think. You will enjoy your meals and go back for more.

              3. Welcome to Fanta Se! I'll weigh in on a couple of your categories:

                pizza - We like Backroad Pizza on Second Street (thin crust, cornmeal under, housemade sausage elevates the norm to new heights) www.backroadpizza.com. At Rooftop Pizzeria downtown (2nd floor of the Arcade)we like the No. 7 which is a white pizza with wild mushrooms, big cloves of sweet roasted garlic, alfredo, and truffle oil www.rooftoppizzeria.com

                bagel - NY Deli only. They close early (3/3:30) and often run out of bagels long before then. Bagelmania used to bake bagels with the same recipe as NY Deli (NYD's owner opened B decades ago), *BUT* they outsourced to some local bakery and they do not resemble bagels any longer. Bagelmania does do a brisk, well-deserved weekend breakfast business, but don't order a bagel.

                bakery - Sage Bakehouse is my choice for bread and pastries (in particular the pain au chocolat often still warm and gooey). Not open Sundays. They do occasionally run out of pastries early. I have yet had a purchased cake from a local shop that was stellar.

                Kohnami (www.kohnamirestaurant.com) and Shohko (www.shohkocafe.com) are my preferred sushi choices.

                Yin Yang does serviceable Chinese food near downtown. Mu Du Noodles is excellent pan-Asian but, imho, extremely expensive for what it is ($17 pad thai is highway robbery).

                Holy Spirit Espresso, the hole-in-the-wall next to the Lensic, does make a superior espresso beverage, but when you want to avoid the crowds, one of Java Joe's 2 locations may suffice. I find the baristas at Ohori's needlessly officious and their sizing/# of shots convention illogical.

                If you're meat eaters, please head to Bobcat Bite for a green chile cheeseburger, or a to-die-for rib eye.

                The Tuneup Cafe on Hickox is delicious for breakfast and lunch (I haven't had dinner there), as is Counter Culture. Bring cash or local check to Counter Culture.

                2 Replies
                1. re: 505alyce

                  Great suggestions, Alyce, Thanks!

                  1. re: 505alyce

                    Wow, thanks for such a thorough response! These have been duly added to the impressively growing list.

                    Wound up at Ohori's yesterday morning, and "needlessly officious" is a great way to put the vibe, a quietly pretentious little piece of the East Coast right here in New Mexico. That being said, holy crap do they make good coffee. Really earthy and rugged, but still excellently balanced, and a nice sweetness to the milk. I think I've found my go-to for whole bean to take home.

                    Still haven't tried Holy Spirit, but this shall be remedied post haste.

                    Thanks again everyone. Please keep the great suggestions coming!

                  2. A couple of updates:

                    Holy Spirit Espresso - very, very good. No frills, no fuss, (no seating), just some well-roasted, well-pulled espresso, with nicely steamed milk to go with it. The espresso is a much lighter, refined, almost floral roast as compared to Ohori's, which strikes me as really rustic and earthy. They each have their place, and I'd feel lucky to have either as my only place in town. Having both is just an embarrassment of riches.

                    Kohnami Sushi - strikingly good old-school sushi. Beautifully cut pieces of good tasting fish, well seasoned rice (I'll quibble that the rice wasn't as fine a grain as I'd like, but this is ultimately pretty minor), super friendly staff. Excited to get back and try some dishes from the kitchen.

                    Will keep reporting back as I'm able to check places out. And all you other Santa Fe hounds out there, please keep chiming in with the great recs!

                    1. A few more updates for the week:

                      * Sage Bakehouse - great breads, certainly the best I've seen in Santa Fe. As to the pastries, I should say that I'm something of a "reverse size-ist" when it comes to baked goods. For my personal preference, I thought the chocolate croissant here was just too big, with not enough chocolate to balance the large amount of dough. I also thought the croissant dough itself wasn't so hot; nothing against lots of butter in a croissant, but I actually had grease running down my hand while I tried to eat it. And yes the pastries are big, and yes this is Santa Fe, but $3.25 for a croissant?! That's just silly.

                      * Clafoutis - much better. Manageable sizes (including cute little mini-croissants), nicely-flavored, fairly rustic dough, in a cute, unpretentious little space. So far, this and Cafe Paris are my going-away favorites for European-style pastries here.

                      * Harry's Roadhouse - I won't dwell on dinner here, as there have been copious numbers of bits and bytes spent on the place already, but I do want to give a shout-out to the baked goods at breakfast. Both the cinnamon roll and the coffee cake were just about perfect, not trying too hard, but succeeding in being exactly what they set out to be. Adequate, if not superior dark roast coffee.

                      * Rooftop Pizzeria - pricey, pretty good. Tasty toppings, notably good crusts. Not setting the world on fire, but I'm really glad it's there. Bonus points for being open reasonably late, and on Sundays.

                      1. Shohko Cafe - absolutely top-notch Japanese.

                        I already felt lucky to have the very, very good Kohnami in town, but I think Shohko could hold its own in San Francisco or NYC. No gimmickry (unless you count green chile in a few dishes, but that hardly seems out-of-place in New Mexico), just beautifully prepared, perfectly cut, delicious food, in a setting that managed to do right by Japan and New Mexico at once. Highlights: Santa Fe roll, futomaki, all the nigiri. Impressive sake selection, and a few nice shochus, with a strongly apparent understanding of both region and process.

                        Depending on what you order, this place has the capacity to be really expensive ($35 for bento boxes or chirashi at dinner, $50+ for sashimi sets), but there's also plenty of value to be had if you order with care. And honestly, the quality is so high that I'd much rather spend $50 or $100pp here than on just about any of the more heavily tourist-centric places right off the plaza.

                        A real treasure, thanks to 505alyce and Sarodeo for the great rec!

                        1. OK, one last round of updates and I promise I'll let this thread die:

                          Tuneup Cafe - fine, not stellar. I think I prefer my New Mexican food to lean a little more Mexican and a little less American. Everything was perfectly competently prepared, but seemed just a little bland and soulless. Neat vibe to the place though.

                          Counter Culture - love it! This is the upgrade to Flying Star I've been searching for. Weirdly eclectic menu (American, Mexican, East Asian...), but from my handful of visits, nothing is on the menu if it isn't done well. I was particularly impressed by their knockoff of a Vietnamese banh mi, a fairly large sandwich of chicken breast, prosciutto, mayo, and an "Asian slaw" of tangy cucumber, carrot, cilantro, and no shortage of spicy green peppers, on a soft baguette. Not cheap (lunch items hover around $10, dinner closer to $20), but good-sized portions and great quality. Plenty of outdoor seating and free Wi-Fi, I'm really happy this place exists.

                          Upper Crust - more pretty good pizza, good quality ingredients, still overpriced. I like their green chile pizza at least as much as Dion's, plus they're closer to me and they deliver, so I'll be sending some periodic business their way.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: finlero

                            Really enjoyed your responses. So few 'hounders ever come back to provide the satisfying conclusion. I look forward to reading more about your culinary adventures.

                          2. I dont have any suggestions, but I live in Boston and heading to Santa Fe/Abq in a few weeks for the Balloon Festival! (and looking for gluten-free friendly restaurants)