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Aug 21, 2009 12:17 PM

Santa Fe solo traveler - dining out, takeout, groceries

I'm planning a solo trip to Santa Fe this fall - looking to have a quiet week and enjoy the landscape, history and culture - and of course, the food!

As a solo traveler, I'm looking for suggestions of restaurants where a solo diner is welcome rather than an oddity. I'm quite content with a good newspaper or magazine - and I've seen lots of suggestions for restaurants on these boards - I just don't want to feel uncomfortable if this is unusual for the restaurant.

Also looking for suggestions on good takeout - southwest in particular, but open to any suggestions. Pizza, vietmenese, italian, etc.

Lastly, good grocery stores as well as particular food I should consider trying. I'm staying in a place with cooking facilities, so I plan to prepare some meals and I'm hoping to try some local cuisine / recipes.

Any suggestions are most welcome! Thank you!

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  1. Having just moved to town myself, this will be by no means comprehensive, but let me throw a few ideas your way...

    A few places I've been so far that seem particularly well-suited to solo dining:

    * The Tea House - nice location with a lovely outdoor patio, open all day and into the evening, nice selection of lighter plates, a few wines by the glass., and of course, a nice selection of teas Overpriced, but hey, welcome to Santa Fe.

    * Kohnami - a surprisingly formidable sushi bar and Japanese restaurant.

    * Flying Star - good all-day coffeehouse with good, occasionally great baked goods and sandwiches. Very good iced tea.

    (As you'd expect, throw a rock in this town and you'll hit some terrific Mexican; I'll defer to the more established hounds as to anywhere that might be especially solo-dining friendly.)


    * Upper Crust - I really like their green chile pizza, I'd argue it edges Dion's, which is also quite good.


    Santa Fe has a notably good, if not particularly cost-effective, farmers market on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Quite good local produce.

    For possible further reading, the local hounds have been really generous in sharing their information with me here on the "chow basics" such as coffee, bakeries, bagels, etc:

    4 Replies
    1. re: finlero

      finlero, you lucky devil, you have escaped New England! go eat a green chile enchilada, stuffed sopapaillas and a Frito pie for me.
      I'd love to hear what you are doing.
      Is The Pink Adobe trashed? The Shed?

      1. re: Passadumkeg

        Heya Passa!

        Yeah, loved my 15 years in New England, but it's a great feeling to be back in the Southwest.

        Haven't been to the Pink Adobe yet, but now that the Indian Market is over and done, maybe I'll sneak over on a weeknight.

        This is probably chow sacrilege of the worst order, but to be honest, I think the Shed is overrated. Everything is certainly good, and there's absolutely no arguing with the setting or the margaritas, but it's so tourist-aware at this point that I think the food has gone just a little bland.

        Actually, the best New Mexican I've had since I've been in town -- and it just so happens to have a counter that would be good for solo dining -- is a place down Cerrillos called the Flying Tortilla. In the parking lot of a chain hotel (La Quinta I think?) and looking not unlike a chain family restaurant itself, the food is just awesome. The red chile was particularly excellent, sporting both legitimate heat and serious depth, but everything was great, huevos rancheros, homemade flautas rolled with green chile, beans, home fries. Looking forward to getting back any trying a giant cinnamon roll for breakfast. No hard liquor license, but they have a several local beers on tap, including Monks' Ale made by the Benedictine Monks out of nearby Pecos. Good stuff!

        1. re: finlero

          I don' think it is sacrilegious at all to claim the Shed overrated. The food and particularly the service is one of the worst in Santa Fe in my opinion. They just happen to have a good address and a loyal following. In their recent issue, Bon Appetit magazine actually named the Shed as one of America's top ten classic restaurants. Frankly, The Shed can't measure up to the others mentioned in the article namely the Tadich Grill in San Francisco, Locke-ober in Boston, and Berghoff's in Chicago. The Shed, as with Coyote Cafe and Geronimo and the Compound all suffer from the "I'm in Santa Fe so I must be a great restaurant" syndrome.

          1. re: finlero

            My husband and I had lunch at The Shed during a recent visit to Santa Fe. This restaurant certainly is tourist-aware, but I say that with deep appreciation. When my husband wondered aloud about the heat level of the carne adovada, the waitress offered to bring him a taste of the meat prior to his ordering. What arrived was very large ramekin filled to overflowing with the meat. (Final verdict: delicious -- spicy-but-not-incendiary) When I followed through with this board's recommendation that I ask for both green and red chile on the side of my chicken tacos, our waitress followed through without condescion and with a smile. (Final verdict: I liked the red chile better than the green chile.) Surprisingly, the batch of salsa we got with our order of chips was the hottest of all the sauces we ate that particular lunch.

            Whether our waitress was atypical, I certainly can't say. All I can say is that our service was gracious and timely and that we truly enjoyed our food. For example, the chicken in my taco was very moist and flavorful so that the red chile enhanced the dish rather than rescued indifferently prepared chicken.

      2. I think that as a general rule, you should feel comfortable dining alone in most Santa Fe restaurants, other than the high-end places. However, several high-end places have bar service that should work just fine for you (Santa Cafe and Ristra, to name a couple). Many good cafes have counter service (Plaza Cafe, Tia Sofia, The Pantry, Harry's Roadhouse, Bobcat Bite - again, to name a few) with many single diners. Counter Culture is another favorite of mine for a solo meal. I'm not giving you an exhaustive list here - there are many others.

        Bumblebee's Baja Tacos is my favorite for takeout and it's southwestern. Good value, too.

        For grocery stores, we have Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, La Monanita (can't get a tilde to print over that first "n") and a new Sunflower Market. I don't like Albertson's. Kaune's has the best roasted chicken in town (to my taste), for take-out.

        Hope this helps. I'm sure you'll hear more from others.

        1. For a higher end offering, the bar at the Compound has always been a winner. If sounds as if traveling alone is not new to you so I wouldn't bet stressed. I'm on biz by myself all over the world and it's rare that I run into a place where solo dining is a problem, other than China, where social meals are the norm and dining solo limits your choices.

          1. Thanks everyone for the suggestions - I'm pretty sure already I'll have to try the green chile pizza and Bumblee's Baja Taco's for take out. I'll have to go to the Flying Tortilla - just for the name! I also appreciate having some specific restaurant suggestions for bar and counter service - I can see I have a number of websites to peruse! And of course, I'll definitely make a stop at the farmers market early on to stock up for the week. Again, many thanks - this has been most helpful.

            1. I just spent 10 days in Santa Fe this summer and felt that my trip was a culinary roller coaster of great hidden gems and overhyped trap restaurants.


              Mauka (near Sambuscas plaza)- As a solo diner, I truly enjoyed being able to sit at the front counter and see the chef and his staff work. Additionally, the head chef, Joel, is always behind this counter preparing any of the evening's grilled items, desserts and sashimi. Yes, sashimi in NM. While the fish is flown in 3x per week from Hawaii, the rest of the menu is filled with local, sustainable product. I ate at Mauka four times while visiting and would have loved to return if there was more time. Favorite dish: Homemade Kim-Chi Corn Pancakes with local fried egg, maple creme-fraiche and homemade sausage. Special note, on my last trip to the restaurant and with my entire family in tow (7). The chef prepared several plates of Hamachi Kama(non-menu item) to welcome us and presented it on the house. The chef truly knows and loves his food and wants to please his diners.

              Guadalupe Cafe: Being from all parts of Texas, it takes a really spectaucal display of Southwestern/Tex-Mex/Mexcican cuisine for me to take note. And while the New Mexican cuisine was solid, particularly anything in Christmas style(green and red chile sauce), the service was truly extraordinary. Eating alone would not be an issue and there are several small tables outside that could enhance the overall experience. The food is quick, flavorful, and authentic to New Mexico. Favorite Dish: Chile Relleno, Christmas style.

              Others of note: "Bobcat Bite"- great green chile burger, well renowned, good for take out but prepare to wait for your order...."Tune Up"- good for breakfast/lucnh, cheap, southwestern food..."Pasquals"- really tasty southwestern bistro, communal table fit for single diners


              Maria's: bad, bad food but good, strong drinks and several margarita varieties
              Coyote Cafe: flat/muddled, over complicated food, poor service, overpriced, overhyped, did I mention overpriced?

              1 Reply
              1. re: CHOWuahuah

                Thanks for the reviews! I've confirmed my trip and I'll be in Santa Fe area for the first week in November - can't wait! I've already made a list of possibilities and would welcome any additional recommendations. Though I now may have a friend join me, although that brings other considerations, as he has a disability and has limited mobility / difficulty dealing with too many steps. Regardless, it seems that there are many options in Santa Fe so I'm sure I - or we - will be fine! I'm from Atlantic Canada, so the food is just as enticing as the landscape and history!