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New Mexico Retreat: Santa Fe, Abiquiu, and Ojo Caliente

I'm a Canadian visiting Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe, Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, and Ojo Caliente in July for 2 weeks total. Would love to enjoy New Mexican, Mexican, Southwestern, Japanese (I'll be craving it at Ten Thousand Waves, for sure!) and local food and beverages. I will have a rental car but will not be spending any time in Albuquerque.

Budget is fairly low - but my priority is Chow-worthy deliciousness and memorable, tasty food. (Service, decor, and atmosphere are low priority.) Mains should be under $25 for sure. Hole-in-the-wall and take-out places are welcome. Also looking for farmers' markets, local grocery stores, good coffee (freshly roasted beans and talented barista for espresso), and solo-friendly bar/lounge/watering hole for an under-40 night out.

Where can this girl get to-die-for food and drinks? Frito pie? Green chile cheeseburgers?

What do you think of Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Guadalupe Cafe, Cafe Pasqual's, or Shohko Cafe? And El Farolito, supposedly in El Rito, near Ojo/Abiquiu/Los Alamos? (Man, that place is impossible to map!)

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  1. Are you going to be based [hotel] in Santa Fe?

    Have you looked at any of the threads on here for Santa Fe, there are lots.

    Some answers to your Q's:
    Cowgirl Hall of Fame, fun but not chow worthy.
    Green Chile Cheeseburger, Blakes Lotta Burger [chain, several locations]
    Frito Pie - sorry, ick
    For great food that locals love - La Choza

    Local Grocery store:
    http://www.lamontanita.coop/index.php...

    -----
    La Choza Restaurant
    905 Alarid St, Santa Fe, NM 87505

    Cowgirl Hall of Fame Restaurant
    319 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

    7 Replies
    1. re: DebitNM

      Only 3 days in Santa Fe area, then out in the wilderness!
      The searches I did turned up old (more than 3 years old) threads so am hoping for fresh perspectives.
      Thanks for the advice!

      What dishes should I definitely eat in Santa Fe/NM since frito pie is ick?

      1. re: Food Tourist

        Try search again, I typed in Santa Fe and found all the recent ones.

        Chilles Rellenos, Sopapillas, Carne Ardovada are good starts. Biscochittos [cookies] for dessert. Red and green chile. Breakfast burritos, blue corn pancakes, blue corn enchiladas.....

        1. re: DebitNM

          Matilda's in EspaƱola is the only restaurant I'm aware of that's still serving chicos (N NM-specific sweet corn/beef stew) - anyone should feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Might be the last chance to get a taste of that dying dish anywhere but at someone's home.

          Matilda's Restaurant
          (505) 753-3200
          311 US HIGHWAY 285
          Espanola, NM 87532

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          Matilda's Cafe
          424 Corlett Dr, Espanola, NM 87532

            1. re: Food Tourist

              I also shoud have included Navajo Tacos on your to eat list! You won't get those anywhere but NM and AZ, made with Fry Bread. Now that's good eats!

              1. re: DebitNM

                Thanks DebitNM! Now...where is the BEST place to sample each item on the list in the Santa Fe-Abiquiu-Ojo corridor (or within a 45 minute drive beyond)?

          1. re: Food Tourist

            They say that the frito pie was invented at Woolworths (now the five and dime) on the Plaza in Santa Fe, it isn't gourmet but I think it is delicious! The kind of thing I crave and indulge in a few times a year. The green chile burgers at Bert's burger bowl are really good and a local favorite, Blakes is good Bert's is better imho. In Espanola or in Santa Fe I recommend El Parasol (in espanola it is the "taco truck" next to El Paragua) best tacos ever and great Breakfast burritos! I've tried everything on the menu at the cerillos rd location and you absolutely can't go wrong, the Espanola location is the original.
            Other favorites of mine are:
            Horsemen's haven
            Flying Tortilla
            Pantry
            Tecolote
            Maria's
            Castro's
            Bobcat bite (best gc burger winner)
            Lot's of great food here yum now I'm hungry!

            -----
            El Paragua Restaurant
            603 Santa Cruz Rd, Espanola, NM 87532

        2. Hi FT-
          A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday, I drove from my home in Albuquerque to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu then on to Ojo Caliente via the road that goes through main street in El Rito. It is a beautiful drive and worth the trip for vistas alone-- but when I got to El Rito El Farolito was closed. There was no note or hours posted so I'm not sure why. It may be that I was a bit early--I arrived about 11:30 am-- but if it's possible to call first you may want to. There is a divey looking place that advertises green chile cheeseburgers on the main road just before you turn into Ojo Caliente. I can't remember the name but it's hard to miss. That may be an option for you if El Farolito is closed.

          By the way my NM native housemate makes the best frito pie in the world and I just found the second best when I was invited to lunch in Jemez Pueblo last week. It is so NOT icky when it is made with love. I hope you find some to enjoy on your travels.

          -----
          El Farolito Restaurant
          1212 Main, El Rito, NM 87530

          1 Reply
          1. re: jjdot

            re: Frito Pie, most commercial places rip open a bag of Fritos, dump a scoop of what looks like texas chili on the chips and maybe a few shredds of cheese.

            Try a Navajo taco instead, WAY better. Now that's something you don't get anywhere else but NM and AZ.

          2. Hi Food Tourist,
            I live in Edmonton, Alberta and went to New Mexico for a week in November 2009. Stayed outside of Santa Fe, and only did day trips to Abiquiu, Los Alamos and Taos. I was primarily looking for casual restaurants that served New Mexican or Mexican food. Mains were generally $15 or less. Here's a link to my trip report: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6663...

            I particularly enjoyed Tune Up Cafe, Plaza Cafe, Los Patrillos, Sage Bakehouse, Blake's Lotaburger - all in Santa Fe (though as noted previously, Blake's is a NM chain). I tried to have as much variety as possible, including sopapillas, chile rellenos, enchiladas and burritos, blue corn waffle, tamales, fish tacos, chips and guacamole, green chile cheeseburger, even biscochittos... Yum! I would have enjoyed a few more margaritas, but as we were staying out of town, we always had to drive home. Next trip I would plan a night or two near the plaza!

            I started browsing the forum probably three months before I went to NM and also searched old threads. There's a lot of information, and I found posts by finlero and DebitNM to be particularly helpful, as were trip reports by past visitors. Of course, everyone has their own preferences! Enjoy your trip - I'm completely envious!

            1. Agree with previous comments on Cowgirl. Most local joints tend to specialize in either red or green - very few do both well. Here are some possibilities:

              Guadalupe Cafe - definitely Chow-worthy - red better than green - sausage and cheese enchiladas are particularly good

              La Choza - red better than green - again, enchiladas are the specialty, especially the flat blue corn cheese enchiladas

              Plaza Cafe Southside - excellent green chile - some of the best breakfast food in town - enchiladas and burritos are great, and the huevos divorciados are an interesting non-chile alternative

              Tesuque Village Market - another green chile specialist - great breakfast burritos and cool location/ambiance

              Horseman's Haven - probably the consistently hottest green chile in town - worth a try for the adventurous.

              Other favorites include the Pantry, Los Amigos (same owners/menu as the Pantry), and the Tecolote Cafe. For green chile cheeseburgers it is hard to recommend any place but Bobcat Bite - it's a little bit off the beaten path and the wait can be long (try to get there shortly after they open at 11:00 and call first to confirm hours), but nothing else comes close.

              -----
              Bobcat Bite Restaurant
              420 Old Las Vegas Hwy, Santa Fe, NM 87505

              La Choza Restaurant
              905 Alarid St, Santa Fe, NM 87505

              Tecolote Cafe
              1203 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87505

              Horseman's Haven Cafe
              4354 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87507

              Tesuque Village Market
              PO Box 6400, Tesuque, NM 87574

              2 Replies
              1. re: rcurtism

                I have heard from several folks that Tesuque Village Market had gone downhill, a lot. I respectfully disagree that restaurants specialize in red OR green, that few do both well. Almost all restaurants I eat in [SF or ABQ] do about the same in both red and green. What will vary is the intensity of the chile, as each days' batch can and does vary. The time of the year influences it too, during harvest in August and September when the chile is made from freshly roasted is different that made from frozen chiles.

                -----
                Tesuque Village Market
                PO Box 6400, Tesuque, NM 87574

                1. re: DebitNM

                  I probably should have phrased that differently - I've found that I tend to develop a distinct preference for either red or green at all of our favorite spots, and once I classify a restaurant as either a "red chile place" or a "green chile place" those preferences rarely change. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're not doing both well.

                  I can only judge Tesuque Village Market based on breakfast, but I've been there at least half a dozen times in the last several months and their breakfast burritos and green chile are as good as anything in town. There are some other signs of slippage (their once excellent wine selection has dwindled down to a few random bottles, for example), but they still serve a good breakfast.

              2. Ghost Ranch near Abiqui provide lunch for the day (noon -1pm)

                2 Replies
                1. re: olla

                  Ghost Ranch food is not really a contender. It's very reminiscent of school lunches. They have improved slightly over the years but nothing commends it. I'm not sure you can just pop in for lunch, since there are various conferences (all going on at the same time during the summer and fall), when I've been there for conferences, all the chairs were full.

                  1. re: scottso

                    I was at Ghost Ranch for a workshop a couple of weeks ago. They do sell meal passes at the Front Desk for a single meal. In nice weather you can take your tray outside.
                    The kitchen staff was very helpful with my need for gluten free meals - they know their ingredients and made substitute main courses for me (usually a chicken cutlet grilled with olive oil). And their salad bar is pretty complete.
                    It isn't gourmet, but if you've been out hiking or sightseeing for hours, it's very acceptable.

                2. Just found out I have to stay at an airport hotel in ABQ for one night -- any good eats within a short drive of the Sunport? Anything open after 11:00 pm on a Friday night upon arrival?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Food Tourist

                    Frontier

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                    Frontier Restaurant
                    2400 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106

                    1. re: jjdot

                      Thanks jjdot. What should I order specifically that's really tasty and/or authentically-local?

                      1. re: Food Tourist

                        Anything on their "New Mexican" menu is good. They make their own tortillas right there. My personal faves are the carne adovada and the green chili stew.

                  2. Bodes in Abiquiu actually has a great frito pie - just have them make it fresh!
                    Dito almaluna's El Parasol rec, I get tacos there - worth the drive (2 hours from me!).
                    if you call and el faralito is open, they are good - great green cheeseburger or enchiladas - combo is nice too.
                    good luck!

                    1. I found some recs for:
                      Carne Adovada -- at Rancho de Chimayo (Chimayo), Horseman's Haven Cafe (Santa Fe), Frontier (ABQ), Leona's (Chimayo), Sadie's (ABQ), and Papa Felipe's Mexican (ABQ)

                      Frito pie -- Plaza Cafe (Santa Fe), Five & Dime General Store (Santa Fe), El Farolito (El Rito), Atomic Grill (Santa Fe), Stop and Eat Drive-In (Espanola)

                      Pancakes - Cafe Pasqual's, Inn of the Anasazi, Tecolote Cafe (all Santa Fe)

                      Green Chile Cheeseburgers -- Bobcat Bite , Bert's Burger Bowl, La Plazuela in La Fonda Hotel, Blue Corn Cafe and Brewery, Geronimo, Pink Adobe (all Santa Fe), Stop and Eat Drive-In (Espanola)

                      Horchata drink -- El Norteno (ABQ)

                      Huevos Rancheros -- Frontier (ABQ), Duran Central Pharmacy (ABQ)

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                      Bobcat Bite Restaurant
                      420 Old Las Vegas Hwy, Santa Fe, NM 87505

                      The Pink Adobe
                      406 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                      El Farolito Restaurant
                      1212 Main, El Rito, NM 87530

                      Tecolote Cafe
                      1203 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87505

                      El Norteno
                      6416 Zuni Rd SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108

                      Bert's Burger Bowl
                      235 N Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                      Atomic Grill
                      103 E Water St Ste A, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                      Cafe Pasqual's
                      121 Don Gaspar Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                      Horseman's Haven Cafe
                      4354 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87507

                      La Fonda
                      100 E San Francisco St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                      Papa Felipe's Mexican Restaurant
                      9800 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87112

                      1. More recs I found:

                        sopaipillas -- at Plaza Cafe and Tortilla Flats (Santa Fe), El Farolito, Rancho de Chimayo

                        tamale pie - Papa Felipe (ABQ), Graham's Grille (Taos)

                        -----
                        El Farolito Restaurant
                        1212 Main, El Rito, NM 87530

                        Tortilla Flats
                        3139 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87507

                        Graham's Grille
                        106 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM 87571

                        1. Thanks to everyone for your kind help. My favourite meal of the entire trip was the red chile chicken guacamole enchilada with Mexican corn "pudding", heavenly sopaipilla (melt-in-your-mouth, not chewy) and phenomenal peach-blueberry pie at Guadalupe Cafe. The toothless server was so friendly and the meal is still memorable a month later. I wish I had returned to eat there instead of trying a few other places.

                          I also loved the atole pinon blue corn pancake and jalapeno bacon at Tecolote Cafe. I enjoyed chatting with a local lady at the communal table. She gave me a few suggestions, too.

                          Sunflower Market was a great source of interesting beers, and the manager took me in the back to see single bottles that were on sale (75 cents each x 6). Keane's market beside Ohori's was far too expensive and had less selection.

                          Ohori's Coffee became my go-to place for lattes. I found the medium size latte with 2 shots on request to be acceptable. They roast on-site and only have 2 locations.

                          Trader Joe's was also a thrill. Under-$5 wines, especially.

                          Managed a quick visit to the Santa Fe Farmers' Market one Saturday at noon, just as they were closing. The pie vendor (indoors) makes a terrific apricot-raspberry pie. All the vendors looked delish.

                          Frontier Restaurant in ABQ had terrific food - green chile cheeseburger and, best of all, carne adovada burrito. Their cinnamon roll was a little too rich and buttery for my liking. Unfortunately I got splashed by a busboy plonking dirty dishes into the rolling slop bucket. I actually liked the Bert's Burger Bowl green chile cheeseburger the best of the 3 I tried because of the chargrilled taste. Blake's Lotaburger also had a decent version. I drove around and got lost one evening for an hour searching for food, and got to Bobcat Bite long after closing time, sadly.

                          A companion's favourite was El Farolito and its tacos. Their frito pie was decent but not a favourite memory of mine and sopaipilla a bit too chewy. Also tried Bert's version of frito pie and was impressed by the deconstructed presentation -- everything stayed crispy and fresh before mixing together.

                          La Choza (combo platter with cheese enchilada, carne adovada, chile relleno) and Cafe Pasqual's brunch (chile relleno con huevos and black beans for $16) were average and Pasqual's is far too expensive for what you get. Ojo Caliente's Artesian restaurant had decent meals at a reasonable price for resort, but their slightly baking-soda-tasting blue corn pancake couldn't live up to the terrific one at Tecolote.

                          Matilda's was also disappointing. Their chicos is strictly corn kernels in a spicy liquid topped with chile. No beef and Matilda said there has never been beef in the chicos. So, being hungry, I attempted to order a beef taco and enchilada. The enchilada came meatless, so I suppose there was a communication breakdown. Neither was memorable.

                          Most boring meal was probably Graham's Grille in Taos. They cover everything with too much lettuce. Their tamale pie was not worth the effort to uncover. It was also one of the only upscale places I tried.

                          Got a free breakfast at Grand Albuquerque Airport Hotel as a compensation for several bumbling mixups at check-in. Terrific potatoes with the eggs.

                          Finally, every meal at Monastery of Christ in the Desert near Abiquiu was terrific. The monks in the kitchen really know what they are doing! It is so amazing to be served, and to eat in silence while listening to inspirational readings. They serve rice and a different version of beans each day, plus some kind of fabulous main course such as the most delicious chicken enchiladas. You can only get permission to eat there if you stay overnight in the guesthouse (rates start at $60 per night for a single.) They are farming organic hops, and serving some of their homegrown veggies and herbs in the meals.

                          -----
                          Bobcat Bite Restaurant
                          420 Old Las Vegas Hwy, Santa Fe, NM 87505

                          La Choza Restaurant
                          905 Alarid St, Santa Fe, NM 87505

                          El Farolito Restaurant
                          1212 Main, El Rito, NM 87530

                          Tecolote Cafe
                          1203 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87505

                          Bert's Burger Bowl
                          235 N Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                          Cafe Pasqual's
                          121 Don Gaspar Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                          Graham's Grille
                          106 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM 87571

                          1. , I have had some mixed meals at Cowgirl, it is funky fun. But the food and the service are mixed. El Farolito is great, but be ready for the atmosphere. The Artesian restaurant at Ojo Caliente is great, if there for lunch check out the fish tacos, and the buffalo burger with asadero cheese and green chile. Dinner is all good.

                            -----
                            El Farolito Restaurant
                            1212 Main, El Rito, NM 87530