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Jun 27, 2011 02:25 PM

Santa Fe Top Five

I'm spending three days in Santa Fe in August. Which of these would you recommend for three dinners and two lunches? Any others I should consider? I'm basically looking for a good sampling of Santa Fe cuisine, with no budgetary restrictions. I am staying at the Hotel St. Francis, 210 Don Gaspar Avenue.


The Shed

The Pantry

La Boca

Restaurant Martin


San Marcos Cafe

Anasazi Restaurant

Coyote Cafe


Trattoria Nostrani

Cafe Cafe

La Boca
72 West Marcy Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Trattoria Nostrani
304 Johnson Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Restaurant Martin
526 Galisteo, Santa Fe, NM 87501

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  1. My family owned a house in SF for almost 20 years and I used to spend a good portion of the year there. It's a great city, and I don't think you'll be disappointed, dining-wise, but...

    Unfortunately, I think your list misses out on some of the best places in SF! I haven't been to some of the places on your list, but there are others that I would scrap, namely The Shed, The Pantry, Anasazi, and Cafe Cafe.

    Please consider adding Geronimo, Santacafé, Compound, (all are fine dining), Tecolote (better breakfast than anywhere else in town!), Bobcat Bite (best green chili cheesebuger), El Meson (great Spanish), il Piatto (best Italian), Tomasita's (Mexican), and Maria's (Mexican), and perhaps if you want/need a steak, the Steaksmith at El Gancho. We lived around the corner for years, so it was a go-to—I may be a bit jaded by it.

    Just curious, where did you get most of your recommendations from? They aren't the typical SF recs.

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

    Tecolote Cafe
    1203 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87505

    El Meson
    213 Washington Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501

    500 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

    3 Replies
    1. re: loratliff

      I compiled my list from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles on Santa Fe.

      Thanks for your recommmendations. I'll certainly look into them!

      1. re: H Manning

        I like La Choza better than The Shed.
        For Italian - Andiamo!
        O'Keeffe Cafe is a delight.
        La Boca, is small, noisy and meh.
        Vinaigrette is good for lunch or light dinner. Excellent salads.
        Nostrani - don't wear any scents, no perfume, aftershave etc.
        Max's and 315 Restaurant are top notch and should be included.
        Chocolate Maven for breakfast or lunch

        322 Garfield Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

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

        315 Restaurant & Wine Bar
        315 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501

        O'Keeffe Cafe
        217 Johnson Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

        Chocolate Maven Bakery & Cafe
        821 W San Mateo Rd Ste C, Santa Fe, NM 87505

    2. Short report: although I usually don't "review" restaurants based on a single visit, for what it's worth my best meals were at Tabla de los Santos (in the St. Francis hotel) and La Boca. I wasn't quite bowled over by Santacafe, Trattoria Nostrani, and Coyote Cafe (i.e. the food was pleasing but not particularly memorable). I plan to return soon so I'll keep this thread in mind. Thanks again for your suggestions.

      La Boca
      72 West Marcy Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

      Trattoria Nostrani
      304 Johnson Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

      2 Replies
      1. re: H Manning

        We had a fabulous meal last night at The Compound. Put that on your TO DO list. I have a review on here.


        1. re: DebitNM

          This is a good thread. Compound is definitely on my list for my upcoming visit.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. Finally made it to Restaurant Martin and.... was disappointed. Tons of ambition... EVERYTHING served with a foam, a broth, an emulsion. NO SAUCES! On each plate I ordered there WAS something delicious. But finding it among all the OTHER things on the plate, not always so easy. Every plate was overdone.... Why put one garnish when you can put five, or eight, seems to be the chef's philosophy. Therefore, harmony on the plate was missing.

          For my starter I had Crispy Washington State Oysters Foraged Lobster and Smoked Salmon Dumpling, Soy Beans, English Cucumbers, Fennel-Oyster Foam. A lot of stuff, right? the one delicious item was, in this case, the foarm. Not sure how the dumpling and oysters went together. In fact, I'm quite sure they didn't. Too many flavors in this dish at war with each other. For my entree,Pan Seared Sea Bass English Sweet Potato Flan, Chioggia Beets, Kalamata Olive Crumbs, Spinach, Citrus-Ginger Froth. The olive crumbs: amazing. The froth, pretty tasty. the sea bass itself, kind of dry. For dessert: Caramelized Apricot Panna Cotta Lemon-Poppyseed Cake, Coconut Milk Foam, Hibiscus Sorbet. That poppyseed cake, yum. But again, a lot of stuff in one dessert, no? My wife's appetizer of Chilled Spring Pea Soup Mexican Prawn Salad, Meyer Lemon, Fennel Sponge Cake, Greek Yogurt, American Caviar was pretty tasty.

          My takeaway: this chef would benefit from practicing the art of restraint.

          Tonight heading to Osteria Nostrani where I had a stellar meal a few years ago. Chef Nellie there is a master of restraint, or was. It will be interesting to go back. Santacafe for brunch tomorrow. La Boca lunch today. Geronimo last time I was in town was very good. But as for Martin, don't think I'll be heading back.

          La Boca
          72 West Marcy Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

          Restaurant Martin
          526 Galisteo, Santa Fe, NM 87501

          1 Reply
          1. re: SethCagin

            Things must have changed, it was not all that fussy when we went last year:


          2. Here now is the great mystery (to me) of the Santa Fe dining scene. Why is Trattoria Nostrani NOT by far the King of the Hill?

            My wife and I ate there tonight for only the second time. The first time was about six years ago -- a meal I still remember with great clarity. Haven't made it back since because I've been in Santa Fe with my octogenarian parents and my father reeks of cologne and Trattoria is a "scent free" restaurant so it's not worth the effort of getting the old man to lay off the scent which meant we went to other good places: Geronimo, The Pink Adobe, Luminaria.... The scent free policy at Nostrani is part of the mystery. Some people clearly feel this is the height of pretentiousness and they don't get past it. What kind of restaurant enforces a scent-free policy? One that takes itself just a tad too seriously? Or, at best, just an eccentricity. Much discussion on this point over the years in posts about Trattoria Nostrani. Suffice it to say: doesn't bother me a bit. But perhaps this is one reason that this restaurant does not get all the renown and credit it deserves: because the scent-free thing dominates the chatter.

            I believe, now that I had dinner last night at Restaurant Martin, that I've been to most of the top restaurants in town. Martin and Nostrani are polar opposites. At Nostrani the food is deceptively simple, with a lot of clarity in the presentation. A dandelion soup was simplicity itself: a powerful boquet of broth, greens, onion and parmesan. Cocoa ravioli filled with beets was a masterpiece, an absolutely unforgettable dish, with three strong flavors in fabulous harmony: the beets sweeter than the cocoa, and butter. And executed perfectly. Finally, my entree of braised octopus was outstanding, its flavor remarkably deep.

            To me, chef Nelli Maltezos simply demonstrates an astoundingly sophisticated palate, a rare gift for the interplay of flavors and textures that elevates a restaurant to greatness: like Couchon in New Orleans, or Au Pied de Couchon in Montreal, or Piccolo in Minneapolis, or Frasca in Boulder, or The Spotted Pig in New York, and like noplace else I've dined in Santa Fe.

            But in those other cities, those other restaurants are justly celebrated. Nostrani has its fans, for sure, but having now had two outstanding meals there, six years apart, I don't get why it isn't widely and indisputably recognized as the best of the best.

            If anyone out there can make a case for a more talented chef working in Santa Fe, I sure would like to hear it. I'd buy an argument that there are others who are plenty talented. And I would agree that Santa Fe has a fabulous restaurant scene overall, especially for a city its size.

            But -- and this may well provoke an argument, not that I mean for it to do so -- I am left to wonder if Trattoria Nostrani is just too sophisticated to be fully appreciated in Santa Fe. Maybe this is more of an up and coming food city than one that has achieved true worldliness.

            Tomorrow for brunch: Santacafe and then back home... Maybe later, a report on La Boca, where we enjoyed lunch today. Yum!

            La Boca
            72 West Marcy Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

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

            Trattoria Nostrani
            304 Johnson Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

            Restaurant Martin
            526 Galisteo, Santa Fe, NM 87501

            6 Replies
            1. re: SethCagin

              Or maybe it's because Nostrani irritated too many people with attitude over the years. No one disputes they serve good food, or that it's run by a chef's chef. But, gee - various attitudinal issues (the scent-free thing is certainly one such) appear to crop up with frequency in folks' conversations and reviews of the place. Some folks find that off-putting - others may feel it adds value to their experience, for all I know.

              However, two meals in six years might not provide a sufficient basis to question whether folks discussing Nostrani are sophisticated enough to appreciate it simply because others might not have such effusive praise to spread. But, maybe you're right, and all those Santa Feans need to round out their worldliness by eating in Minneapolis. ;-)

              1. re: Erich

                You are right... two meals do not support an unqualified rave -- if I were a food critic publishing a review. But.... still, the two best meals I've ever had in SF. As for attitude, never saw it either time I was there. The scent thing is the only evidence I've seen for it, which is why I wrote about it. As for sophistication: was just in MPLS, and a very lively food scene! I love Santa Fe and its foodie sophistication. (Was blown away by the Farmers Market yesterday.) That's precisely why I was writing to express my mystification over the evident preference many SF foodies express for Martin over Nostrani.

              2. re: SethCagin

                If you don't mind my asking, what dinner your evening cost you at Nostrani?

                Personally, I would have no problem with the scent thing. I haven't eaten there [since moving here in 2001] but not for that reason.

                1. re: DebitNM

                  Precisely the same $150 (including tip and moderately priced wine) for the two of us that we paid at Martin.

                  1. re: SethCagin

                    Thanks. I just looked at their menu, looks nice, but wow! desserts are crazy expensive, as much as some antipasti. I am guessing you didn't have dessert.

                    May have to check it out.