Santa Fe Restaurants, Dish by Dish
On a recent thread regarding recommendations for New Mexican dining in Santa Fe (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9179...) a discussion broke out regarding the fact that it is sometimes easier to find good specific dishes for NM cuisine than an overall best restaurant. It started with this comment from finlero:
"It took me several years living in NM to have an "aha moment" that different NM restaurants have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to specific dishes. Once place might kick butt with its carne adovada burrito with red, but its chiles rellenos in green might suck. So while there's a lot of healthy debate on CH and elsewhere about "best NM food", that's kind of a huge oversimplification."
So let's try it. Restaurant by restaurant and dish by dish, who do you think does what well, and poorly?
I'll start with a few:
Best heuvos rancheros of my life at Tesuque Village Market
Amazing red chilli chicken tamale at Cafe Pasquals
Excellent vegetarian tamales at El Parasol, and hands down the best posole I've had
Anyone had good experiences with menudo? The version I had at Atrisco was passable, but not amazing.
It's probably the only dish of its kind on any Santa Fe restaurant menu, but for my money the roast lamb burrito at Atrisco deserves classic status. The red chile is brighter and less earthy than La Choza but still intensely flavorful, and the lamb really tastes like lamb (I believe it may be sourced from the excellent Shepherd's Lamb in Tierra Amarilla).
Agree with finlero wholeheartedly on the overall excellence of Plaza Café Southside. If you can force yourself to pass on their superb green chile they also do a textbook rendition of huevos divorciados.
There's a lot to like about the Ranch House but one dish I am particularly fond of is their green chile brisket burrito. It's the only way I know of to get a green chile and brisket fix now that my beloved Hidden Chicken is closed, and when they get the chile right (i.e. hot) it can be a great plate of food.
In the guilty pleasure department I do have a soft spot for the Pantry Burger at the Pantry/Los Amigos - an open faced burger smothered with red chile and cheese served with curly fries. It's kind of a gloppy mess, but sometimes hits the spot.
At Plaza Cafe Southside, virtually every dish containing green chile is excellent, I don't love its red chile. The restaurant tends to be remarkably soft spoken about its use of highest-quality, locally sourced ingredients, but you could make the case it's a modern, upscale, gourmet restaurant pretending to slum it as a diner. Everything here is terrific, helped immeasurably by the fact that all the baked goods are done in-house. And I love the printed paper sign up in the open kitchen that reads, in English and Spanish, "If it isn't perfect, don't serve it!"
My Plaza Cafe Southside favorites:
* Breakfast burrito with bacon and extra-hot green.
* Cheese enchiladas with green.
* Green chile cheeseburger with bacon (served on their amazing homemade potato roll).
The only good chiles rellenos I've had recently were at Mary & Titos in Albuquerque.
Los Amigos does a fantastic all-day "breakfast sandwich" (scrambled eggs, bacon, and green chile in a folded tortilla). I don't love their green chile sauce, but I do love their outstanding fresh salsa, which goes great on this dish.
My favorite carne adovada in the area is at El Rancho de Chimayo.
Cheese enchiladas at La Choza are outstanding on a good day, but quality can be very variable. I prefer the red chile here, both floral and bitter.
And why not: my favorite margaritas are at La Choza or the Shed, and I also enjoy the fancy green chile margarita at the Staab House in the La Posada hotel.
I was served menudo by mistake at Garcia's in ABQ. I had ordered posole. I had taken a few spoonfuls when the waitress ran over and grabbed the bowl and said sorry. She returned with the posole. When I asked what it was and she told me, I then knew what those little icky chunks were and knew I would NEVER eat it again. Blech! My husband and I latter laughed and thought that the waitress had a good story to tell her family that night at dinner about the poor blonde, green eyed gringa that she served menudo to by mistake that day. :)