Rate these Santa Fe spots, please
Next week I am heading to Santa Fe for my annual trip. I know where I am eating but would like to get other Chowhound opinions on the following, some I like, some I love, some I barely tolerate. Thanks and I will post my thoughts later.
I am particularly interested in the "new" Coyote and Aqua Santa.
This is more of a rant than anything, but last night I had dinner with some friends at Il Piatto. It was inexpensive and enjoyable. Afterwards, one of my friends suggested dessert at Santacafe, just around the corner as he loves their creme brulee with a glass of port. We sat at the bar, and first of all, the bar smells!!! An old bar smell that has seeped into the cabinets and floor that does not go away with a damp rag. The creme brulees came, in oneida banquet soup cups!!! I am sorry but at $7.50 for a creme brulee, i think they should have appropriate china for service. I like mine in a shallow dish in order to get some crunch with each bite. This is the kicker: On the edge of my soup cup was a black smudge and a tiny piece of meat grizzle. They had picked up the cup in the kitchen with tongs that had previously been used at the grill!!! And not bothered to wipe it off!!! Dessert for four, with two ports and four glasses of dessert wine $160.00. A quick reveiw of their wine list showed Beringer Knights Valley cab at $63.00, wholesale cost of $14.00. Another Santa Fe restaurant that insults us with markups greater than one finds in NY or LV and lives off its reputation of five years ago.
Sorry about the rant.
Please try MuDu Noodle. If all you do when you come to Santa Fe is try the nationally hyped places, you will miss the local gems. Also, the Pyramid Cafe is great for Tunisian and Middle Eastern food. How about a brik? or homemade lamb merguez? or a $5.00 lunch buffet with felafel, great pita, lentil soup, tabouli and hummus? Their grilled green chile salad and cold carrot salad are fabulous.
You don't have to pay a fortune to dine in Santa Fe, but you do have to get out of the nationally-known restaurant rut.
Hey, you must not have read my recent Santa Fe trip report (posted on July 3rd) where I bragged on the Shed, Harry's Roadhouse and even the Bumblebee Cafe! Also raved about Aqua Santa which is very reasonable and, for some reason, almost totally ignored by the local "foodies." And, those of us who only get to SF a time or two per year are definitely still going to frequent the high end, well known places and for an obvious reason--they merit a special trip. That is why they are nationally known.
I can only chime in on Geronimo. I guess I've traveled too much and eaten too well, but frankly I was under-whelmed and would not eat there again.
The lahvosh they served was excellent and unusual. I enjoyed my Crab Cake appetizer and my husband's salad was simple but composed of fresh ingredients.
However, my salmon was blasé and I thought that the Elk (their signature dish) was over smoked. My dessert, a lemon mouse (although I would have called it a Bavarian Cream), was nice, but it sat on top of diced fruit that was decidedly unripe. I do give them snaps for the pistatio/white chocolate disc that topped my dessert....fun color plus good texture and taste.
I also have a serious issue with the cost of their wine. I don't care how swanky the wine cellar is, I think you do your customers a disservice when half bottles are running $50 +.
Finally, I would like to say how much I enjoyed the service. A number of people served our table. They were friendly and attentive without being obsequious. This part of the meal was perfect.
re: Carol Brand
I have traveled quite a lot and eaten pretty well, too, and I must say that my many visits to Geronimo were decidedly different other than in one regard. You are correct that the service is wonderful--always. Further, I have never had a bad meal there. As for wine, I agree that the prices are high but that seems to be a Santa Fe problem and not a Geronimo problem. I have posted my complaints on this site in the past and the consensus seems to be that a major reason for this is the New Mexico liquor law which prevent patrons from taking wine in or out of a restaurant. Also, many wine lists seem to be very similar which tells me that most restaurants use the same one or two suppliers. Finally, I would hope you would reconsider the statement that you would not eat at Geronimo again--I and many others agree that it is the best in the city.
re: Carol Brand
Just got back from a few days in Santa Fe. Had a wonderful meal at The Compound. Had a wonderful meal at Santa Cafe. Had a wonderful meal at Geronimo - although my husband complained that his fish was a little dry. But the food was the only thing that was positive about Geronimo's. We had some problems with the staff. We had booked our reservations through our hotel concierge almost 3 weeks before our vacation. We stayed at the Inn of the Anasazi, so we felt confident that having the concierge make the reservations would ensure a good table. When we got to Geronimo's, we were told they only had seats on the porch. Now, a meal in an enclosed courtyard on a beautiful summer evening (Santa Cafe) is great! But to sit on a porch and listen to motorcycles, trucks, and 4 by 4's pass by continually was a bit too noisy. And those pesky flies! And those gasoline fumes! Had we been eating a burger for lunch, okay. But at those prices! When we asked to change our table to sit inside, we were told that our concierge had "requested" outdoor seating. We didn't buy that - and our disbelief was justified, afer speaking to our concierge the following day. But the bottom line is they weren't accommodating - and they could care less! One woman hostessing told us we could wait a bit for an inside table. Then a second hostess told her and us absolutely not- we had requested an outside table and that was all they had! We ended up staying because we were hungry and we didn't know where else to go on such short notice. A restaurant is as good as it is until you have a bad meal - or a lousy experience....
I lived in NM back in '94-96. Our first Santa Fe dinner was at Geronimo, and the bad attitude was there even then. We had much better luck at the less pretensious Celebrations, just down the street from Geronimo. It became one of our favorite places. But then, indifference can be catching. A few years ago my wife and I returned to Santa Fe to celebrate our anniversary, and I made a reservation at Celebrations. My special request was for a certain table on the patio next to the Kiva, as this was where we always sat. I was looking forward to this, and was extremely dissapointed to find people sitting at the table upon our arrival and the hostess having NO CLUE that I had specifically reserved it. We decided to sit in another area of the patio and wait for them to leave at the suggestion of the Hostess, only to find out that the people sitting there were waiting for one of the servers to get off at the end of the night and had no intention of leaving until close. I know this was a minor thing, but it really bugged me and spoiled the evening for us.
As to your list...
Most notably, SantaCafe a place I've long endorsed. Well, good though it is it's not quite as good as it has been. I've had several recent meals that just weren't up to standards. Missing management? Cannot say why. Good. Very Good but nowhere near as good as Geronimo. Note that it pains me to say this.
Coyote Cafe continues to be very good; better for the presence of Mark Miller this season as he tries to keep things a-pace after the fallen-through sale to the Geronimo guys.
I hate Maria's except for excellent margaritas; food sucks.
Coyote Cantina is great for the most casual of southwestern food.
Palace is very good but VERY over-priced. Want to pay this much? Go to Geronimo!
Aqua Santa is an undiscovered gem. Owner previously owned Cafe Escalera, some years ago. Food is not overly fancy and, thus, a bit underpriced. Good, strong flavors; good wines. Do not go on a busy night; you want this place when they are NOT stressed. It can be great...
The Compound - well, I'm a contrarian. Chef Mark Kiffin got the Southwestern Section James Beard Award this year. Should be fabulous. I say, just very good. Way too ambitious in what they try. Too many flavors on the plate. It could be so much better. The place is very nice; the ambience terrific. The food is not up to the place. Remember, I said I'm a contrarian.
re: Sylvester Newel
My opinions are remarkably similar to those of Sylvester. I think Geronimo is the class of Santa Fe and has been for several years. As for food alone, the only place that comes close, IMO, is the Old House. But, the atmosphere is such there that we usually only eat there every third or fourth trip to SF. I agree that the Palace is too pricey but I do like going there for lunch. The roasted tomato soup there may be the single best dish in the city. Also, my last few trips to Santacafe (once my favorite place in Santa Fe) have been underwhelming. Service problems seem to be constant and the food just isn't what it once was. I am glad to hear your thoughts about Aqua Santa. I haven't been yet but am going next week. My wife and I loved Escalara and have high hopes for this venture. Finally, I did not know that the Coyote/Geronimo deal fell through. I am going to Coyote Cafe anyway because I have never experienced the problems reported here and elsewhere that others evidently have. I have dined there many times and only once have I had a meal that was other than excellent. Some locals seem to like to put down Coyote Cafe but I have always tried to be objective about it and everywhere else and I think it is a damn fine restaurant.
re: Brent Howard
Try Andiamo for a delicious, well-prepared and consistent treat. Not the hyper-hyped, but an excellent local's restaurant with nice wines. Also, the restaurants in the Old House-Geronimo-Compound category must deliver a great deal to justify the price, and by extention, sometimes don't deliver because of high expectations or some fluke.
Well for sure you picked out the top notch and popular places!!
Santacafe- My number one choice, especially on a nice warm day or evening to eat outside on the patio. less pretentious than Geronimo and far more affordable. better for lunch !!
Geronimo- My favorite spot , more for special occasions.....As it is pretty expensive, I cut costs by having aps and drinks at the cozy friendly bar.
Coyote Cafe- You mentioned a new "Coyote" ...It looks the same to me. I prefer the Cantina more. A little too much hype at the Coyote and there are better places to dine at in Santa Fe.
Coyote Cantina- I love this place!! Fun crowd, locals hang out, good cocktails but expensive for drinks. Okay for the casual meal and a drink.
Aqua Santa- Never tried it and haven't really heard many people here talk about it.
Compound- I've heard great things about this place. been there for lunch a few times, A great burger at a nice restaurant for a reasonable price at lunch. Bob Cat Bite is still top of the list of Best burger in the Southwest. (Santa Fe)
Maria's- Gone really down hill !! Still have best Margarita's in town.
Palace- Fabulous !! I love this place, it reminds me of bieng anywhere but Santa Fe. (Locals love it too !) We sort of get tired of "Santa Fe style" and New Mexican cuisine.