Dining al fresco: casual patio dining in Santa Fe

This post- part one of Dining al fresco: casual patio dining in Santa Fe was updated and republished on 4/12/2019. Read part part two.

Santa Fean’s love dining outdoors! So do the many visitors who flock to The City Different when the weather warms up. The skies are blue, the air is clear and there’s no better place to chow down on a balmy, or even hot, day as long as there’s a breeze. Here are some of the best spots for casual patio dining in Santa Fe. (The list is alphabetical.)

Anasazi Restaurant

casual patio dining in Santa Fe" Inn of the Anasaz photo courtesy Rosewood Hotelsi

Great people watching from the Anasazi patio, photo/courtesy Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi

The patio at the Anasazi Restaurant at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi offers casual dining with a casual menu. The inn’s restaurant, offering American fusion with New Mexican accents, is more formal. If you want to dine more casually at this upscale eatery, head for the patio on Washington Avenue. Just a half-block from the historic Plaza it offers great people watching. Sometimes you may even see a famous face you recognize. All sorts of celebs have stayed at the Anasazi over the years. The restaurant has full bar service and locals love their cocktails. They also have a comprehensive selection of tequilas. While the Anasazi welcomes reservations for their restaurant, patio seating is based on availability.

Cowgirl BBQ

casual dining patios in Santa Fe -- Cowgirl BBQ patio photo/ courtesy Cowgirl

Soaking up the sun on the patio at Cowgirl, photo/ courtesy Cowgirl Cafe

Cowgirl BBQ is a popular Santa Fe spot. The large, eclectic menu runs from BBQ (smoked on-site) to Tex-Mex with lots of options in between. There are two outdoor dining areas: the front patio and the fenced kiddie corral in the back. The front patio, overlooking Guadalupe Street, is where almost everyone wants to sit in warm weather. Dining with young children? Head for the back forty. Kids (up to age seven or eight) love this small, enclosed space with picnic tables and neat things to play on. When our grandsons visited when they were younger, their first words when they got off the plane were “Kiddie corral, kiddie corral”. Their parents liked it too; they could sit and relax over margaritas and food while the kids enjoyed themselves. Cowgirl has live music in the bar most nights and sometimes there’s live music out on the patio. Reservations are recommended, especially for the kiddie corral.

Coyote Cafe’s Rooftop Cantina

Enjoying the food at Coyote Cafe’s Rooftop Cantina, photo/courtesy Coyote Cantina

Coyote Café’s Rooftop Cantina is a hopping place on summer nights; a place to see and be seen. There are tables if you are there for a casual bite as well as bar-style seating around the roof-edge if drinking is your preference. The same Mexican-influenced, reasonably-priced menu is served all day and they have great specialty drinks. The Cantina is open for lunch and dinner seasonally from mid-April to mid-October.

Harry’s Roadhouse

Casual patio dining in Santa Fe - The backyard dining area at Harry's Roadhouse photo Steve Collins

The backyard dining area at Harry’s Roadhouse photo/Steve Collins

If you want to get a bit our of town on your quest for casual patio dining in Santa Fe, head for Harry’s Roadhouse .It’s a local legend! No matter what time you arrive at Harry’s it’s bustling. The reasonably priced menu is eclectic, from enchiladas to steak, pizzas and burgers and lots in between. Check out the weekly specials. Sometime they’re incredible, sometime they miss the mark, but they are almost always worth a try. The place is funky; each dining room has its own character. In warm weather the back yard is the place to be. Tables are set amidst lush plantings, trees and water features. Plan to wait if you want to sit out here. Plan to wait if you want a table anywhere — but the wait an outside table will be longer. Don’t want a long wait? Harry’s takes reservations for parties of six people or more. If you don’t want to wait, come early or later when the crowds have thinned. The restaurant is open daily. Grab a drink at the bar and wait for that patio table while sipping on their front patio.

La Choza

Casual pation dining in Santa Fe - Relaxing on La Choza's patio, photo courtesy La Choza

Relaxing on La Choza’s patio, photo/ courtesy La Choza

Want to try the local New Mexican cuisine? Head for La Choza, the sister restaurant to The Shed (featured in part two of this post on casual patio dining in Santa Fe), located track-side on a small street at the western edge of the Railyard District. It has long been popular with locals. It was never as crowded as The Shed, but with the coming of a full bar license and the growing popularity of the Railyard, that’s changed a bit. The good news: they now accept reservations. The tree-shaded patio is a wonderful oasis. Sit and enjoy a margarita and some tasty local fare. La Choza (and The Shed) is famous for its red chile. Order the Stacked Blue Corn Carne Adovada Enchiladas smothered in green or red chile and prepare to enjoy. Warning; taste the chile first, it can be hot.  Reservations are strongly recommended. If you have to wait, order a margarita (you can even design your own) and some chips and salsa.

Museum Hill Cafe

Casual patio dining in Santa Fe -Enjoying lunch at the Museum Hill Cafe, photo Steve Collins

Enjoying lunch at the Museum Hill Cafe, photo/Steve Collins

For casual patio dining in Santa Fe coupled with panoramic mountain views, head for the Museum Hill Café. The café sits on the raised Millman Plaza between the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Art and Culture. Two other museums, Spanish Colonial Art and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. The Santa Fe Botanical Garden also calls Museum Hill Home.

Hints for casual patio dining in Santa Fe

  • State your patio preference when making your reservation (if the restaurant takes them) .
  • Dine early; it’s easier to get an outdoor table before the restaurant gets busy.
  • Outside space is at a premium so prepared to wait.
  • Even restaurants that take reservations generally won’t promise patio seating due to limited space -  they cannot predict with accuracy how fast tables will turn over.
  • If a table inside won’t do and you have to have that casual patio dining in Santa Fe experience  but a table isn’t available right away, grab a seat at the bar and sip a margarita or other cool drink while waiting. Even order an appetizer to take the edge off your appetite.

Authors’ note: As former hotel concierges and owners of a travel-related business in Santa Fe, the writers may have been guests of restaurants mentioned in this post. This generous hospitality has not influenced this post in any way.


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4 Responses to “Dining al fresco: casual patio dining in Santa Fe”

  1. Lance
    June 11, 2019 at 8:45 am #

    Great view of many patio dining locals in town. Thanks. I think that one left off was Caffe Greco which has by far the best patio with a view to Canyon Road and for people watching on Canyon Road. PS. They boast the ‘best frito pie in Santa Fe’
    thanks for all you do.

    • Billie Frank
      June 15, 2019 at 8:13 am #

      We left a lot out, Lance. There are so many here. I love watching people go by sitting on Canyon Road. Thanks for adding the Greco here.

  2. Agness
    April 14, 2019 at 1:13 pm #

    I love having BBQ with my friends and having a nice dish in a restaurant. Well, Santa Fe must be added to my bucket list, for sure! 🙂
    Agness recently posted..5 Reasons to Travel by Bus in the USAMy Profile

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