Food Lovers Guide to Santa Fe - part one

One of the things we most like about living in Santa Fe is the robust food scene. Whether you’re coming for a visit or live here and want to work your way through local restaurants, our Food Lovers Guide to Santa Fe will help you navigate the restaurant scene from casual to upscale.

Recently Santa Fe was named to the lucky number seven spot in the 2016 in Travel + Leisure’s readers’ poll The Best Cities for Food in the United States. This T+L reader hit it on the head. “For a small city the restaurant and food selections are outstanding.” While they mentioned Northern New Mexican specialties such as carne adovada, the city’s culinary scene goes way beyond the time-honored chile-based regional cuisine.

Huevos barbacoa at Cafe Pasquals, photo Steve Collins

Huevos barbacoa at Cafe Pasquals, photo/Steve Collins

One of the things we love most about the food scene here and why we wanted to write a food lovers guide to Santa Fe is the restaurant community’s growing commitment to locally grown and produced food. You’ll find locally grown and raised food in restaurants in all price ranges. Due to the cost of ingredients it’s more prevalent in more expensive eateries. Even when not farm-fresh, there’s a lot of intriguing food to sample as you eat your way through the city.

We’ve broken the Food Lovers Guide to Santa Fe down by categories and listed them alphabetically. Some restaurants fit the bill in multiple genres so we put them where they made the most sense to us. This is part one of what will be a continuing series.

Our Food Lovers Guide to Santa Fe

Upscale eateries

Steak and pommes frites at 315, photo Steve Collins

Steak and pommes frites from the bar menu at 315, photo/Steve Collins

When we first arrived in Santa Fe over a dozen years ago we wanted to celebrate our 30th anniversary in style. We asked locals what the best spot was for a special dinner. Two names kept coming up. One was Geronimo and the other 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar (then known as Bistro 315). We opted for Geronimo, but on our next special occasion a few months later, tried them out. We’ve had dozens of meals here over the ensuing years and they’ve all been good. Chef/owner Louis Moskow is committed to fresh and local; we’ve often run into him at the Santa Fe Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. This summer we discovered their bar menu. All dishes are priced at $8 or you can get five for $35. We were full after two dishes one evening. We wanted to know if the five dish deal would work for four, so we recruited two friends. We cheated a bit ordering a few oysters and one dessert which we shared. Under $50 (without drinks) for four people is a deal in Santa Fe! There’s an interesting wine list with good selections by the glass. There’s also a full bar. In summer, grab a table on the patio or under the front portal.

401 dining room, photo Steve Collins

401’s dining room, photo/Steve Collins

One of the newest entries on the Santa Fe dining scene, 401 Fine Neighborhood Dining, opened in May. When I called the newly opened eatery to get information for our monthly Tidbits post Chef Laura (pronounced Lao-ra) answered the phone. Her contagious enthusiasm and love for food won me over immediately. When she invited us to dinner we jumped at the invitation. The food on the frequently changing menu reflects both what’s in season and inspiring to the chef. Licona says she lets the food speak to her. Based on our dining experience, the dialogue is going well. Service was friendly and knowledgable and the wine list interesting. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Geronimo, photo Steve Collins

Geronimo sits near the end of Canyon Road, photo/Steve Collins

Geronimo is probably the best known destination restaurant in Santa Fe. They’ve been wowing diners with their seasonal “global eclectic” menu accompanied by an impressive wine list and impeccable service for several decades. Set in the historic Borrego House built in 1756, the ambiance is Santa Fe meets upscale meets timeless chic. Each of the three dining rooms has its own distinct flavor. Our favorite in winter: the sophisticated front dining room with its cozy banquettes and sophisticated feel. In summer, we love to dine on the front porch (called the portal in these parts), with its people-watching opportunities and often cooling breezes. Reservations are a must at this hot spot and are often hard to come by, especially in summer. For something a bit more casual and lighter on the wallet, dine in the intimate bar. Arrive early or be prepared to wait.

Dining room at Restaurant MartÍn, photo Steve Collins

One of the dining rooms at Restaurant MartÍn, photo/Steve Collins

Restaurant Martín, owned by Chef Martín Rios and his wife Jennifer, is a favorite with both locals and visitors. Chef Martín grew up in Santa Fe kitchens, starting as a teenage dishwasher. He studied at the Culinary Institute of America and eventually wended his way back here. After making a mark in many local kitchens including the Old House and Geronimo, he went out on his own. The restaurant was an immediate success. The dining rooms in the adobe former home have minimalist feel; bare white walls are adorned by contemporary art. Chef Martín’s “Progressive American Cuisine” features creatively prepared fresh and seasonal food. The chef’s mission: to enhance the food’s natural flavors while not overpowering them. His food is consistently pleasing to both palate and eyes. In summer, we recommend dining on the back patio. They also offer lunch on weekdays and brunch on Sundays. They’re closed on Mondays.


Fresh and local

Breakfast at Cafe Pasqual's, photo Steve Collins

Breakfast at Cafe Pasqual’s, photo/Steve Collins

While the Mexican-inspired ambiance at the tiny and rather crowded Café Pasqual’s, is casual, the food is anything but. Chef/owner Katherine Kagel, who has been called “the Alice Waters of Santa Fe,” has been offering her organic, globally-influenced cuisine for almost four decades. The place is almost always overflowing with a mix of dedicated locals and visitors who have heard about the magic at this culinary hot spot. There’s usually a wait for a table for breakfast and lunch’ they don’t accept reservations. If you don’t mind eating with random strangers, you can sometimes score a seat of two at the community table, a place where friendships and even marriages have begun. Dinner is by reservation only and tables are often booked well in advance. The food is all organic, much of it locally sourced and often globally inspired. It’s a great addition to any Santa Fe dining itinerary.

Dr. Field Goods forno, photo Steve Collins

Dr. Field Goods wood-fired forno, photo/Steve Collins

The ambiance of a neighborhood diner teams up with a nose to tail locavore philosophy at Chef Josh Gerwin’s Dr. Field Good’s Kitchen. It’s unlikely location: a strip mall on Cerrillos Road about 15 minutes from the Plaza. It’s worth the drive! The eclectic, casual menu at the almost always hopping eatery includes pizzas (they have a huge wood-fired oven in the open kitchen); interesting small plates such as chips, dips, salads and carne adovada egg rolls; some of the best onion rings we’ve ever eaten and amply-sized sandwiches including the goat torta and the Bad Ass BLT made with ground bacon (and not for the faint of heart) that can be shared by people with moderate appetites. This is just a drop in the bucket. It’s a diverse menu! There are also a few taco and enchilada offerings. Most of the food, including the meat, is locally sourced. Gerwin does his own butchering at Dr. Field Good’s Butcher Shop and Bakery, located a few doors down. The shop sells the meat as well as house-made charcuterie and in-house baked breads. You can also grab a quick lunch at the shop’s lunch counter. Dr. Field Good’s Kitchen serves lunch and dinner daily.

Vinaigrette, photo Steve Collins

Vinaigrette sits on tiny Don Cubero Alley, photo/Steve Collins

Salad lovers will love Vinaigrette – A Salad Bistro, on tiny Don Cubero Alley off Cerrillos Road, was a success from the moment Harvard graduate Erin Wade opened the doors in 2008. Wade grows many of the organic ingredients for the wide variety of salads on offer at her family’s Nambe farm. The somewhat loud, very California contemporary dining room is almost always crowded; people love the simple, healthy fare. Menu headings include Seasonal Salads, Bright & Zippy, Savory and A Little Sweet. Diners can add meat, seafood or other extras to salads. In addition, there are a few starts and sides, soups and sandwiches. The back patio is lovely in summer. The Vinaigrette formula was so successful that Wade opened branches in Albuquerque and Austin, Texas. They serve lunch and dinner every day but Sunday.

Northern New Mexican

Atrisco Cafe Bar, courtesy Atrisco Cafe Bar

Atrisco Cafe Bar, photo/courtesy Atrisco Cafe & Bar

Café Atrisco is owned by George Gundry, son of Georgia Maryol who opened the iconic Tomasitas in the 1970s. (George runs that eatery as well). What makes Atrisco special is their commitment to locally sourced food whenever possible, specifically their beef, lamb and chiles. They’re the only New Mexican eatery in Santa Fe with lamb on the menu. Look for their costillas (lamb ribs) special. They’re a local tradition. They’re open daily for lunch and dinner and breakfast on weekends.

Rancho de Chimayó, photo Steve Collins

The enclosed porch at Rancho de Chimayó, photo/Steve Collins

Family-owned and run Rancho de Chimayó, who celebrated their 50th anniversary last fall and is designated a James Beard American Classic has been a local favorite for decades. It’s about 35 minutes from Santa Fe, but you can combine it with a visit to Chimayó which is high on our to-do recommend list. The extensive menu is based on old family recipes handed down for generations. Try the carne adovada, a classic Northern New Mexico comfort dish or my favorite, the stuffed sopapilla with shredded beef smothered in green chile. I pay extra to get all meat as I don’t like rice and beans in it and ask for them on the side. In winter we prefer the glassed in former porch and in summer, the outdoor terraced patio. Reservations are highly recommended. They serve lunch and dinner daily and breakfast on weekends.

The Shed, photo Steve Collins

The colorful entrance to The Shed on East Palace Avenue, photo/Steve Collins

The Shed is a Santa Fe favorite for locals and a destination for visitors. Located in the historic Sena Building a block from the Plaza, the small charming dining rooms are always filled with diners eating New Mexico’s version of comfort food. Lunch is first-come-first-served but they accept reservations for dinner; tables book up in advance. You can always sit at the bar sipping on a margarita and nibble on chips and salsa, guacamole or other appetizer and hope a table turns up. They do save a few for walk-ins. Sopapilla fans take note, they don’t serve them here. Meals come with garlic bread- it’s a tradition with a story behind it. If you’re a sopapilla fan, their sister restaurant, La Choza, opened in the Railyard District in the 1980s serves these plump fried dough pillows with entrees.

We’ll be adding to this post as we have dining experiences we feel worthy of the list. Santa Fe has so many worthwhile restaurants, we decided to break our Food Lovers Guide to Santa Fe into several parts. Next time we’ll share our world cuisine picks.

Author’s note: Over the years as concierges and then food writers we’ve eaten in many of these places as guests of the management. We did not accept any meals specifically for our Food Lovers Guide to Santa Fe. These are restaurants that we love and frequent and wanted to share with readers.





14 Responses to “Food Lovers Guide to Santa Fe - part one”

  1. Donna Janke
    September 12, 2019 at 4:02 pm #

    Well, I’m hungry now. I’m saving this for the next time I’m in Santa Fe. I hope I’ll be able to spend a few days and have time to try several of the restaurants.
    Donna Janke recently posted..Mass Appeal: Concerts for the Public by the PublicMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      September 12, 2019 at 4:08 pm #

      Made me hungry, too. We’ll keep updating this post as well as add other ones in the series- stay tuned. Let me know when you come visit.

  2. Ryan Biddulph
    September 16, 2019 at 7:36 am #

    Hi Billie,

    Wood-fired stove pizza! I am in! One of the world’s most pleasing foods. I always enjoy a slice - or pie 😉 - of pizza prepared in a wood-fired stove.

    Thanks for sharing and for bumping up lunch time on my sked LOL!


  3. Jill Browne
    September 18, 2019 at 8:20 pm #

    Santa Fe sounds delicious, warm, and welcoming. 😉 I

  4. Janice Chung
    September 19, 2019 at 4:46 am #

    Billie, I love all your posts about Sante Fe and see you as the “ambassador” for the city with all your posts about places to dine at and see. Love the prices too! 315 Wine and Restaurant Bar’s price of $50 for 4 people IS a deal and usually unheard of, particularly for a place that locals love.
    Janice Chung recently posted..The Most Beautiful Villages Of France: Visiting All The Villages Before I DieMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      September 19, 2019 at 8:48 am #

      Thanks for the kind words, Janice. The bar special is one of the best deals in town- especially at a restaurant of 315’s caliber. You can get some great deals at Happy Hours around town and we’ll be writing about them in the future, but this deal is all evening every day. Wine and cocktails can take that bill up considerably.

  5. Charles McCool
    September 19, 2019 at 8:02 am #

    I love eating in Santa Fe but only pop in every decade or so. Nice to see suggestions from someone who lives there. I should go back soon!
    Charles McCool recently posted..5 Minutes With Suze of Luxury ColumnistMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      September 19, 2019 at 8:49 am #

      Is your decade almost up? In the last 10 years the food scene had changed radically thought some of the tried and true places are still here. Time to come back!

  6. Suzanne Fluhr
    September 23, 2019 at 11:29 am #

    I dunno, Billie, during our visit to Santa Fe, I found them sneaking chiles into almost everything, supporting the city’s “time-honored chile-based regional cuisine”. My wimped out palate (no chile!) is why you had to take us to an Italian restaurant. 😉
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted..Touring Iceland’s Golden Circle Route from ReykajvikMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      June 18, 2019 at 11:05 am #

      We could have taken you to way more interesting places if it hadn’t been for that wimpy palate or yours.

  7. Susan Moore
    September 23, 2019 at 6:57 pm #

    I’m looking forward to trying some of these restaurants next week! I haven’t been to Santa Fe since 2009 so it will be great to check out the food scene again.
    Susan Moore recently posted..Don’t Look at Me Like You’ve Never Seen a Naked Woman BeforeMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      September 24, 2019 at 9:29 am #

      Check with us- there are a bunch of restaurants that I love that aren’t in part one.

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