Santa Fe Dining

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Santa Fe Dining
Santa Fe is a destination for foodies, a place where high-profile chefs prepare seasonal menus and local mainstays serve classic regional cuisine with ingredients and influences from Mexico, Latin America, and the Mediterranean.
By Kate Donnelly, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Amanda Niehaus
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    Classic Santa Fe Cuisine
    The warm, intimate storefront of La Boca serves tapas and small plates. Don’t miss the blistered green chilies in olive oil, sea salt, and garlic, best enjoyed with a glass of white wine. At The Shed, tables are always in demand—as is the green chili stew. Don't miss their margaritas. Café Pasqual’s falls into various culinary categories but is most famous for its communal tables, Mexican folk art, enchiladas, and coffee.
    Photo by Amanda Niehaus
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    Charming Outdoor Caf├ęs
    If relaxing is on your agenda, there are plenty of charming, outdoor spots in Santa Fe. Inside the St. Francis Hotel, grab a seat at Tabla de Los Santos in the small courtyard. The menu offers plenty of down-home New Mexican choices. Lunch in the popular Santacafé courtyard comes with stellar people-watching. Slip into La Casa Sena’s tranquil courtyard for a mushroom tamale and glass of white wine. Coyote Café has a casual Rooftop Cantina, which is the perfect seasonal venue for a Lava Lamp—half beer and half margarita. Find a spot on the patio at Harry’s Roadhouse to enjoy grilled-salmon tacos; they also have a gluten-free menu. El Farol is a Canyon Road mainstay with a lovely patio.
    Photo courtesy of Hotel St. Francis
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    The Serious Business of Breakfast
    Breakfast is taken seriously in Santa Fe. Come morning, you will find huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, and burritos along with the standard eggs and home fries. Wake up early to beat the crowds to the top venues. Café Pasqual's—one of town's most beloved breakfast spots—is a downtown corner mainstay perfect for huevos rancheros and organic coffee, while the popular, no-frills Tia Sophia's offers a choice of red or green sauce with your breakfast burrito; make sure to investigate their specials. Breakfast at La Plazuela in the historic La Fonda Hotel consists of superior food served in a charming room.
    Photo courtesy of Chris Corrie/La Fonda Hotel
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    Inventive Fine Dining
    Santa Fe has an inventive fine dining scene that continues to evolve. The venerable Geronimo is a handsome neutral space with adobe walls, soft lighting, and Kiva fireplaces. Try the elk tenderloin with applewood-smoked bacon, or the green miso sea bass—both are lovely. Down the street, try The Compound. Their outdoor patio is unbeatable in beautiful weather. The grilled rack of lamb, buttermilk roasted chicken, and the hamburger with avocado are all recommended. Terra, at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado, offers New Mexican cuisine steeped in rich Southwest traditions; it's a good option before heading to the opera. The celebrated Coyote Café on the Plaza is popular and serves French- and Asian-inspired food.
    Photo courtesy of Kitty Leaken/The Compound Restaurant
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    Food Trucks
    The food truck and portable dining movement is alive in Santa Fe, but unlike most food trucks in the country, these mobile eateries often stay parked in the same spot. El Chile Toreado, on Cordova Road, is always busy and has an amazing variety of tacos. At the corner of the Plaza, Roque’s Carnitas doles out carnitas with charcoal-cooked and marinated beef. You can't miss the bright orange truck of Bang Bite in the parking lot at Luna Center, at Cerrillos and Manhattan, forking out hearty chicken sandwiches and hamburgers. Sample the variety of fajitas with fresh guacamole and lemonade at El Molero, on the Plaza.
    Photo courtesy of Slurp
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    The Santa Fe School of Cooking
    The best way to sample any cuisine is to roll up your sleeves and prepare a meal yourself. Steps away from the historic Plaza, The Santa Fe School of Cooking hosts a roster of well-known and savvy chefs who demonstrate their techniques and share insights into their food. The tamale-making class is a crowd-pleaser, and locavore enthusiasts will appreciate using New Mexico-made products and Southwestern ingredients like chilies, jams, herbs, and spices. Outside of the kitchen, the school’s restaurant tours offer private tastings and a chef meet-and-greet.
    Photo courtesy of Santa Fe School of Cooking
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    French Food
    In a city known for its spicy, Southwestern flavors, French restaurants are a welcome surprise, and often put a local twist on traditional cuisine. Clafoutis French Bakery is a great spot to grab a takeout croque madame or salade niçoise. A seat outside at the charming Chez Mamou is a perfect spot to enjoy one of their delicious quiche. The authentic Bouche Bistro dishes out a hearty steak frites coupled with a caramelized shallot sauce. Restaurant Martin marries Southwestern flavors with French techniques to delicious results such as scallops with Spanish chorizo.
    Photo courtesy of Bouche Bistro
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    The Santa Fe Chocolate Trail
    The Santa Fe chocolate trail is bursting with taste. Kakawa Chocolate House is the place for hot chocolate served in handsome blue ceramic cups. A husband-and-wife duo owns the ChocolateSmith, which doles out unique bites like the dark chocolate green chili pistachio bark. Todos Santos Chocolates and Confections is famous for its milagros ("miracles," a kind of religious folk charm) in edible gold leaf and silver leaf. Terra at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado has devised a dessert that includes a pepper served on a bed of thinly shaved dark chocolate.
    Photo by Steven Barber
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    Craft Beers
    There’s a diverse array of established microbreweries and small brewpubs in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe Brewing Company is the oldest and most recognizable of the craft brew labels, with its distinct yellow can of Happy Camper IPA. Lighter palates will enjoy the Santa Fe Hefeweizen and crisp, drinkable Freestyle Pilsner. Those who enjoy a full-bodied brew will gravitate towards the Santa Fe Nut Brown and the Black IPA. Other local favorites include Blue Corn Brewery and The Second Street Brewery. It should be mentioned that a green-chili burger washes down nicely with any ale.
    Photo courtesy of Santa Fe Brewing Company
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    Red and Green Chilies
    In Santa Fe, chilies are everywhere. Your choice—red or green—will accompany chile rellenos, tamales, stuffed sopaipillas, and huevos rancheros. If you want to sample both, ordering the “Christmas” will result in a half-and-half dish. Most Santa Fe green chili sauces are made of chopped Hatch peppers, creating a spicy, punchy salsa. Red chili sauce is made from ripened, dried peppers, and results in a sweeter and smokier profile. Red ristras (strands of hanging chilies) are strung from adobe homes as a sign of hospitality. If you don’t like too much heat, add a dollop of sour cream or honey to your plate.
    Photo by Kate Donnelly