Santa Fe Restaurants: My Lists

The City Different, the ‘marketing tag line’ of Santa Fe, definitely lives up to its marketing message. The ‘difference’, at least for me, is encompassed in a plethora of elements: the diversity of the population (New Mexican, Mexican, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Asians), the calmness embedded in the beauty of the mountain environment, the clear air, and the need for a palette of a large variety of blue, red, orange, and white hues to paint or describe the always changing skies.

It is as close to a ‘Goldilocks’ city as we have lived in: relatively small with 85,000 people (city and county); nothing really more than 15 minutes away from anything else; cool mountain breezes even during hot Summer days (when the high temperatures only get into the mid-90s); no traffic jams (we are retired so folks driving during rush hours may dispute my claim); festivals of many kinds: music, wine, and chile; and celebrations of native people and their arts.

People come from all over the world throughout the year to The City Different to take in and experience the clear air, mountain views and breezes, architecture, landmarks, climate, music scene, outdoor ‘things-to-do’, art galleries, museums, and expanding food choices.

BY THE WAY The outdoor ‘things-to-do’ include: hiking, biking, mountain biking, camping, hunting, fishing, birding, white-water rafting, snow skiing, snow-boarding, photography, and otherwise ‘communing with nature’ activities – none of which interest me. But the activities are available nevertheless.

Within the 15 minute time range I mentioned, there is a fabulous density of 400-500 restaurants that residents and visitors alike can select from and enjoy. It is our food scene that is the purpose of my post.

Obviously, if you want New Mexican food, we have that. (And I find it amusing the New Mexican restaurants that warn people right on their menus that their chile is hot or state they don’t apologize for the heat of their chile!)

Maybe not so obviously to people who haven’t been to Santa Fe or who come here and only focus on a few favorite restaurants, we also have very good Mexican, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian restaurants. We have quite a few bakeries – bakeries that specialize in bread (Sage Bakehouse) and others that focus on french pastries (Clafoutis, French Pastry, Chez Mamou).

Margaritas – Santa Fe has a Trail (and app) for that

Do you want a superb margarita? Yup, we got them. We even have a “Margarita Trail’ that includes more than 36 restaurants / bars / lounges that strive to outdo each other with a signature margarita for the Trail. Get the app, get on the Trail, and imbibe your way to points and gifts (depending on the amount of points you collect). As a local, I’ve been told I can only collect two Margarita Trail digital stamps daily. I don’t think our tourists are limited to two.

Santa Fe Green Chile Cheeseburgers – And an annual slam-down!

Like green chile cheeseburgers? Santa Fe has an annual green chile cheeseburger slam-down. Fantastic. (OMG, I love being a carnivore !!!!!) The best green chili cheeseburger I’ve eaten is at The Burger Stand near the Plaza. But ironically, the two other great green chile cheeseburgers I have had to-date are at The Mine Shaft Tavern (Madrid) and Turtle Mountain Brewing Company (Rio Rancho) – neither of which are in Santa Fe. However, the green chile cheeseburgers at The Four Seasons Encantado and at The Loyal Hound are both tied for fourth place in my book.

However, my post is about my categorization of the restaurants we have in Santa Fe [and environs because I include The Mine Shaft Tavern (Madrid), Arable (town of Eldorado) and Rancho de Chimayo (Chimayo)].

Santa Fe Restaurants: Categories and Placing Restaurants in the Categories

Categories

I want to emphasize that the categories and the placement of restaurants in the categories reflect my own opinion. We have eaten at many of the restaurants during the 10 years we came to Santa Fe on vacation before moving here as permanent residents in May 2017.

Others are categorized based on what we have read about them in local Santa Fe press. Still others are categorized based on ‘common sense.’ Well, my ‘common sense’ obviously and specifically for the categories of National / Regional Casual, coffee shops, and pizza restaurants.

My categories are:

  • Outstanding Dining Restaurants
  • Fine Dining Restaurants
  • Fine Comfort Restaurants
  • Bakeries (Sweet)
  • Every Day Casual Restaurants
  • Quick Casual In-and-Out Restaurants
  • Coffee Shops
  • Pizza Restaurants (all of which are Every Day Casual Restaurants)
  • National / Regional Restaurants

I don’t define or describe each of the categories. Much like art (or pornography), I believe the level of experience at a restaurant is entirely up to each person.

Restaurants in each category

As I mentioned, there are 400 – 500 restaurants in Santa Fe. We have not been to anywhere near that number. You will see that my list of restaurants does not add up to even 400.

My list includes restaurants we have already been to during our vacations to Santa Fe (over a 10 year period) and since moving here in May 2017 (several restaurants more than several times – Hello, The Shed, Loyal Hound, New York Deli, and Atrisco!) and many more we hope to get to in the future.

Note that the placement of restaurants in the categories (shown alphabetically) is based as of September 2019: restaurants I have placed in one category might very well move to another category over time. I have a very strong hunch that once Sazon reopens and we eat there (they had a small fire upstairs before the Summer and plan to reopen sometime in this month of September), that I will move them to the Outstanding Dining category.

Outstanding Dining Restaurants

  • Compound (The)
  • Geronimos

Fine Dining Restaurants

  • Anasazi Restaurant
  • Arroyo Vino
  • Bouche Bistro
  • Chez Mamou
  • Coyote Cafe
  • Eloisa
  • La Boca
  • Restaurant Martin
  • SantaCafe
  • Sassella
  • Sazon
  • Terra (Four Seasons Encantado)

Fine Comfort Restaurants

  • Blue Heron
  • Dinner for Two
  • El Farol
  • El Nido
  • La Casa Sena
  • Il Piatto 
  • Julia Restaurant (La Posada)
  • L’Olivier
  • Market Steer Steakhouse
  • Midtown Bistro
  • Palace Prime Steakhouse (opening April 2020)
  • Paloma
  • Radish & Rye
  • Terracotta Wine Bistro
  • Trattoria A Mano

Bakeries (Sweet)

  • Chaine Gourmet Cookie Shop (Macarons)
  • Chez Mamou French Bakery & Restaurant
  • Chocolate Maven
  • Clafoutis
  • Dolina Bakery & Cafe
  • Dulce Bakery & Coffee
  • French Pastry Shop & Restaurant (La Fonda)
  • Madame Matisse
  • Whoo’s Donuts

Every Day Casual Restaurants

  • Andiamo
  • Arable (Eldorado outside of Santa Fe)
  • Atrisco Cafe & Bar
  • Bar Alto Rooftop Bar (The Drury)
  • Bell Tower Rooftop Bar (La Fonda)
  • Blue Corn Brewery
  • Burger Stand
  • Cafe Atalya
  • Cafe Pasquale’s
  • Cafe Sonder
  • Chocolate Maven (much, much more than chocolate and pastries: breakfast and lunch as well)
  • Clafoutis
  • Cowgirl
  • Coyote Cantina
  • Dion’s
  • Dolina Bakery & Cafe
  • Downtown Subscription (coffee shop with magazines to purchase)
  • Dulce Bakery & Cafe
  • Dumpling Tea & Dim Su
  • El Callejon
  • French Pastry Shop (La Fonda Hotel)
  • Harry’s Roadhouse
  • Henry and the Fish Cafe
  • Hervé Wine Bar
  • Horseman’s Haven Cafe
  • Jimmy D’s
  • Jinja Bar & Bistro
  • Joe’s Dining
  • La Choza
  • Loyal Hound
  • Lucky Goat
  • Macalicious
  • Madam Matisse
  • Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen
  • Mine Shaft Tavern (Madrid which is outside of Santa Fe)
  • Modern General
  • New York Deli
  • Opuntia
  • Pantry Restaurant
  • Plaza Cafe
  • Plaza Cafe Southside
  • Ranch House
  • Rancho de Chimayó
  • Rio Chama
  • Rustica (Italian restaurant opening Spring 2020)
  • Sage Bakehouse
  • Santa Fe Bar & Grill
  • Santa Fe Bite
  • The Shed
  • Tia Sophia’s
  • The Teahouse
  • Tomasita’s Santa Fe
  • Tribes Coffee House
  • Vinaigrette
  • Weck’s
  • Whole Hog
  • WingStop

Quick Casual In & Out

  • Chicago Dog Express
  • Ecco Expresso & Gelato
  • Frogurt
  • Kakawa Chocolate House
  • Shake Foundation

Coffee Shops (most have multiple locations)

  • 35 North Coffee
  • Downtown Subscription 
  • Iconik Coffee Roasters
  • Java Joe’s 
  • Ohori’s Coffee Roasters
  • Sky Coffee
  • Starbucks
  • Tribe’s Coffee House

Pizza Restuarants

  • Backroad Pizza (wheat crust – a different and wonderful taste)
  • Dion’s
  • Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza
  • Pizza Centro Southside

National / Regional Restaurants

  • Arby’s
  • Baskin-Robbins 
  • Blake’s Lotaburger
  • Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Burger King
  • Carl’s Jr
  • Chick-fil-A 
  • Chili’s Grill & Bar
  • Chipotle (under construction)
  • Denny’s
  • Domino’s Pizza
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Firehouse Subs 
  • IHOP
  • Jimmy John’s
  • KFC
  • Krispy Kreme
  • Little Caesar’s Pizza
  • Olive Garden
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • McDonalds
  • Panda Express
  • Panera Bread
  • Pizza Hut
  • Red Lobster
  • Sonic Drive-In
  • Souper Salad
  • Starbucks
  • Subway
  • Taco Bell
  • WingStop

Come to Santa Fe for your own experience

Every few weeks it seems that a new restaurant opens. The Santa Fe restaurant scene long ago moved beyond the tipping point to become a virtuous cycle where chefs come here from California, Las Vegas (Nevada, not New Mexico), Texas, and other locations both throughout the US and the rest of the world.

If you’re a resident, I suggest you strive to eat at these restaurants. Put two or more in your annual dining cycle. As locals, we provide a foundation of financial liquidity for our restaurants.

If you’re a tourist who appreciates good food and are thinking about a vacation to Santa Fe, do come. You will not be disappointed.

Maybe putting together our dining scene with our music scene (Google The Santa Fe Opera but it’s only one of many musical performance settings) and all the things-to-do that Santa Fe offers, you too might become a permanent resident.

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