Dave’s Not Here – Santa Fe, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Front view of Dave's Not Here.

Dave’s not here. You really can’t blame him. After all, a Santa Fe district court judge issued (and later rescinded) a temporary restraining order alleging Dave (Letterman) had been tormenting a city resident for more than ten years by using coded words and signals to woo her on his television program.

A better theory than mine is posited by David “Whochacha” Pederson, who points out that the line “Dave’s not year” is used repeatedly in a hilarious Cheech and Chong routine you’ve got to listen to.

Wrong Daves? Maybe or maybe not. No one really seems to know for sure whom this quaint restaurant is named for. Theories abound, most speculating that the uniquely named neighborhood diner is whimsically named for an erstwhile proprietor who left town in a hurry.

Deadbeat dad? Ran afoul of the law? Someone must know, but not even the staff is saying.

The east-facing wall at Dave's Not Here.

What diners are saying is that Dave’s serves one of the very best green chile cheeseburgers in the Land of Enchantment, second in the City Different perhaps only to the Bobcat Bite burger (recognized by GQ magazine as one of the 20 best burgers in America).

Dave’s serves, in my humble opinion, one of the five best green chile cheeseburgers in the entire universe (not that I’ve tried them all).

Dave’s famous burger comes in two sizes–a regular 4.5-ounce burger and a large 9-ounce burger, either of which you can have prepared to your exacting specifications. The burger comes garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion and lettuce then it’s up to you to get creative.

Each table includes the standard condiments of mustard and ketchup, but also feature a gourmet mustard and several picante sauces.

Optional toppings (75 cents each) include a piquant green chile (served on the side), jalapenos, grilled onions (lightly grilled so that the thick onions taste like really good onion rings sans coating) or mushrooms, fresh guacamole and an alabaster colored white cheese.

The west-facing wall at Dave's Not Here.

The beef comes from Kaunes Market, a highly regarded local retailer. The beef is shaped into a ball then held in a plastic bucket until an order is placed. It is then shaped into a not quite round, not quite square patty that extends beyond the Frisbee-sized buns on which it is served. It takes a catcher’s mitt or two hands to hold the nine-ounce burger which is as juicy and flavorful as any burger in northern New Mexico.

Appetizers include one relleno with chile, nachos, fresh guacamole and chips and salsa and chips, but what you really want with your burger is a pile of Dave’s French fries. These hand-cut beauties are somewhat darker than your usual pasty-white fries and are lightly salted–perfect with or without ketchup.

An array of delectable desserts is available, too. These include carrot cake, apple pie, empanadas and a chocolate cake you’d walk across the desert for. A slab of chocolate cake would easily serve two, but it’s so good, you might not want to share it. Despite a quarter-inch thick frosting, the chocolate cake is not annoyingly cloying like one of those store-bought, tooth-decaying monstrosities.

The menu also includes several New Mexican favorites–green chile stew, burritos, chimichangas, huevos rancheros and more, but most people seem to order the green chile cheeseburger.

Dave’s Not Here is delightfully, quintessentially Santa Fe, embodying the “City Different” attitude. The ambience is Hog Farm hippies meet the Santa Fe Art society. Two walls are dedicated to an exhibit of pensive photographs from Cuba and while the menu doesn’t include any Cuban entrees, salsa with a vibrant beat resounds from the restaurant’s speakers.

A center support column includes a placard sponsored by the “Santa Fe Society For the Prevention of Visual Cruelty to Humans” denouncing Santa Fe’s stereotypical “pink coyote” art.

Dave’s isn’t necessarily easy to get to if you don’t know Santa Fe well. It’s off-the-beaten-path in a residential neighborhood, but once you’re on the right street headed in the right direction, you can’t miss it. The exterior walls are tagger graffiti meets art deco.

Dave’s Not Here
11151 Hickox Street
Santa Fe, NM
LATEST VISIT: 22 September 2006
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, French Fries, Chocolate Cake


  • Mike

    Thought I’d comment since you don’t know the origin of the restaurant. It’s not a myth or a gimmick. It wasn’t always called “Dave’s Not Here”. It used to be called “Dave’s Diner”. Dave was the original owner and my parents knew him in the late 70s and early 80s. He had some legal trouble and had to leave the place, hence the new name. It’s really sad the place is closed. It was a part of the local history as well as a great place to go eat since it was overlooked by all those glitzy tourists that ruined my home town.

  • Pingback: Where’s Dave? - CogDogBlog

  • I wish the old crew would get together and restart Daves not here This was food from the gods that is truly missed in & around santa fe

  • Cara

    So i am one of the original staff in the early 80’s. I was about 20. I was there when Dave WAS there! I worked with a waiter named Rocky and his brother Pete?,and his girlfriend sometimes. Dave’s niece worked there briefly as she was caught stealing from the til. We had a few cooks besides Dave and a great desert maker (Monica?)that brought in her pies from home.Dave’s boyfriend was supposed to take care of the bills, but we never saw much of him…too busy riding his bicycle…hence some of the financial problems! Great place to work though…we all drank keeping rum and cokes or whatever under the cash register. I remember when Goldie Hawn came in with a rich local…Rocky took tbe table so he could flirt with her since we all split the tips. Best giant burgers and fresh fries around no joke! At some point tho things went south. Creditors were always calling or coming to the door while Dave was slipping out the back! We had a ‘pat line’ of “Dave’s not here” which is of course where the name started. He had all kinds of crazy friends stopping in and i had a crush on one good looker that turned out to be gay too alas.i knew there was a big problem when he went missing for 3 days and we ran it by ourselves! Story was he was off tripping in the mountains somwhere…not sure if that was true also heard he had to do a little hail time. So we all got sort of laid off i guess you could say, just closed up. A friend of his bought. Him out and reopened as ‘Dave’s not Here’ and that’s all i know. True story! Most awesome job I ever had!

  • SPG

    Interesting Story Cara, and funny how the name came out with “Dave is not here”.

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