Tesuque Village Market – Tesuque, New Mexico

Tesuque Village Market, an Institution

The most successful Indian revolt in North American history occurred on August 10th, 1680. On that day, more than 8,000 warriors from the various Native American pueblos in New Mexico put aside deep historical differences and banded together to drive the Spaniards from their ancestral lands. This event is celebrated each year in Tesuque Pueblo.  Tesuque Pueblo played an integral role in the rebellion. Two Tesuque runners were dispatched by pueblo leaders to enlist support for the revolt. The runners carried knotted deer hide cords to the various pueblos, each knot signifying a day. On each successive day, one knot was untied. When the final knot was untied it signified the day of attack.

The annual celebration of this event includes a relay run reenacting the famous run. Runners depart from Tesuque plaza carrying a knotted cord made of yucca and an ear of corn. The yucca cord symbolizes the spirit of the people and the ear of corn their physical body. It is an inspiring event.

The Heated, Covered, Dude-Friendly Patio

Led by Diego Jose de Vargas, the Spanish returned to New Mexico in 1692 and within a year regained full political control of New Mexico. Their return marked a significant change in Spanish policy toward the Pueblos. The Spanish became more civil toward the Pueblo peoples, allowing them to maintain sovereign rule over their own villages. More importantly, the Spanish did not force the Pueblos to accept Christianity.

The venerable Spanish village of Tesuque was founded in 1740 and is situated a few miles south of the current Pueblo and just north of Santa Fe, the heart of Spanish colonial occupation. Today, the village is a haven for the rich and famous. A pantheon of Hollywood celebrities and famous artists now make Tesuque their home (or in many cases, their home away from home).  Ironically, Tesuque is a Tewa word which refers to the village’s river’s alternating from and disappearance into the sand. That word may also describe the behavior of many of the village’s celebrities. They appreciate the fact that Tesuque is a place to which they can escape and are not bothered by locals who respect their privacy.

Chips and Salsa

For celebrity sighting there may be no better venue than the Tesuque Village Market in the center of the village. Established in 1969, this combination market, deli, bakery and restaurant has the sort of neighborhood feel many Santa Fe restaurants lack.  During our visit in November, 2019, my Kim ran into Ali McGraw, American actress, model, author, and animal rights activist.  Unfortunately, The Dude didn’t get to meet her or he might have been invited to star as her leading man in an overdue sequel to Love Story.  At the very least, Ali would have met someone “as dreamy” (Kim’s term) as Ryan O’Neil.

Moreover, it’s so laid back and unassuming that it’s not uncommon to see pristine Range Rovers and BMWs parked next to timeworn pick-up trucks which are hosed down only when it’s time to remove salt residue after a snowfall. That speaks volumes to its broad appeal.  Like much of the village, the Tesuque Village Market is back-dropped by a canopy of centuries old cottonwoods. The on and off again river for which the village is named is within easy walking distance.  About 800 miles from both the river and the village is a second Tesuque Village Market

World-Famous Tortilla Soup

The restaurant portion of the Market complex includes a relatively small dining room into which a surprising number of diners can be seated comfortably, albeit in close quarters. It’s not uncommon to wait for a table to become available inside the restaurant which, in the summer, is fine because the porch accommodations include tables and chairs.  In the winter the porch is enclosed (you could call it that) in a thick plastic sheathing with a couple of small fireplaces working assiduously to cut through New Mexico’s sometimes bitter cold. Imbibing the seductive fragrance of wood smoke make this my preferred seating area.

In November, 2006, the pulchritudinous Food Network glitterati Giada Delaurentis had lunch at the Tesuque Village Market. As one can assume, her legion of fans visiting her restaurant stops make it a point to order exactly what she had during her weekend sojourn to the City Different. Giada started off with the restaurant’s guacamole and chips–an excellent choice made even better with the addition of salsa. The guacamole is thick and buttery with a prominent infusion of lime. Fortunately the chips are formidable enough to scoop large amounts. The chips have a pronounced corn flavor and are low in salt. They are infinitely better than grocery store tortilla chips, many of which are direly in need of desalinization. The roasted salsa (salsa asada) is wouldn’t move the Scoville meter much, but it’s got a great flavor.

Steak Fajitas

28 February 2010Giada also had the tortilla soup, regarded by some as the best in the area. The gastronomic goddess proclaimed the soup as “awesome,” calling it “a burst of Southwest flavor.  This burst of Southwest flavor is made with roasted tomatoes, onions, Anaheim green chiles, red chile powder, jalapenos and cumin in a chicken broth. The finishing touch is a garnish of Cojita cheese, creme fraiche and tortilla chips.  Fresh corn tortilla chips are also blended with the soup. This gives it a thicker consistency than most soups. It is indeed a fine soup with a good smoky taste, but would be even better by subtracting the tablespoon of cumin.

Hopefully I’ve now appeased the dining diva’s devotees and can proceed with the rest of my observations. The menu certainly offers a variety of options, all reasonably priced. Everything is made-to-order and portion size means you’ll (probably) have leftovers to take home. On Sundays, the breakfast menu is available until noon, but an accommodating wait staff will fulfill your need for tortilla soup or chips and salsa even during breakfast hours if you so desire. The youthful wait staff is on-the-spot and friendly.

All the “Fixings” for The Fajitas

One breakfast entree for which you’ll be grateful you got up are the carnitas de puerco (pork carnitas). These cubes of porcine perfection are absolutely delicious–moist, tender and well-seasoned. Each morsel is an adventure in taste bud appeasement, especially when you bit into some crackling bits. The carnitas are accompanied by two eggs and some of the very best papitas around. Similar to the carnitas, the papitas are cubed and golden brown. They have the taste and texture of oven-roasted potatoes, skin intact.

28 February 2010: Forget what you’ve heard or read about blue corn pancakes, the quintessential New Mexican breakfast entree is the breakfast burrito. The Tesuque Village Market’s rendition is an excellent representation of why New Mexicans get up early in the morning. The breakfast burrito is available with your choice of meat: chorizo, pork, beef or chicken and with red or green chile. Christmas style (red and green chile) is the preferred choice for many diners–for good reason (but not necessarily for this essayist).

Tomatillo Shrimp Enchilada

The Tesuque Village Market’s red chile has just enough of a hint of cumin to turn off (it doesn’t take much) my cumin disliking taste buds. It’s better red chile than at many New Mexican restaurants, but I’m fanatically anti-cumin in New Mexican food that just a little bit (one part per million) will do me. Much, much better is the green chile which is an iridescent green and has a piquant bite that will snap you out of any residual morning drowsiness you may have. It’s a fruity, earthy green chile laden with capsaicin blessed goodness. The breakfast burrito is topped with shredded Cheddar and white cheeses and is engorged with potatoes and your choice of meat. It is served with the Market’s terrific papitas and a garnish of tomatoes and lettuce.

Lunch and dinner options are also varied. Lunch options include hot and cold sandwiches made with your choice of bread (not that anyone would choose anything other than Sage Bakehouse bread). Burgers and New Mexican entrees are also available. A menu above a spacious and well-provisioned deli case lists several sandwich options, but there’s also a “build your own” option which will appeal to adventurous diners who understand deli meats and cheeses.

Cinnamon Roll

Those include wine-infused sopressata, a coarsely ground, salty Italian dry-cured salami I’ve been hooked on for years. Fromage fanatics will also appreciate the cave-aged Gruyere cheese, a sweet, earthy and creamy cheese from Switzerland. Sandwich them together between two glorious slices of Sage Bakehouse toasted sourdough bread, add a bit of lettuce and tomato and you’ve got a terrific sandwich. Another winner is the market’s green chile infused patty melt with caramelized red onions. The green chile has a kick to it and the light rye bread is perfectly toasted and delicious.

2 November 2019 My Kim considers the fajitas at the Tesuque Village Market “the best she’s ever had,” an assessment she’s ascribed to fajitas at other restaurants.  She can’t help it.  She loves fajitas and these are indeed outstanding.  A spicy tecate marinade infuses your choice of steak or chicken with moistness and a subtly sweet flavor that goes well with smokiness from the grilling process.  Sautéed red and green peppers and onions inherit the flavors of the marinade.  The translucent onions, in particular, are so sweet and delicious a plateful of “onion fajitas” would be very satisfying.  The fajitas are served with warm flour tortillas, sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, beans and rice.  The fluffy rice is excellent, far better than any Spanish rice we’ve had in the Santa Fe area.

Coconut Cream Pie

2 November 2019 When you order a dish in which tomatillos, not red or green chile, provide the accentuating personality of a dish, you don’t always know what you’re going to get.  Despite their name and similarity in appearance to green tomatoes, tomatillos are only distantly related to tomatoes, but are often used in place of the “love apple.”   With their tart, fruity, slightly herbaceous notes, tomatillos are most often used in salsas and sauces, but sometimes as an alternative to chile.  I’ve seen them described as “spicy” but they really have no “chile heat” and aren’t even measured on the Scoville heat index.  The Tesuque Village Market’s tomatillo shrimp enchiladas capture the essence of tomatillos, balancing the qualities we love about the nightshade fruit with creamy, salty cheese and flavorful corn tortillas.  The generous netful of plump, sweet shrimp (an oxymoron for these large crustaceans) isn’t overwhelmed in the least by the tomatillo.  That’s not an easy trick. 

Pedestrian desserts at otherwise excellent restaurants may have the effect of making a great meal anti-climatic. That is, a boring dessert may render a stellar meal far less. That’s certainly not the case at the Tesuque Village Market where dessert stands out. An oversized under glass display case showcases a wide array of tempting desserts, all of which will beckon even the most sated diner. Desserts include various pastries: pies, cakes, mousse, tarts and even flan. Many are big enough to share (not that you’d want to) and are deliciously decadent. An enormous chocolate éclair filled with rich, satisfying vanilla custard and topped with a luscious dark chocolate sprinkled with nuts is one such dessert. I’m surprised the dessert case isn’t laden with tongue-tracks. 

2 November 2019: During the fifteen years in which Gilligan and his castaway friends were stranded on the uncharted desert isle in the Pacific, they must have consumed thousands of coconut cream pies.  It’s probably safe to assume they got tired of them though it’s hard to imagine ever getting tired of the coconut cream pie at the Tesuque Village Market.  This picture-perfect pie isn’t overly sweet, but it’s rich, creamy and absolutely “dreamy” to use my Kim’s term.  Comedian Louis C.K described the cinnamon rolls at Cinnabon as “a six foot high, cinnamon-swirled cake made for one fat man.”  Cinnamon rolls from the Tesuque Village Market are for everyone who loves, fresh, gooey, mouth-watering cinnamon rolls.  They’re chock full of raisins and cinnamon and are best eaten hot and slathered with butter.

The Tesuque Village Market has charm to spare with its rickety, creaky wooden floors; unpretentious artsy ambiance and inspired food.  It’s no wonder it’s an institution in the village and beyond.  

Tesuque Village Market
Route 22 & Bishops Lodge Road
Tesuque, New Mexico
(575) 988-8848
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 2 November 2019
# OF VISITS: 6
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: Tortilla Soup, Salsa and Chips, Guacamole, Breakfast Burrito, Éclair, Carnitas, Fajitas, Cinnamon Roll, Coconut Cream Pie, Tomatillo Shrimp Enchiladas

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, nearly 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,100 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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One Comment on “Tesuque Village Market – Tesuque, New Mexico”

  1. Having been to the market many times, like so many others, I love the food. Seeing your pictures begins a chain reaction similar to thinking of pickles if you get my drift. What I wish is that some recipes would be available. I have their famous tortilla soup recipe which was available online. Do you know if they have a cookbook? I could eat that breakfat burrito right now. Thanks for your blog and love of everything New Mexico.

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