Dining Santa Fe

The world-famous Bobcat Bite
The world-famous Bobcat Bite

National Geographic Traveler once described Santa Fe as “a hypercultural hybrid–equal parts Wild West and New Age, Native American and Hispanic, old money and old hippie”…a city “used to mixing things up and still creating an oddly seamless whole.”

Santa Fe is indeed a unique amalgam of culture, art and beauty with a seemingly preternatural ability to convert visitors to wannabe residents.  Since the early 1980s, magazines such as Conde Naste have named Santa Fe the most popular travel destination in the country.

Each year, more than a million and a half tourists descend upon this city of about seventy-thousand residents.  There are many reasons for Santa Fe’s appeal.

Not the least among those reasons is because Santa Fe is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in North America with a storied history that predates the landing at Plymouth Rock.

Nestled at the foot of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains, visages of the Hispanic culture which built the city are evident throughout the sprawling capital city.  So, too, are traces of Native American pueblos which predate the Spanish.

Santa Fe is reported to have the greatest diversity and number of restaurants per capita of any city in America.  I like to think that one of the reasons for its tourist appeal is its cuisine, but it’s more likely that the reason there are so many fabulous restaurants in Santa Fe is because of the tourists.

Most visitors to Santa Fe will indulge at least once on New Mexican cuisine, the capsaicin blessed staple of New Mexico restaurant and home fare.  Intrepid chefs have managed to incorporate chile into the cuisine of other cultures–a perfect analogy to New Mexico’s accepting culture.

In the mid 1980s, Fortune magazine named Santa Fe one of America’s top ten dining destinations, listing among the city’s elite restaurants the pioneering Coyote Cafe as well as other restaurants, several of which are still going strong and evolving to meet the needs of an ever more sophisticated dining culture.

In recent years, Santa Fe has continued to be recognized not only for its culinary diversity, but for its excellent cuisine.  In 2007, Gourmet magazine named Trattoria Nostrani one of the 50 best restaurants in America.  Later in the year, the editors of Bon Appetit magazine, on a Food Network special, selected “the top places in this country to enjoy the ultimate incarnations of iconic American cuisine.”  Santa Fe’s diminutive Bobcat Bite was named the very best hamburger in America.

Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog honors the restaurants of Santa Fe, perhaps the most enchanting city in the most enchanting state in the country.

9 thoughts on “Dining Santa Fe”
  1. Restaurant Martin in Santa Fe provides proof that husband and wife collaborations succeed.
    We took friends there last night and 4 of us left satisfied in every way.
    Appetizers were great, my wife and I had the tuna tartare which was excellent, our friends had the gnocchi and the fresh beet salad. Raves all around. Joe, the husband of the couple said the gnocchi was the best he has had.
    The entrees consisted of two orders of the red snapper, last nights Chef’s seafood creation, one order of the salmon dish and my Duroc pork tenderloin. I asked if there was a way to get an accompaniment of the crispy sweetbreads that belonged with another entree and they accommodated me with the dish at the normal side dish price and it was well worth it. Plates were cleaned, nothing left uneaten. Satisfaction with everything.
    Desserts were prepared at with the same degree of care everything else prepared for us.
    As I’ve often said the dining experience has several components beyond just the food that combine to make or break a meal. Service can be that component and last evening’s dinner proved to be enhanced by the charm and knowledge and expertise supplied by Graciela, our server and guide. She provided that intangible that took a great dining experience to an extraordinary level.
    She could very well be the best of the best we’ve ever encountered.
    All in all the dinner at Restaurant Martin was one of the best dining experiences we’ve had both in New Mexico, or anywhere for that matter.
    They’re open for lunch and Sunday Brunch and have added a stand alone special event structure that was scheduled to host a Bar Mitzvah next weekend.
    Yes, you heard me right!

  2. A new restaurant, Izakaya, has opened at 10000 Waves.
    It bills itself as Japanese pub food. It is more like Japanese meets spanish tapas and it was quite an experience.
    There are dishes as disparate as edamame hummus and sliced Wagyu beef.
    Green beens wrapped in bacon and skewered chicken livers.
    eggplant in miso sauce and onigiri, rice balls.
    Crispy brussel sprouts and Tonkatsu with a very good hot mustard
    Nami burgers and a cheese and sake platter.
    Assorted pickles and a fabulous pork belly that compares with Budai’s Dong Bo pork.
    Also an excellent soup of the day made with chanterelles.
    Each dish mentioned above is stand alone, not matched with the other mentioned together
    Small dishes sometimes enough for two or three.
    Seating is available on mats, at a community table or booths.
    Service is outstanding and the order of arrival of these small plates should be left to the server.
    A sake list that satisfies everyone at our table.
    Two other observations, you can send a six pack of beer to the kitchen staff for $6 and the housemade ginger lemon soda is terrific.
    there are excellent desserts including a very nice cheesecake and assorted ice creams (i liked the red berry/banana ice cream.
    Didn’t really enjoy the green tea ice cream.
    Small price to pay for one excellent dinning experience.
    And best news, I played “credit card roulette” with my daughter’s boyfriend and let the server pick the CC out of a hat and she picked the boyfriends.
    It was win, win, win for me.

  3. Great fresh piece of meat and thats it…stock bun, green chile was ok….bacon was not premium…overpriced….small and cramped….so so sides and atmosphere…if these folks could get away with a drive thru there it would help. Will find a better fresh green chile burger elsewhere.

  4. As my wife and I will be leaving Santa Fe in a few days, I thought I would list the Santa Fe restaurants at which we eat repeatedly and that have not been reviewed by Gil. They all combine food, service, cost and ambiance in a very satisfactory way. I don’t pretend that they are the best— unless otherwise noted, most would probably be in the “20” to “22” range—but we will miss them all. Alphabetically …

    Andiamo! is a gently upscale trattoria open only for dinner, with consistently excellent food and service. The menu includes pizza to classy entrees. We have had exemplary salads, skillfully prepared seafood, delicious pastas, appetizers and desserts. I would rate Andiamo! a “23” or “24.”

    Back Street Bistro serves lunch only: soups, salads and sandwiches, mostly. The food is almost always fresh and soups are a specialty. In-house prepared pastrami and corned beef are very good.

    Café Café provides a moderately priced Italian lunch or a little more fancy dinner. We like most of the pastas a lot and find the pizza to be consistently very good. They have new ownership, but I have not noticed a decline in their food. I would give this restaurant a “22.”

    Cleopatra’s has slipped a little. The baba ganouj and chicken sharama were once great. Still, if in the mood for Middle Eastern food, the gyros, Luxor kebab plate and Lebanese salad are all just fine. I’d put this at about “19.” There are two Cleopatra’s, we like the one on Zafarano, south of town, best.

    El Milagro serves primarily good New Mexican food but I like the green chile cheeseburger also. It is adjacent to Cleopatra’s in the Zafarano commercial complex.

    El Tesoro is in the Sanbusco Market. We like the quesadillas, sandwiches, New Mexican and Salvadoran food at this underrated cafe.

    New York Deli has two locations; both serve tasty food and good-sized portions. They have a large breakfast menu featuring fresh baked bagels, cream cheeses made in-house and a variety of omelets. They have several good sandwiches—such as the Reuben, Union Square Hero, and egg salad sandwich. The cole slaw and French fries are also good.

    The Pantry, is prototypical New Mexico—a diner with good New Mexican food. This 64 year old restaurant is a Santa Fe institution. Their breakfasts are usually very good—my wife especially likes the fresh corned beef and breakfast burrito. We enjoy the meatloaf and the Reuben sandwich as well.

    The San Francisco St. Bar & Grill is located on the plaza. Among our favorites here are the green chile cheeseburger, the large meal salads, lentil soup, fish & chips, fries and slaw. Their fancier food falls a little short at times.

    Second Street Brewery has fish & chips which we have found to be about as good as any in New Mexico. Sandwiches, burgers and brews are reliably good.

    1. Second the endorsement for Andiamo! Have eaten there twice now, execelent both times. Reservations (Open Table) a must.

  5. Gil,

    A small place, huge (and oh-so-tasty) portions. Just when I went there, they couldn’t take plastic.


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