6 Red-Hot Restaurants in Santa Fe
Spicy Southwestern cuisine is at its best in this New Mexico city.
Sophisticated though it is, Santa Fe abounds with unpretentious and inexpensive purveyors of spicy, down-home New Mexican cooking. Here, chefs skillfully fuse indigenous, Hispanic, and Anglo ingredients and culinary traditions. This is the land where the chile (it’s never spelled “chilli” in these parts) is king—most dishes are smothered in either red or green chile sauce, though many devotees order their blue-corn enchiladas and pork carnitas with a mix of both. Here are six of the top spots around Santa Fe for feasting on exceptional cuisine.
Cafe Pasqual’s, 1 505/983-9340, 121 Don Gaspar Avenue
At this sunny, high-ceilinged space near the Plaza, celebrated chef Katharine Kagel uses organic ingredients and global recipes to create her own innovative take on New Mexican cooking. Try the chicken mole enchiladas with orange-jicama salad and corn torte; Napo’s pupusa (a grilled-corn masa cake with green chile and roasted veggies, topped with tomato-jalapeño salsa); and huevos barbacoa (slow-cooked marinated, shredded beef with two eggs on corn tortillas with beans and Cotija cheese). Scoring a table can be tough. If you’re not shy, take a seat at the communal table in the centre of the room.
El Paragua Restaurant, 1 505/753-3211, 603 NM 76, Española (24 miles north of Santa Fe)
A perfect stop for lunch or dinner along the stunning High Road to Taos, this rambling stone-and-stucco restaurant with a red-tile roof is nestled beneath a huge cottonwood tree. The rustic cuisine here emphasizes New Mexican and regional Mexican recipes such as caldo talpeno (chicken stew with avocado, garbanzos and chipotle), chiles rellenos with pork carnitas, and menudo (tripe soup). The restaurant began more than 50 years ago as a lemonade and taco stand. Though it’s progressed since then, there’s still a stand next door, El Parasol, that’s an excellent bet for inexpensive takeout fare.
Harry’s Roadhouse, 1 505/989-4629, 96 Old Las Vegas Highway
This beloved favourite of locals comprises several inviting spaces, including a diner-style front room, a fireplace-warmed side bar and a fragrant-garden back patio. Expect eclectic, creative comfort fare, from Southwest staples to soul-warming Southern-style classics (the fruit pies are legendary). Sure bets are the grilled chicken tacos with roasted tomato chipotle salsa, turkey meat loaf with mushroom gravy and collard greens, and Moroccan vegetable stew over couscous. The restaurant is just under a 4-mile drive south of Museum Hill. Stop in before or after touring the museums of International Folk Art, Spanish Colonial Art, and Indian Arts & Culture.
Horseman’s Haven, 1 505/471-5420, 4354 Cerrillos Road
Mammoth portions of stellar New Mexican fare are the draw at this no-frills dining room adjacent to a gas station amid the dull strip malls of Cerrillos Road. You may notice the shiny Mercedes and BMWs parked beside beat-up pick-up trucks and vintage SUVs—Horseman’s Haven attracts all kinds. The green-chile cheeseburgers, pork posole and huevos rancheros are must-try dishes. Take note: This is some of Santa Fe’s most fiery food—for true eye-watering, lip-numbing heat, order the “Level 2” green chiles.
La Choza, 1 505/982-0909, 905 Alarid Street
This festive adobe complex with traditional viga (wood-beam) ceilings and a shady patio turns out terrific New Mexico classics and deliciously tart-sweet margaritas. It’s on a quiet street fringing the city’s artsy, up-and-coming Railroad District. A lower-key, less pricy version of its sister restaurant, The Shed, La Choza wins fans with dishes such as tender, slow-cooked pork carne adovada in red chile, chicken-stuffed sopaipillas and green-chile clam chowder.
San Marcos Feed Store Cafe, 1 505/471-9298, 3877 NM 14
Rackety peacocks and turkeys strut about the courtyard of this funky feed store and café on the Turquoise Trail, the fabled scenic back road from Santa Fe to Albuquerque. It’s as enjoyable for people-watching as for savouring hearty, stick-to-your-ribs cooking. Try the red-chile breakfast burritos and green chile stew. The café is open for breakfast and lunch only, until 2:00 pm (though the feed store is open until 6:00 pm on weekdays).