Ask 25 locals what their favorite Santa Fe restaurant is and you very well may get 25 different answers. The flavors you find will surprise you — a mix of traditional and local ingredients like blue corn and New Mexico’s world-famous chile create unique flavors that have never crossed your palate before — while Santa Fe’s global recognition as a culinary mecca attracts the brightest chefs looking to show off their talents. This list is designed to get you started and is a combination of the “tried and true” of the Santa Fe culinary scene, but it is far from complete. Explore, follow your nose, and remember that there is no wrong answer to the official state question, “Red or Green?”
1. Frito Pies at Five and Dime
Great dining experiences do not always need to be fancy. Claiming to be the birthplace of the Frito Pie, the snack bar at the Five & Dime certainly fits that mold. Bags of corn chips are cut open, smothered in red chile, beans, onions and cheese, and are perfectly enjoyed on-the-go as you explore Santa Fe’s historic Plaza.
2. Radish & Rye
Recently recognized by USA Today as one of the “10 Best Top New Restaurants” by USA Today, Radish & Rye has quickly made a name for themselves on the Santa Fe scene. Featuring simple dishes from locally sourced ingredients, the menu always stays fresh. If whiskey is your thing, the menu features over 50 bourbons and several signature cocktails made from hand selected barrels of Buffalo Trace.
3. Drink Hot Chocolate at Kakawa Chocolate House
You may think you have sipped hot chocolate before, but this is The City Different’s take on chocolate. With a focus on historic elixirs dating back as far as 1000 BC, Kakawa has carved out a very unique niche in the chocolate scene. The staff’s mission is to “re-introduce you to chocolate” and will delightfully educate on the history and anthropology of this sweet delicacy. It is easy to see why this boutique shop earned a spot on Fodor’s “15 Best Places to Drink Hot Chocolate in America.”
4. Breakfast Burritos at Tia Sophia’s
Another Santa Fe mainstay staking themselves as culinary pioneers, Tia Sophia’s claims to being the first to coin the term “Breakfast Burrito” on its menu and “Christmas” in reference to smothering in both red and green chile. Grab a handheld burrito to eat on the go if you’re in a rush, but we certainly recommend sitting down to enjoy what Food Network calls “The Best Breakfast Burrito Ever.”
5. Follow the Santa Fe Margarita Trail
The Margarita Trail promises to be one of your most memorable Santa Fe culinary adventures. Your adventure starts with purchasing the Margarita Trail Passport at any TOURISM Santa Fe Visitor Center or downloading the app via Google Play or the Apple App Store. With 31 margaritas on the Trail to tantalize your taste buds, you’re sure to find a favorite or two! As an added bonus, make sure to show your Passport you will receive $1 off the signature Margarita Trail cocktail.
6. Dinner at Geronimo
One of the city’s most elegant dining experiences, Geronimo is the ideal spot if you are looking to splurge. Housed in a 250-year old adobe on Santa Fe’s famous Canyon Road, you can expect any evening a memorable occasion. Awarded 4 stars by the Forbes Travel Guide and #7 on TripAdvisor’s list of “Best Fine Dining Restaurants in the US”, Geronimo is the benchmark for luxury dining in Santa Fe.
7. Distillery Tour at Santa Fe Spirits
One of the city’s first artisan craft distillers, Santa Fe Spirits offers visitors a unique peak behind the curtains. Learn how they distill each of the spirits they bottle as you tour the facility. Cocktail classes are available to teach you how to make and shake all the classics. If you can’t make it to the distillery, there is a downtown tasting room as well. The Colkegan Single Malt Whisky received a 94/100 in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and is not to be missed!
8. Level 2 Green Chile at Horseman’s Haven
A longtime local’s favorite, Horesman’s Haven has developed a reputation for having some of the hottest green chile around. Their regular green has quite the kick, but if you really want to light up your taste buds, order the Level 2. You don’t have to take our word for it, the late Anthony Bourdain once exclaimed “my face is burning off” after sampling.
9. Chicken & Guacamole Tacos at El Parasol
For over 60 years, El Parasol has been an absolute favorite of local Northern New Mexicans. The appearance of most locations is somewhat unassuming, but the shredded chicken tacos and breakfast burritos are anything but. Served in a deep-fried corn shell, these tacos were recently ranked #29 on The Daily Meal’s list of the 50 Best Tacos in America.
10. Traditional New Mexican Cooking Class at Santa Fe School of Cooking
If simply dining on great food is not enough, the Traditional New Mexican Cooking Class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking allows you to get hands-on. Learn how to make your own corn tortillas, enchiladas, red & green chile sauces, posole, and traditional bread pudding before getting to dig in for this New Mexican feast. The school also offers several other classes, including a course on the art of making a tamale.
11. A Visit to the Pantry Restaurant
The Pantry Restaurant opened in 1948, and has been delighting locals ever since. A frequent haunt of many local celebrities, the mid-century decor is as iconic as you will find. Recognized as one of the “21 Best Diners in America” by Thrillist, the menu is diverse enough to satisfy even the most picky of eaters. The restaurant is frequently busy, but any wait required will be well worth the time!
12. Wander New Mexico Culinary Tour
Recently named one of “10 must-try food tours in North America” by USA Today, the Santa Fe Historic Plaza Food Tour is a fantastic way to sample downtown’s best cuisine. Hear stories of how cuisine helped shape the unique makeup of the city, and meet the chefs who continue to write those tales today. A wonderful experience for anyone, but a particularly great opportunity if you are travelling with a group.
13. Scenic Drive and Dinner at Rancho de Chimayo
Take the quick drive north along one of Northern New Mexico’s most scenic drives to the Rancho de Chimayo Restuarante. Chimayo is famous for the Santuario de Chimayo, which is believed to hold miraculous healing properties. However, the red chile grown in the area has garnered just as much fame. The restaurant was the recipient of the 2016 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award, given to restaurants displaying timeless appeal and quality. If you do visit the Santuario, drop in to El Potrero Trading Post to take home some of the area’s iconic red chile powder.
14. Chicken Fajitas at El Molero Food Cart
This food cart has been a fixture on the historic Santa Fe Plaza for over 20 years. For most locals, the aromas of the cart are synonymous with the free live music and community events taking place throughout the summer. The menu is simple, fajitas and tamales are the only food items that appear on the handwritten chalkboard, but this is street food done right.
15. Gunpowder Dosa at Paper Dosa
South Indian cuisine may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Santa Fe, but we have some of the best around. The Gunpowder Dosa at Paper Dosa expertly melds the traditional flavors of South India with the heat and flavor of New Mexico’s famous green chile. The results are magical!
Want to learn more about all the restaurants in The City Different? Visit our dining page to view more!