Posts tagged ‘Santa Fe’
Most people think of the Inn of the Anasazi as the top hotel to stay in while visiting Santa Fe. That it is. But I also love to eat there. Whether enjoying tortilla soup and a tuna tostada at lunchtime, snacking on nachos and buffalo sliders with a beer on the patio, or going all out with duck mole enchiladas, blue corn crab cakes and a lamb porterhouse with adobo sauce in the dining room, it’s all excellent quality, beautifully presented and well-executed.
Santa Fe is one town where I prefer the local joints, but as a big fan of the Anasazi, it’s my one exception to that rule.
Santa Fe has more than its share of “joints” and “dives”. Most are New Mexican-centric, but I recently visited a pair of eclectic venues that sported a broader menu for those who may not want a steady diet of red or green chile sauce at every meal.
Tune-Up Cafe is near the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market, but definitely off the beaten path. It’s not the kind of place you stumble upon, but it’s worth getting out Google maps to find it. It’s a funky, college-town type place, offering three meals a day, with counter service for the first two. The fare at dinner is no more upscale, but table service makes the evening meal a bit more relaxing. At any time of day, it’s the kind of place where you could sit for hours and chill.
For those familiar with Santa Fe, Tune-Up is in the old Dave’s Not Here space. Dave was known for, among other specialties, the ubiquitous green chile cheeseburger. Though still served here, in beef, buffalo and vegetarian versions, the emphasis now is more focused on its owners’ Salvadoran roots. Pupusas, a meat or bean-filled masa cake, are on the menu, as is a banana leaf wrapped tamale. Cuban sandwiches, Greek salad and even a tuna melt are also available. Chicken mole enchiladas are a standout–sweeter and lighter in flavor and color than the more traditional mole poblano, but oh so good.
Harry’s Roadhouse is a local institution, a roadhouse in every sense of the word. Locals and tourists rub elbows and the menu features an equal mix of comfort food and New Mexican fare. Each room in the rambling house has a different personality, so check each one out before choosing where to sit to find a spot that fits your mood. (If you’re there during peak hours, you won’t have that option, of course. ) Specialties include blue corn turkey enchiladas, migas, lemon-ricotta pancakes, meatloaf and ribs.
The migas and pancakes had been featured on Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood.com and both lived up to their billing, especially the pancakes which were light and very lemony.
With more than 200 restaurants in Santa Fe, there are a wide array of upscale, continental choices. But it’s enchanting restaurants such as Tune Up Cafe, Harry’s Roadhouse and Tesuque Village Market that make Santa Fe the magnet it has become.
Though I had been to Tesuque Market on prior trips to Santa Fe, I had never before experienced it. It’s not just a place to eat or buy grocery staples, it’s a way of life and can become quite habit-forming.
I have now been for lunch, dinner and drinks, and each time I didn’t want to leave. There’s something about it that is so laid-back and relaxing, but it’s hard to define the quality that is so alluring. And though online reviews are not always glowing, I can’t figure out why. The chile sauces were as flavorful as any of the more revered restaurants, the service was friendly and warm, and the drinks were the best we had during our stay in Santa Fe, using fresh squeezed blood oranges for margaritas and pineapple for specialty mojitos. The selection of artisan beers was vast and there were even Happy Hour specials, a rarity in a city that doesn’t need to lower its prices to attract people. The posole, green chile stew and tortilla soup were all outstanding–flavorful and hearty, and the market even has a relatively healthy version of a chile relleno. It was roasted, not battered and fried, stuffed with corn and mushrooms before being smothered with cheese and red chile sauce.
Not into New Mexican flavors? The Market even has an outdoor pizza oven and makes pies to eat in or carry-out. There is truly something for everyone unless, of course, you are looking for a white tablecloth experience. That it is not.
While you can find plenty of upscale eateries in Santa Fe, I find the most rewarding adventures to be those of the local variety. There are certainly tourists at the Market, but its homespun, no-frills, laid-back, stay and play ambiance will entice you to become a local!
Breakfast is not usually my favorite meal of the day, but that indifference disappears when I am in Santa Fe where the red and green chile sauces cast a magical spin on traditional breakfast fare.
In the past I always put Cafe Pasqual at the top of my list for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but a recent visit to Santa Fe revealed some new spots that are equally captivating AND easier on the wallet. Pasqual’s has, unfortunately, raised prices to the point that it’s more frequented by tourists than locals these days. Hopping in the car instead of simply walking to the Plaza opened up a new world, full of local hangouts that captivated me AND my stomach. (For additional options, including Tecolote Cafe, check out my archives.)
Chocolate Maven Bakery and Cafe. Here’s a classic example of not judging a book by its cover. Driving up to this out-of-the-way warehouse, one would never imagine that inside is a beautiful bakery and white-tablecloth restaurant. Ask to sit on the first floor so that you have a clear view of the bakery in action. (You’ll need to get there early on the weekends to have that option). We were fortunate enough to sit by the huge picture window, where we watched bakers forming pastries and rolling out dough for decadent croissants as we enjoyed a very civilized breakfast. Though the menu is dotted with traditional New Mexican breakfast items like the ubiquitous breakfast burrito, the strength of this restaurant is in its modern twists on those old-time specialties. You won’t find the very best red or green chile here, but Chocolate Maven makes the finest rendition of chilaquiles and migas that I have ever had. Normally, chilaquiles are soggy tortilla chips that have been baked in a ranchero sauce, topped with a fried egg and cheese. But here, an astonishing array of flavors and colors graced the plate. Fresh tortilla strips had been sauteed in red chile sauce, topped with fried eggs, avocado, lettuce, tomato, queso fresco and black beans. Each bite did a little dance in my mouth. The migas, eggs scrambled with tortilla strips, tomato, serrano, onion, cheddar cheese and fresh tomatillo salsa, were as compelling and a bit lighter. Not interested in a Mexican-style entree? Pancakes, caramelized French toast and even scrambled tofu with spinach are all prepared with a deft hand.
The bakery has pastries, breads, sandwiches and even salsas to go, and the cafe has started serving dinner, as well as breakfast, brunch and lunch.
The Pantry may not have the panache of Chocolate Maven, but it knows how to deliver solid, satisfying New Mexican fare. Breakfast is served all day, but it’s open for lunch and dinner as well. Both the red and green chile sauces have a kick, the service is friendly and efficient, and the portions are generous, which is a bit of an understatement. Tamales smothered in red chile, cheese enchiladas Christmas-style (red and green sauces), heuvos rancheros, chorizo breakfast burritos (which my nephew put in his top five list of best breakfast burritos ever)…the Pantry deserves its coveted place as a Santa Fe institution.