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Santa Fe is one of the places in the USA where the food stands out. It is one reason why people travel to this high desert destination. It is known for its heavily Mexican-influenced southwest cuisine. Don’t be surprised when your server asks you if you want “green, red, or Christmas”. They are asking whether you want green peppers, red peppers, or a mix. That you want peppers is a given. The food is always flavorful, often spicy, and worth the trip.
Here are a few of the restaurants that will have you coming back for more.
There are great things to do in Santa Fe… and eating is one of them.
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The Pantry restaurant is a well-known establishment in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that has been serving up traditional Northern New Mexican cuisine since 1948. The Pantry has become a local landmark and a popular destination for tourists looking to experience the unique flavors of New Mexico.
The restaurant’s interior is cozy and casual, with a rustic Southwestern charm that reflects the region’s rich history and culture. The walls are adorned with colorful paintings and photographs, and the tables and booths are outfitted with comfortable seating for diners to relax and enjoy their meals.
The menu at The Pantry is extensive, offering a wide variety of dishes that showcase the bold, spicy flavors of Northern New Mexican cuisine. One of the signature dishes at The Pantry is the Pantry green chile cheeseburger, which has been hailed by some as one of the best burgers in the country. Made with juicy ground beef and topped with melted cheese and roasted green chiles, this burger is a must-try for anyone visiting the restaurant.
We had tasty brisket tacos and a quesadilla. I really wanted to order the Frito Pie which is on the New Mexico Traditions menu but seemed to me that it would equally fit on the Comfort Food menu. If we had not had breakfast at our hotel I would have returned for the breakfast as well.
We visited on a Wednesday when the Pantry has live music. I thought it was surprising to do that during the week, but the crowd seemed to be locals who were enjoying the music.
1820 Cerillos Rd
2nd Street Brewery at the Railyard
The 2nd Street Brewery at the Railyard is a popular destination for craft beer lovers and foodies in Santa Fe. Located in the historic Railyard District, this brewpub offers a casual, laid-back atmosphere and a menu that features a wide variety of delicious pub fare and handcrafted beers.
The interior of the brewery is warm and inviting with large windows that let in plenty of natural light.
The menu at the 2nd Street Brewery is diverse and flavorful, offering classic pub dishes like burgers and fries, sandwiches, and salads. We ordered the Second Street Reuben and the Railyard Chilly Philly. One we got with crisscut fries and the other with tater tots.
The real star of the show, however, is the beer. The brewery offers a rotating selection of handcrafted beers. They are currently offering 10 beers with 6 of them IPAs, a Kölsch, a stout, a bitter, and a porter. They also had a hard seltzer and a tart cherry cider.
- Monday – Saturday 11 am – 10 pm
- Sunday 12 pm – 9 pm
1607 Paseo de Peralta
La Plazuela At La Fonda Hotel
La Plazuela at La Fonda Hotel is a charming and romantic restaurant that serves up delicious Southwestern cuisine in a beautifully restored indoor courtyard. Located in the heart of Santa Fe’s historic Plaza, the restaurant is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.
The interior of La Plazuela is stunning, with a large skylight that fills the space with natural light and a tranquil fountain at the center of the room. The walls are adorned with colorful colored windows and the space is decorated with beautiful plants, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.
The dinner menu at La Plazuela features a range of classic Southwestern dishes, including enchiladas, chile relleños, and pasole, all made with locally sourced ingredients and prepared with care by the skilled kitchen staff. The lunch menu adds a burger, sandwich, and tacos.
The restaurant also serves up a delicious breakfast on weekends, featuring a range of sweet and savory dishes, including eggs Benedict and huevos Oaxacas.
- Breakfast: 7 am – 10:30 am
- Lunch Service: 11 am – 2 pm Monday – Friday, 11 am – 3 pm Saturday & Sunday
- Dinner Service: 5 pm – 9 pm
100 E. San Francisco St.
The Margarita Trail
Santa Fe was the first city in what is now the U.S. to import tequila from Mexico. It celebrates that fact with the Margarita Trail.
The Santa Fe Margarita Trail offers tourists and locals alike the opportunity to sample signature margaritas at participating locations while collecting stamps in a paper Passport or through a paid app. To get started, tourists can purchase a paper Passport at any of the downtown TOURISM Santa Fe Visitor Centers, or download the Santa Fe Margarita Trail Passport app for $2.99. The app has an interactive map that shows the closest Margarita Trail location and provides discounts and rewards for purchasing signature margaritas.
Tourists can transfer stamps from an old paper Passport to a new one, or from a paper Passport to the app, at any of the downtown TOURISM Santa Fe Visitor Centers. To collect stamps, tourists must present their paper Passport or paid version of the app and purchase a signature margarita. They can only earn two stamps every 12 hours, and can only collect stamps in either the paper Passport or on the app, but not both.
As tourists collect stamps, they earn prizes such as a Margarita Trail T-shirt, membership to the Margarita Society, and even a VIP Margarita Package for completing the entire trail. Members of the Margarita Society receive exclusive access to events, seminars, tastings, and a subscription to the Margarita Insider newsletter.
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen
The only stamp in our Margarita Trail passport we got at Maria’s Restaurant.
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen has been a popular dining spot in Santa Fe since 1950, serving traditional New Mexican cuisine and margaritas. The restaurant has changed hands from the family of the original Maria, with the most recent owners being the Peters family and Santa Fe Dining restaurant group. Inside you can tell that the restaurant has expanded more than once. The space feels like 4 different restaurants that have been connected. We ate in the newest dining room which used to be an art supply store and still displays artwork from local artists.
Maria’s is known for its extensive selection of margaritas, with over 150 different flavors made with 100% agave tequila. The margarita menu is seriously intimidating and we needed some help from the waitress to pick one to try. These are not watered-down margaritas so beware.
One of the standout features of Maria’s Restaurant is its menu, which features classic New Mexican dishes that are made using traditional recipes and techniques. We tried some of the favorites like the delicious “Maria’s Favorite Spareribs”.
In addition to its delicious food, Maria’s Restaurant also has a full bar that serves up a variety of cocktails, beer, and wine. Guests can enjoy a margarita made with fresh lime juice, a cold beer, or a glass of local New Mexican wine to accompany their meal.
Maria’s feels like a must-visit restaurant when you are in Santa Fe.
555 West Cordova Road
Back again at the Railyard District, we ate at Restoration Pizza when we needed a break from red and green chiles.
Restoration Pizza is a popular pizza restaurant founded in 2018, the restaurant is known for its delicious wood-fired pizzas, fresh ingredients, and cozy atmosphere.
The menu at Restoration Pizza is focused on wood-fired pizzas that are made using high-quality ingredients, including locally sourced meats and cheeses, fresh herbs, and homemade sauces. The pizzas are cooked in a custom-built wood-fired oven, which gives them a crispy crust and smoky flavor that’s hard to beat.
In addition to traditional pizzas, they offer a number of specialty pizzas. We order the Roadrunner which had basil pesto sauce, mozzarella, grilled chicken, red onions, roasted red peppers, and pine nuts. Yum.
- Sunday: 10:30 am – 9 pm
- Monday-Thursday: 11 am – 9 pm
- Friday: 11 am – 10 pm
- Saturday 10:30 am – 10 pm
1607 Alcaldesa St, Suite B
The Shed is a family-owned restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico that has been a dining institution since 1953. It is known for its red chile enchiladas and other blue corn specialties, as well as tempting desserts and margaritas. The restaurant is located on Palace Avenue and occupies nine quiet rooms behind Prince Patio, a sunny brick and flagstone courtyard shaded by trumpet vines and adorned with roses in the summer.
Prince Patio, an adobe hacienda, dates back to 1692 and is where the restaurant is currently located. It was given to Captain Diego Arias de Quiros by the king of Spain in recognition of his services in the reconquest. The Carswell family, now in its third generation, manages The Shed and offers visitors a taste of the best that Northern New Mexico has to offer both in cuisine and hospitality. The restaurant also has a sister restaurant called La Choza, which opened in 1983 and is thriving in the Santa Fe Railyard.
The menu at The Shed features classic Northern New Mexican dishes that are made using traditional recipes and techniques. Some of the most popular dishes include the red chile enchiladas, which are filled with cheese and topped with a savory red chile sauce, and the carne adovada, which features tender pork that’s marinated in red chile sauce and slow-cooked to perfection.
If you want to eat at The Shed you need to plan ahead. Book a table at least a day in advance. You might be able to get a table at the Shed without a reservation… maybe… but the wait will be at least an hour.
- Monday – Saturday
- Lunch: 11 am – 2:30 pm
- Dinner: 5 pm – 9 pm
- Bar opens 4 pm
113½ East Palace Avenue
Rowley Farmhouse Ales
Rowley Farmhouse Ales (RFA) started as a passion project in a garage in Santa Fe, New Mexico. John Rowley, a chemist by training, started brewing beer in his garage and quickly became proficient in recipe development, brewing, bottling, and kegging. He became deeply involved with the local homebrewing scene, becoming the president of the local homebrew club, the Sangre de Cristo Craft Brewers. With Jeffrey Kaplan, a chef, and Tyler King, a local homebrewer, they formed a plan to start their own brewery, with a focus on funky and sour farmhouse-style ales paired with comfort foods, and an eclectic, rotating tap list. RFA is the realization of these ideals, treating it more as a passion project than a business.
The team at RFA is passionate about beer and hospitality. John Rowley is an accomplished brewer with over 15 years of brewing experience and a focus on live culture sours and mixed-culture fermentation. Jeffrey Kaplan has worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and has been instrumental in the successful opening of six restaurants. Tyler King turned his hobby of brewing into a profession and continues to do freelance film work. Ebbie has a love of sour and German-style beers and is studying to achieve Certified Cicerone status. Mike is an award-winning brewer who joined the team in 2020, bringing production-level brewing knowledge and creativity to the brewery. Together, the team at RFA hopes to share their passion for great beer, paired with tasty food and great people, with their customers.
Rowley’s Farmhouse Ales has a couple of dozen beers on tap. Some are theirs, some are from other New Mexico breweries, and some are from other breweries further afield.
Rowley Farmhouse Ales is also a farm-to-table gastropub. They have sandwiches, salads, and “comfort” entrees. We ordered some fresh bread and a couple of the small plates from their menu including the Mac ‘n Cheese and the Farmer’s Market Risotto. Everything was delicious.
The Tune-Up Cafe is a beloved restaurant that has been serving up delicious food and drinks for over 30 years. Founded in 1983, the restaurant is known for its eclectic menu, friendly service, and funky atmosphere. The Tune-Up Cafe is housed in a bright and colorful adobe building, and inside, the dining area is decorated with quirky and eclectic artwork, adding to the restaurant’s fun and funky vibe. The outdoor patio is a popular spot during the warmer months, providing a relaxed and comfortable setting to enjoy a meal or drink.
The menu at the Tune-Up Cafe features a mix of traditional New Mexican dishes and international cuisine, offering something for everyone. One of the most popular dishes is El Salvadoran Pupusas. I was there for dinner but the cafe also has an extensive brunch menu.
- Monday-Friday, 7 am – 10 pm
- Saturday & Sunday, 8 am – 10 pm
1115 Hickox St.
Conclusions and Acknowledgments
Our dinner at Maria’s was sponsored (paid for) by Santa Fe Tourism, but all the other meals we had in Santa Fe were on our own.
Santa Fe is a wonderful destination for art, history, and food. Get a little out of your comfort zone and try some of the local dishes. Decide if you like red or green chiles better and don’t forget the margaritas!