Restaurant review archive
A groovy little place like Revolution Bakery
is just what Santa Fe needed. Everything that
comes out of the ovens at this tiny
bakery and café is completely free of gluten
and made using as many organic ingredients
as possible. Many items are vegan. But no one
here has a stuffy, holier-than-thou attitude.
The only thing anyone’s trying to prove is
that truly tasty baked goods can be made
without gluten. Recommended: tempeh
salads, vegan sandwiches (with a little salt),
citrus salad, brownies, and cinnamon rolls.
What began and continues as a food truck
now has a modest second home. Gigi
Griffo’s Nile Café on the Trail is a tiny,
two-room dining spot that might remind
you of grandma’s house if it weren’t for the
contemporary art. Renditions of Greek,
Egyptian, and other Mediterranean dishes
are freshly made (Griffo even stacks her
own gyro meat), modestly spiced, and
wonderfully satisfying. Think of it as eastern
Mediterranean comfort food: tabbouleh,
falafel, dolmas, and the like are all simply
prepared and refreshingly lively. Breakfast
items, like couscous with nuts, may remind
you of lunch. Though there’s only a trio of
dinner entrees (lunch is served until closing), they’re all worth trying. Homemade
desserts and unusual beverages — sparkling
pomegranate juice with molasses, for
instance — make for special treats. Service?
As good as that at home. Recommended:
gyros, “kofta” burgers, vegetarian moussaka,
baked chicken, roast leg of lamb, baklava,
and Egyptian doughnuts.
When chef-owner Katharine Kagel opened
Café Pasqual’s in 1979, she transplanted a little
of her native Bay Area to Santa Fe, including a
dedication to organic farm produce in the vein of
her Berkeley soul sister Alice Waters. Along with
her able kitchen and dining-room staff, Kagel
serves a fresh, eclectic menu borrowing primarily
from Asian, Latin American, and New Mexico
traditions and offering a selection of dishes you
are unlikely to find elsewhere. Some offerings are
pricey, but many surprise with their generosity.
Go during off-peak hours if you don’t like to
wait; dinner reservations will help get you past
that crowd at the door. Recommended: Amy’s
Hippie Dippie Green Drink, Yucatán chicken
salad, Vietnamese scallop salad, haddock with
saffron-ginger sauce, cochinita pibil, Italian
chocolate budino, and blackberry cobbler.
Four Seasons Resorts and Hotels assumed
management of Encantado Resort in June,
and Four Seasons chef Andrew Cooper
transferred from Hawaii in September to
, the restaurant at the newly named
Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe.
While Cooper admittedly hasn’t had much
time to prove himself, the previous high
standards that, under chef Charles Dale,
garnered Terra a AAA Four Diamond
rating have flagged. Some wine selections
are frankly disappointing. Both setting and
service provide reasons to visit, though.
Recommended: house biscuits and lavash,
green salad, scallops with risotto, halibut with
polenta, and chocolate cake with lime sorbet.
What’s old is new again at the
Eldorado Hotel’s Old House
, which benefited from a stylish
remodel last year. The bar has moody
lighting, trance-y lounge music and
smooth jazz, and sleek contemporary
tables and bar stools, while the formal
dining room still sports slightly cheesy
Santa Fe-style décor. Service is
professional but not snooty; it’s friendly
without being lackadaisical or folksy.
Whichever menu you order from,
dishes are — a few missteps aside —
generous and flavorful. Recommended:
nachos, sliders, Black Angus
cheeseburger, soft-shell crab appetizer,
chicken Catalan, and aged rib-eye.
Luminaria Restaurant and Patio
is an oasis
of calm and comfort. Executive chef Brett
Sparman dresses up familiar favorites such
as roasted chicken, beef tenderloin, and
blackened salmon with unexpected preparation
twists and intriguing accompanying dishes.
High-quality locally sourced ingredients are
favored, and the chef is conscious of texture,
be it in creamy grits or in heirloom tomatoes
matched with goat cheese, crisp shaved
onion, and raw chile. Only an occasional miss
— mushrooms in red chile — mars excellent
taste and technique. And Luminaria may
have the best breadbasket in town. There are
specialty mixed drinks — Pearfection martini
and the Ristra with muddled red pepper and
cilantro — and an extensive selection of
red and white wines categorized by “body.”
Desserts? Whimsical and seriously seductive.
Recommended: green chile corn bisque,
boneless beef short ribs, seafood paella, roast
chicken, and Nutterfinger chocolate cake.
The spaces at La Posada de Santa Fe
Resort and Spa
feel appropriate for the
ghost of a well-to-do lady — in this case,
Julia Staab — to wander. Fuego has a
modern Southwestern ambience. The Staab
House Lounge feels like a fancy Old West
saloon. The Patio Restaurant has an easy,
airy, breezy flow. The patio itself is one of
the best, most idyllic outdoor spaces in
town. The food at Fuego is well considered
and, in some cases, well prepared; in
the casual spaces, the food fares better.
The ambience can range from spookily
quiet to raucously boisterous. Regardless,
service is typically attentive and quick.
Recommended: cucumber Collins and
melon mojito cocktails, polenta fries,
Kobe-style burger, barbacoa “beggar’s
purse,” and Mexican chocolate mousse.
Overlooking the Plaza from the spot it has
occupied for nearly a century, the cherished
, which closed two years ago after
a fire and reopened this summer, feels like
something out of The Andy Griffith Show.
It’s the classic diner on the town square, with red
vinyl booths; speedy, efficient service; and good,
old-fashioned food. Recommended: Huevos
rancheros, bowl of green chile, blue corn
pancakes with bacon, and cashew
Amaury Torres’ Babaluu’s Cocina Cubana
is a remote outpost of Caribbean influence,
serving fine Cuban-inspired dishes with
nouvelle flair. Lunches show the most
island influence, and weekend evenings,
sometimes with live music, offer a lively
party atmosphere. Roast pork and seafood
rule the menu with fried yuca, plantains,
and black-bean soups all done exceptionally
well. Service is efficient though seemingly
chaotic when busy, relaxed and friendly
when not. Recommended: Cuban panini,
sautéed clams, crab empanadas, breaded
halibut Parmesan, shrimp ajillo, yuca frita,
green-chile sopa, and guava galette.
Perhaps unable to bring the mountains to
Manhattan, Rick Smith, new Santa Fe restaurant
owner and New Mexico native with a few New
York roots, has decided to bring Manhattan to the
mountains. A nuanced version of the cocktail, that
is, and a slew of other sassy drinks and serious
snacks served in perhaps the most charming bar in
town. Chef Tom Kerpon expertly prepares his own
take on southern European and American favorites
so that whether you opt for the luminous newly
redesigned main dining room, the terraces, or the
bar, you will eat — and drink — very well at Tanti
Luce 221 Restaurant and Bar. The wine list offers
range, value, and many options by the glass. The
Luce cocktail just might help you see the light.
Recommended: Southwest oysters Rockefeller,
braised pork belly, meatballs in arrabbiata sauce,
duck confit, “Tuscan” halibut, braised short ribs,
“chocolate madness” cake, and cheesecake
with mango sorbet.
Piccolino Italian Restaurant
is a neighborhood restaurant without a
neighborhood. Find your favorites
among the classic red-sauce dishes, and
stick with them. Most dishes are decent, if
not exceptional, and considering the price,
you’ll get you dollar’s worth. But vegetables,
in their selection and their treatment, tend
to be a problem. Surprisingly, the veal is not.
The desserts are homemade, not fancy. The
service may not be as embracing as
at your real neighborhood restaurant, but
it is courteous and attentive — until it’s
time to leave. Recommended: calamari
fritti, Lasagna Boloco, veal Florentine,
combo pizza, and flan.
Try La Cocina de Doña Clara
either location, downtown or southside,
for Zacatecan-style Mexican food.
A family-run business with an extensive
menu, it features various filling choices
for tacos and gorditas. The menu includes
unexpected items, such as Caesar salad
with a choice of chicken, shrimp, or
nopalitos (paddle cactus) and huge
hamburgers with fries. Recommended:
gorditas, tacos, and shrimp cocktail.
is Erin Wade’s aptly named restaurant
where salads are the headliner, not just the
warm-up act. Soups, salad additions, sandwiches,
and desserts, however, can steal the show and are
sometimes even necessary to satisfy an especially
hungry diner. Much of the produce served in
season is grown on Wade’s organic farm in Nambé,
and even the ice creams and a seasonal house-
flavored soda are made on the spot, so freshness is
virtually guaranteed. Surprisingly, it’s the occasional salad or its dressing that can be a letdown.
Recommended: watermelon gazpacho,
grilled artichokes, garden salad with romesco
dressing, duck confit and scallop additions,
Reuben sandwich, Cuban torta, flourless
chocolate cake, peach pie with vanilla ice cream.
With locations in Albuquerque, Taos,
Colorado, and Missouri, Five Star
is the newest burger option
to hit downtown Santa Fe. Owner Bob
Guntram pairs a bright cafeteria-meets-sports-bar design scheme with natural,
hormone-free Harris Ranch beef,
specially baked brioche buns, Colorado
bison, and other meaty goodies for
a gourmet burger experience that
sometimes falls short because of slow,
inattentive service or poorly executed
pre-frozen sides. Recommended:
Taos burgers, bison burgers, and hand-mixed shakes.
Dara Thai’s long menu, with its variations
on variations, hosts most of the familiar
Thai dishes and a few unusual offering like
Evil Jungle Princess, a creamy curry with an
unrevealed secret spice that just might be
mustard. Soups are excellent, the appetizers
so-so. Curries are all fine, and you can order
them on a fairly consistent heat scale of one
through five. Dishes, apart from heat, could use
more of what makes Thai food so enjoyable:
fresh garnishes and spicy contrasts. Service is
perfunctory and surprisingly efficient given
that it’s often in the hands of a single man.
Recommended: tom kha gai, tom yum gai,
Tropical Heat Wave curry, and panang.
The art-covered walls at Yummy Café distinguish
it from other local Chinese restaurants. Its menu
does not. What’s served — Hunan and Szechuan
entrees, meats in kung pao and garlic sauces, noodle
dishes, and fried rice — are prepared carefully but
without flair or invention. Request the cook take
the spiciness up a notch; otherwise you may be
disappointed by the lack of heat. Lunch specials
are the best deals. Recommended: shrimp with
mayonnaise, broccoli and tofu in garlic sauce,
paper-wrapped chicken, and egg drop corn soup.
Four days a week, Legal Tender
off U.S. 285 South in the tiny village of
Lamy, serves a variety of tasty snacks,
salads, sandwiches, and meaty “specialties”
such as steak and lamb. On weekends,
brunch dishes are available. The building
dates to around 1881, and Victorian details
fill the dining rooms. History buffs will get
a kick out of the railroad memorabilia. (All
net proceeds from restaurant sales benefit
the Lamy Railroad & History Museum.)
If the Santa Fe Southern sightseeing train
arrives, service might slow down, but the
ambience is laid-back and homey, and
almost everyone on staff is a volunteer,
so it’s hard to fault them. Recommended:
chicken wings, green chile stew, Cubano
sandwich, DIY burger, and mac & cheese.
For home-style Northern New Mexican
food, Café Castro
fills the bill. The eatery
breaks the cliché of Cerrillos Road chain
restaurants with generous servings,
fair prices, and a cordial down-home
ambience. Owners Julia and Carlos Castro
make authentic New Mexican food
from her mother’s recipes, and they
have some of the best chile in town.
The café is unpretentious and ideal
for those who like their New Mexican
food straight up. Recommended: enchiladas,
beans, rice, and carne adovada with
a cold beer or wine margarita.
Hummus outlets are a dime a dozen
in Santa Fe’s restaurant scene, but if you
scratch beneath the chickpea surface,
you may just discover an oasis of flavor.
, which also has a presence
in Los Alamos, serves up Greek and
North African staples with the occasional
Mediterranean special, and the hummus
is good to boot. A strip-mall facade belies
a colorful interior and menu, although
service suffers from that waiting-for-the-
check-too-long frustration that plagues
many local restaurants these days.
Recommended: Mediterranean garlic-
butter shrimp, lamb/beef gyro plate,
Tunisian brik à l’oeuf, and baklava.
The Hotel St. Francis’ Secreto Bar and Loggia
and Tabla de Los Santos
tradition and invention to their carefully prepared
drinks and dishes. Secreto features an array of
fresh-ingredient libations and vintage cocktails.
Tabla de Los Santos serves finely turned-out
variations on New Mexico classics. The Old World
atmosphere and the attractive patio make these
places excellent choices for out-of-town guests or,
once they’ve left, an excellent place for locals to
seek comfort. Go at happy hour when the cocktails
and appetizers are a straight $7. Recommended:
Spicy Secreto cocktail, smoked-sage margarita,
pequeños, red-cabbage salad, Anna and Miguel’s
chile relleno, and the chocolate-almond torte.
Far from the Plaza and the downtown food scene,
is unpretentious, serving generous
portions of New Mexican food, sandwiches, and
hamburgers at fair prices. A margarita menu,
children’s and seniors’ menus, and breakfast until
5 p.m. are perks. The food can be inconsistent,
and while Tortilla Flats doesn’t have the best red
and green chile around, it does offer a well-
rounded menu with something for everyone.
Recommended: El Papa Nachos, quesadillas,
Southwest chicken sandwich with sweet-potato
fries, red-chile enchilada, and chocolate cake
The house at Sena Plaza has been hosting Santa Fe
residents and travelers since the 1860s, with
Gerald Peters’ restaurant La Casa Sena
the tradition very much alive for almost 20 years.
Part of the credit goes to executive chef Patrick
Gharrity, at the helm since 2005, for serving
luscious combinations that delight and surprise
both carnivores and vegetarians. The most
beautiful patio in town, coupled with one of
the most romantic dining rooms around, not
to mention a wine list that’s a sightseeing trip
all by itself, may have something to do with it.
Recommended: gazpacho, granita, Flap-Jack
Griddle, poblano relleno, foie gras, Maytag blue
cheese and iceberg lettuce salad, mussels and
scallops, braised lamb, and chocolate-chile soup.
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen
serving classic regional cuisine since 1952.
The menu offers plenty for carnivores and
vegetarians alike, and nearly everything on the
menu is (or can be) smothered in chile. There’s
a kooky, well-worn ambience to the rambling
dining rooms, and although service usually runs
like well-oiled machinery, consistency can be an
issue. A separate eight-page menu is dedicated
to margaritas, which are made with 100 percent
agave tequila and range in price from $6.50 to
$50. Recommended: green chile stew, blue corn
enchiladas, huevos rancheros, Fiesta tamale
platter, and Yes Deer and First Kiss margaritas.
Cozy, with the feel of a friendly
neighborhood place, Andiamo!
takes pride in serving freshly
prepared food made from quality
ingredients. With its Italian-inspired
pastas, small pizzas, and protein-with-
veggie dishes, the restaurant walks
a fine line, managing to be a festive
choice yet still down-to-earth. While
the quality and attention to
preparation are on a par with
some of Santa Fe’s best-known
restaurants, the prices are far
more affordable. Recommended:
polenta, duck legs, beef tenderloin
steak, and tiramisu.
Yin Yang Chinese Restaurant
Hunan and Peking influences, but its
comprehensive menu includes an array
of Chinese dishes served in America for
decades. The cooking is competent if not
cutting edge; there is no Asian fusion
here. True to the restaurant’s name, plates
sometimes contrast meats and sauces.
Spicier preparations are uniformly best.
Unless you’re going for quantity, skip the
buffet at lunch and order off the menu.
Recommended: onion pancakes, chop suey,
crispy orange scallops, beef and shrimp
Szechuan style, and spicy crispy whole fish.