There are places where you eat while you travel, then there are places you travel to eat. Santa Fe is the latter. Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo culinary influences have marinated in the city for centuries creating original regional cuisine you can’t find anywhere else. New Mexican food – don’t call it Mexican, the locals will give you side-eye – delivers enough dishes slathered in the state’s famous red and green (chile) to last for days. But combine that with local produce, craft beer, third-wave coffee houses, and James Beard Award-winning restaurants, and you’ll have an unsurpassed food journey. Just remember: Pace yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Having a breakfast burrito in Santa Fe is practically required – the city is said to have invented them. Family owned eateries Tecolote Café and Tia Sophia’s serve hearty versions of the egg, potato, cheese combo rolled into a tortilla and smothered with sauce. Ask for it “Christmas” to taste both red and green chile. Properly fueled? Then, if it’s Tuesday or Saturday, stroll the aisles of the Santa Fe Farmers Market– it’s the state’s largest and longest running market of its kind—to smell the aroma of roasting green chile, taste local goat cheese, and satiate your sweet tooth with desert-pollinated honey. Lunch calls for an oldie but a goodie: Plaza Café. It’s the longest-operating restaurant in the city – and for good reason, it’s New Mexican and classic diner fare is topped only by the cheery atmosphere and great service
Tap into the state’s booming craft beer scene in the afternoon at Second Street Brewery. Live music and pub grub are on the menu there, too, but don’t get too full. Dinner means reservation-dining at Eloisa where culinary director Chef John Sedlar creates memorable dishes inspired by the vast culinary history of the Southwest. Finish off the day by sipping a libation and watching the sunset at the rooftop Bar Alto.
After day one, you’re going to need a jolt of caffeine. Find it with a pour over cup of coffee or espresso at Iconik Coffee Roasters. By now, you’re surely entranced, so you can join a guided excursion with Food Tour New Mexico to discover even more about the state’s regional cuisine or join a class at Santa Fe School of Cooking to learn how to make your favorite New Mexico signature dishes at home.
For brunch or lunch, grab at table at one of two sister (and conveniently neighboring) restaurants: Modern General and Vinaigrette. Amid its contemporary general store vibe, the former serves refreshing juices and smoothies, and “Mod Cakes,” a savory take on pancakes. Next door, opt for a chef-driven salad at Vinaigrette, where most of the produce comes straight from proprietress Erin Wade’s nearby farm.
You’ll have had a healthy lunch, so you may be ready to indulge in the afternoon. Santa Fe Brewing, the state’s original craft brewer, makes sipping easy with two taprooms as well as its original brewery locale. Its known for its flagship Happy Camper IPA and State Pen Porter, but ask about its seasonal brews, too. If you opt for wine instead, you won’t be disappointed. New Mexico claims the title as the country’s first wine-growing region, thanks to some enterprising Franciscan monks and their need for sacramental wine grapes. Several local wineries, including Vivac, have City Different tasting rooms.
New Mexico has a strong chocolate connection – cacao beans were found here centuries ago – but you won’t need strong-arming to taste the selections of Kakawa Chocolate House. Willy Wonka’s got nothing on this intimate chocolaterie serving artisanal truffles and Old World drinking chocolates.
Book your reservation in advance for Restaurant Martin. Chef Martin Rios has been a several-times finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Southwest Award. It’s no wonder, since his progressive American cuisine dazzles taste buds with dishes like duck sausage over king trumpet mushroom flan topped with wild blueberry–sumac reduction. Mouthwatering dishes such as this only dust the surface of Santa Fe’s crave-worthy culinary scene.
Where to Stay in Santa Fe if you are a foodie:
Drury Plaza Hotel Santa Fe doubles as a dining destination thanks to its on-site restaurant, Eloisa. While nearby, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi has been earning raves for its resident restaurant. And a short drive outside of town, set in the foothills, Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado boasts renowned restaurant, Terra.