Famous for being the oldest capital in the United States, the beautiful desert town of Santa Fe provides a melting pot of cultural cuisines. From traditional New Mexican bean and chilli-based dishes to contemporary fusions influenced by South-western, Mexican, Mediterranean, Asian and African cuisine, Santa Fe’s culinary scene is generous, full of flavour and based on the freshest locally produced ingredients as the following restaurants reveal.
Café Pasqual’s first opened its doors 31 years ago and has since become one of the best-loved restaurants in Santa Fe. Named after San Pasqual, the folk saint of Mexican kitchens and chefs, Café Pasqual provides an excellent blend of Mexican cooking with Asian flavours, and is devoted to high quality food and the use of certified organic and local ingredients. Located in downtown Santa Fe, Pasqual’s vibrant interior is lined with hand painted tiles and murals by Mexican painter Leovigildo Martinez. Stop by for a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner and try the blue lady enchilada (jack cheese on two corn tortillas with chilli) or the carne asada burrito (marinated and grilled steak with guacamole, jalapenos, black beans, sweet red peppers).
The Compound Restaurant
A true fine dining gem situated in the cultural hub of Santa Fe, the Compound Restaurant is renowned for its contemporary American cuisine influenced by recipes from 16th century Spanish settlers. Run by Chef Mark Kiffin, who has been nominated as best Southwestern chef, the Compound serves a superb selection of original, elegantly presented dishes complemented by a noteworthy wine list of over 200 wines from various producing countries. Signature specialities include the grilled beef tenderloin with foie gras, the tuna tartare topped with caviar and the braised veal osso bucco. The restaurant’s classy indoor and outdoor dining space, designed by renowned architect Alexander Girard, provides a unique intimate setting that is unrivalled in Santa Fe.
The Pantry Restaurant
A prime eating and meeting place since 1948, the Pantry Restaurant has a reputation for serving great comfort food in a relaxed and friendly environment. A family owned business, the restaurant takes pride in providing meals with a home cooked feel using a mix of Northern New Mexican and traditional American cooking styles. The Pantry’s classic diner-style counter gives it a familiar, old school feel and adds to its convivial atmosphere. Serving breakfast as well as lunch and dinner, the Pantry offers a great start to the day with hearty servings of huevos rancheros (corn tortilla topped with two eggs, chilli and cheese, served with beans) or the chile relleno omelette. Just make sure you bring a big appetite to the Pantry restaurant, as the portions tend to be very generous.
Run by Eric DiStefano, a top chef in Santa Fe, Geronimo is without a doubt very popular among Santa Fe’s local residents. Its delectable, sophisticated dishes range from peppery elk tenderloin with apple-smoked bacon to the vegetarian Japanese eggplant black truffle ricotta lasagne. Housed in a massive walled adobe dating back to the 16th century, Geronimo’s interior is classy and comfortable, with an inviting fireplace for cold winter days. After a delightful meal, stop by the restaurant’s sensual lounge bar, and sample the excellent selection of signature cocktails such as the Fountain of Youth, Honey Mar-tea-ni and Hibiscus Daiquiri.
A Spanish restaurant specialising in tapas, El Farol offers an exciting innovative menu in a cosy, amicable setting. From salads, cheeses, vegetables and pasta to seafood, meat, sausages and chicken, diners are spoilt for choice with over 30 tapas and starters, served in portions that are perfect for sharing. The restaurant’s walls are adorned with artwork from well known local artists, adding to El Farol’s charming and colourful interior. More than just a great meal, diners are also treated to live entertainment and music every night representing some of Santa Fe’s best musicians, and every Saturday evening there is a special flamenco show.
Kakawa Chocolate House
Named one of the top most luxurious places in the world to drink hot chocolate, the Kakawa Chocolate House is an artisanal chocolate shop and café that offers a delectable selection of chocolate creations. Combining traditional and cutting edge techniques, each product is unique and expertly made using Mesoamerican and colonial chocolate recipes with a special contemporary touch. Kakawa’s passionate and welcoming employees take the time to explain each product along with the history of Kakawa’s chocolate to every customer. From heavenly chocolate truffles and Aztec brownies to hot chocolate elixirs, intense in flavour, spiced with a variety of native herbs and flowers, the Kakawa Chocolate House is a must for all chocolate enthusiasts.
One of Santa Fe’s newest award-winning ethnic restaurants, Jambo Café offers an extraordinary chance to taste typical African and Caribbean cuisine in the heart of Santa Fe. Owner and Chef Ahmed Obo is originally from Lamu Island off the coast of Kenya, where he learnt his mother’s culinary secrets, and mastered the local fusion of Swahili, European, Arabic and Indian cuisine. Jambo’s exotic specialities include Kenyan-style beef kabobs, east African coconut lentil stew and banana leaf wrapped, island-spiced black rice. A vibrant and friendly restaurant that is among the favourites in the Santa Fe Reporter’s Restaurant Guide, Jambo’s tables are always full with loyal diners coming back for more of Jambo’s culinary magic.
A popular, trendy venue among both locals and tourists, Tune-Up Café offers an unpretentious casual setting to enjoy a large variety of simple yet tantalising dishes. Owned and run by married couple Jesus and Charlotte Rivera, the funky café serves an assorted menu of savoury delicacies with a touch of Salvadoran, New Mexican, Mexican and American influence. House specials include heirloom green tomato pie, grilled Atlantic salmon and organic chicken livers. Often packed with shoulder-to-shoulder seating, the restaurant also runs a bar with eight beers on tap, sangria, wines and sake-based cocktails.
Renowned for its authentic Northern New Mexican cuisine, Tomasita’s is known to serve the best red and green chilli and Margaritas in town. With recipes handed down from generation to generation, Tomasita’s menu is based on traditional locally sourced ingredients such as corn, beans, green and red chilli, and fruit. The comprehensive menu leaves little wanting with its diverse offering of enchiladas, burritos, chile rellenos, quesadillas, tortilla soups, steak platters, and tasty vegetarian dishes. Situated in a historical red-brick building constructed in 1904 in the rail yard district, Tomasita’s premises were once home to the famous Chile Line. Every Tuesday evening, New Mexicos’s only all-female Mexican folk band, the Mariachi Buenaventura, plays at Tomasita’s, giving diners a local musical twist to their Santa Fe dining experience.
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