Santa Fe, New Mexico is located about an hour north of Albuquerque and offers a unique southwestern experience. The dining options are as plentiful as they are distinct and impressive, rivaling that of larger cities with its innovative creations and overall selection. As a matter of fact, last year the Santa Fe restaurant scene was recognized for having the “best food” in small town America by Rand McNally and USA Today, in which I was one of the judges. Don’t miss the video below, it highlights the Santa Fe restaurant scene…complete with chef interviews and behind-the-scene food preparation.
With so many wonderful choices, it was tough to narrow this list down to just the five best Santa Fe restaurants, but I can assure you, each of the five below with give your taste buds a southwestern whirlwind tour of Santa Fe.
Coyote Cafe is a very popular stop in Santa Fe. And, for good reason—they live up, and dare I say…exceed their stellar reputation. Lead by Chef Eric DiStefeno, Coyote Café is a collection of talented and passionate individuals who are seasoned in the art of Southwestern hospitality. Some of the dishes I’ve tried include:
- Mexican Sashimi Plate: Tuna, white shrimp, avocado and fresh crab meat. This dish is colorful, flavorful, and beyond delicious.
- Lobster latte: A lobster soup with cream, otherwise known as heaven in a spoon.
- Grilled Maine Lobster drizzled in New Mexico Chile with Vietnamese chutney.
- Smoked duck salad with Belgian endive and port wine.
- Prime fillet of beef with a vegetable crepe, tempura asparagus, and veal with demi-glace. Sensational!
- Mango strawberry shortcake with basil ice cream and New Mexico tiramisu.
Anasazi Restaurant offers a welcoming, fine-dining experience wrapped in elegant and rustic Southwestern decor. Lead by chef Juan Bochenski, Anasazi stands out for its healthful and artistically presented meals. The roasted lamb loin with purple potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, bok choy and chocolate & cherry mole’ is culinary perfection. The mole’ adds a wonderful complexity to the dish. You may also want to try the chicken enchiladas…made with slow cooked chicken, green chile, black beans, asadero cheese and Mexican rice. This enchilada dish is anything but ordinary.
Fuego - At Fuego the menu items are delectable…a mix of classic New Mexican cuisine and American fusion created by Chef Carmen Rodriguez . For dinner, the menu features upscale regional cuisine with an emphasis on fresh local ingredients…with some northern New Mexican influence thrown in to make it a genuine Santa Fe experience. Some of the items I’ve had include:
- Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup: Cucumber, avocado and spring onions blended together to make a lovely smooth and refreshing starter. Oh, and it’s topped with lobster relish, made of Maine Lobster, tomatoes and fresh cilantro.
- The Cubano Sandwich: Slow roasted citrus marinated pork loin, which is sliced and grilled with sweet ham, then placed on traditional toasted Cuban bread.
- Chicken Enchiladas: Natural chicken roasted and shredded, mixed with jack and cheddar cheeses, then wrapped in corn tortillas, smothered in ancho chile enchilada sauce and served with boraccha beans and cilantro rice.
- Chocolate Mousse: For dessert, a deliciously rich and creamy chocolate mousse. The recipe came straight from the chef’s grandmother.
La Casa Sena is situated in Sena Plaza, one of the oldest surviving houses in Santa Fe, which is located just across the street from the famed St. Francis Cathedral. It’s clear that Chef Patrick Garrity has a desire to stimulate the imagination of his guests while tantalizing their palates…leaving them completely satisfied. In addition to exciting your taste buds, the wait staff at La Casa Sena will entertain you with live Broadway and jazz performances. It’s really an amazing experience—one minute you’re being served a drink, the next…that very person is belting out a popular theatrical tune. The waiters are not just servers, they’re highly talented and very entertaining performers…making for an overall fun dining experience. Here are some of the items I’ve had the pleasure of trying:
- Goat Cheese, Sweet Corn Croquettes: Goat cheese cajeta, crispy wontons and mocha snow.
- LCS Caesar: Red chile, lime and anchovy dressing with lime-cotija flatbread.
- Wild Mushroom Tamale: Poblano scented masa with exotic mushrooms, garlic-sage butter, and crispy shallots. The masa is infused with poblano flavor to highlight the chile’s flavor, not the heat. (This is a common theme in the New American West).
- Aztec Dusted Salmon: Pan seared filet with spiced mocha crust, yellow mole, quinoa-radicchio salad, and mango-sesame dressing. Yellow mole uses honey in lieu of chocolate and sweet yellow peppers rather than chiles.
- Grilled New Mexico Hanger Steak: Green chile dusted with calabacitas and cheesy mashed potato-stuffed relleno.
- Dessert: House-made apricot ice cream with oat crumbles and blackberry sauce.
Compound Restaurant dates back to the 60s when formal attire was required and notable socialites were common. Today the Compound Restaurant is a bit less formal and inviting thanks to chef/owner Mark Kiffin (formerly with Coyote Cafe). The modern menu emphasizes bold flavors with historic culinary traditions. There are several lovely indoor dining areas that are both elegant and cozy…however the ambiance of the patio makes for a special experience. The Compound typifies fine dining—from the cuisine to the service and the atmosphere, a superlative experience awaits. Here are some of the delicious dishes I’ve tried:
- Jumbo Crab and Lobster Salad: Mango, red onion and butter lettuce with tangerine vinaigrette.
- Beef Tenderloin Medallions: Slow cooked soft polenta and spring pea cream porcini demi-glace.
- Crispy Fried Soft-shell Crab Sandwich: Chipotle-lime mayonnaise and summer vegetable escabeche.
- Scottish Salmon: Prosciutto wrapped, sofritto and tarragon green lentils with white balsamic glaze.
- Bittersweet Chocolate Torte: Crème Fraiche, chocolate tuile.
- Cantaloupe Sorbet: Greek yogurt semifreddo, watermelon, and honeydew consommé.
- Blueberry Tart: Corn meal cookie crust, sweet corn ice cream, noble maple syrup.
If you’ve been to any of these Santa Fe restaurants, please leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what your favorite meals are? Or, if your favorite Santa Fe restaurant isn’t mentioned, give them a shout-out and let us know what makes ‘em stand out.