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Santa Fe Select
Friday, 30 November 2012
ImageThese 10 dining destinations are must-try eateries when you’re in the City Different

Story by Logan Greeley, Paul Lehman & Mike English  
Photos by Wes Naman, Joy Godfrey & Adria Malcolm

New Mexico residents are prone to take Santa Fe’s reputation as a national fine-dining destination for granted. Whether you’re an Burqueño up for a day or a Santa Fe native jaded by the tourist-oriented hype, it’s easy to find yourself grabbing a bite at any restaurant around the corner. But don’t settle like that.

There really are some remarkable places to eat in the City Different. Local iQ surveyed several people in the know about Santa Fe dining to come up with these 10 top destinations, from humble breakfast and lunch spots to gourmet dinner locales. Bon appétit!


Inn and Spa
at Loretto
211 Old Santa Fe Trail, 505.984.7915
Hours: 7-11a, 11:30a-2p, 5-9p, daily

Hotel restaurants typically get overlooked by locals, often deservedly so, but Luminaria easily stands on its own as one of the City Different’s finest culinary destinations. With an elegant dining room complete with an adobe-style fireplace, as well as a hidden patio nestled against the 1878 Loretto Chapel, Luminaria’s atmosphere captures the historic Santa Fe vibe in an elegant way. And ever since Chef Brett Sparman came on board this summer, from his stints as executive chef at upscale eateries in Houston and Dallas, the food is a match for the sophisticated surroundings. Whether it’s duck breast and smoke-flavored mole, pancetta-wrapped sea bass or locally raised beef tenderloin, each dinner entree is carefully composed (with prices ranging from $26 to $39 per plate), and well complemented by starters like tortilla soup or goat cheese polenta fries (try them). The lively lunch menu offers everything from pork tacos to a pastrami reuben with sour apple kraut and melted gruyère cheese. Throw in a wine list highlighted by organic selections, and an experienced service staff, and you have the ingredients of a memorable meal.

ImageLa Boca
72 West Marcy, 505.982.3433
Hours: 11a-10p daily, brunch 9a-3p, Sat.-Sun.

Since New Mexico and Spain have so much in common, it would seem that the nationwide Spanish tapas trend that has been going on for years now would have more of an impact here. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case. Regardless of the small number of tapas menus in the state (and even smaller number of authentic menus), at least one spot in Santa Fe, La Boca, knows how to do tapas well. Located just north of the Plaza, La Boca’s intimate, bustling atmosphere is quite alluring, but it doesn’t come close to the draw of the succulent dishes offered by chef James Campbell Caruso (who is well traveled in Spain). Just reading his menu alone is enough to initiate the proverbial Pavlovian reflex. If there is such a thing as culinary erotica in the literary world, La Boca’s menu is a toothsome example. Numerous Spanish ingredients are used to create familiar dishes such as bruschetta, chorizo and gazpacho. But this menu was tailored to more adventurous eaters who are willing to dive in to a plate of boquerones (Spanish white anchovies in white wine, garlic and olive oil), lump crab and scallop canelones (pasta rolls) served with manchego cream or grilled quail topped with pomegranate molasses and served with harissa cous cous. See what I mean? La Boca (and its late-night tavern-style cousin, La Taberna) has been garnering praise nationwide as one of Santa Fe’s best eateries. After a number of visits, it’s difficult to argue with such high praise.

402 Guadalupe, 505.988.1809
Hours: 7a-4p daily, closed Sun.

Make believe you’re in Paris at a small, homey patisserie/café owned by a talented chef/front-of-the-house couple. The fare is simple but rich, with deep flavor and the lunch menu consists of quiches, salads and sandwiches including a fine Croque Madame ($6.90), and an equally superb Croque Monsieur ($5.90). The Monsieur enhances a delicious ham and Gruyere sandwich with a rich, smooth béchamel sauce and the Madame goes a step further with a perfect sunny-side up fried egg atop the delicious mountain. Of course there are lots of just-baked French breads as well as a wide selection of pastries, including flaky butter, chocolate and almond croissants, brioche, clafoutis (fruit and custard tarts), beignets, baguettes and many other delights. Good coffee, cappuccino, espresso and European soda are served by a friendly staff. Bon jour!

26 Chapelle, 505.428.0077
Hours: 5:30-10p, Mon.-Sat.

Prior to Shibumi, locals who hadn’t been introduced to a proper bowl of ramen had to do so beyond state borders. No longer. The bonus is that owner Eric Stapelman went one step further by combining a traditional ramen bar with a true izakaya, essentially a Japanese pub. So the MO here is savory Japanese soul food served in a small and cozy atmosphere. If you’re looking for comfort food that goes way beyond American mac ‘n’ cheese, you’re in the right place. The word shibumi loosely translates as “understated beauty.” This aesthetic carries over in Shibumi’s decor — sleek blonde wood bar top, clean off-white walls with spare, minimalist artwork, exposed beams and warm incandescent lighting. The toasty atmosphere complements what you’ll find in your bowl of ramen. Stapelman offers four sumptuous varieties — kaisen (shrimp), yasai (vegetable), tonkatsu (pork) and torigara (chicken) — each beholding a richness that is expected of broths that have been cooking for days. The ramen is the star player here, but the true beauty of Shibumi can be found in the izakaya menu and the daily specials scrawled on what looks to be a piece of driftwood propped up near the bar. Small dishes range from traditional — oshinko (pickles), edamame (soy beans) — to inventive — pork belly and quail egg, gizzards with spicy curry. Three things to note before dining here (and you absolutely must dine here, no question): don’t splash on the Hai Karate or Burberry; if your cologne or perfume overpowers the food, you’ll be asked to leave. Bring cash money; no plastic accepted. And make a reservation; the place is small and fills up quickly on most nights.

333 W Cordova, 505.986.0362
Hours: 7a-9p, Mon.-Sat., 8:30a-9p, Sun.

Putting good food in your body is one of the quickest ways to build health. This idea is a key part of the puzzle at Body, which, since it was opened in an old grocery store by founder Lorin Parrish in 2004, has evolved to become a sprawling lifestyle center. You might know it for the yoga classes, spa or hip retail store, but meals at Body, created by Chef Matthew Fox, are more than worthy of a visit on their own. Local, sustainable, organic — they’re more than buzzwords at this cafe, where fresh food is the focus and creative ingredients and preparation will surprise you. So by all means, eat your salad, but be ready for the special touches like cumin toasted pumpkin seeds and blended pine nut “cheese.” Hungry for enchiladas? Don’t be startled when they are delivered raw, served in a bell pepper wrap and filled with cabbage, corn, red onion, chile sauce and pine nut sour cream. Or looking for the protein boost provided by tuna? How about Raw Nut Tuna, an even-better-than-tuna blend of nuts and seeds, avocado, onion, celery, kelp powder and other seasonings, served on flax crackers. There are meat selections, like the Lamb Burger (locally grass fed, of course), so this isn’t a cultish veggie restaurant. Body is simply about feeding yourself with fresh, wholesome, delicious food.

709 Don Cubero Alley, 505.820.9205
Hours: 11a-9p daily, closed Sun.

When Harvard-educated Erin Wade opened Vinaigrette in 2008, she introduced Santa Feans and visitors to a new and exciting concept: salads as a festive event! No longer would salad be diet food only, but it would become a fun, delicious, creative dish. Wade’s bright and colorful eatery (a short stroll from the Railyard’s Rail Runner main station) has become a highly popular rendezvous for both lunch and dinner. Her 10-acre organic farm in Nambe supplies many of the fresh ingredients for her salad creations like French Frisee (frisee greens, poached egg, bacon lardons, warm shallot vinaigrette dressing, $9.95), Eat Your Peas (baby lettuce, sweet green peas, bacon shards, white mushroom sauté, asiago cheese, $10.95) and Cherry Tart (dried cherries, feta cheese, baby arugula, toasted pecans, $9.95). You can go all veggie or you can pack some protein, as you will with the classic Chop Chop salad (roast chicken, tomato, bell pepper, romaine, garbanzos, salami, provolone, $10.95) Apple-Cheddar Chop (grilled pork tenderloin, baby arugula, julienned green apples, pickled fennel, sharp cheddar, $15.95), or Nutty Pear-Fessor (sautéed scallops, grilled Bosc pears, bacon crumbles, toasted pecan halves, blue cheese, tender greens, $19.95). And good news for Albuquerque diners: Vinaigrette just opened a Duke City location, near Old Town on Central Avenue.

ImageBobcat Bite
418 Old Las Vegas, 505.983.5319
Hours: 11a-8p, Wed.-Sat., 11a-5p, Sun.

Home of the nationally renowned Green Chile Cheeseburger, this family-owned and operated country kitsch roadside cabin has attracted crowds of locals and visitors since 1953. You can’t make a reservation and you’re obliged to wait on the enclosed porch for anywhere from 15-30 minutes, but it’s worth it!

Located on Old Las Vegas Highway, it has been featured on the Food Network and in numerous gourmet magazines for its steaks, chops and super burgers. It’s all cooked on a well-used iron grill and there are framed pictures of bobcats as well as bobcat memorabilia on the walls. The short, simple menu includes hamburgers, cheeseburgers (with or without green chile or bacon), grilled chicken sandwich, ham sandwich, pork chops, ham steak, rib eye steak and sides of home fries, baked beans, potato salad, pasta salad or coleslaw. And if you don’t order sides, you get a bed of Ruffles potato chips. The burgers start at $7.40-$10.40, steaks and dinner items from $16.55-$23.55 and sides from $1.25-$9. You must try the Bite.

ImageLa Cocina de
Dona Clara

227 Don Gaspar, 505.983.6455
Hours: 8a-3p daily

Serapes, sombreros and paper flags serve as a joyous backdrop to La Cocina de Dona Clara, which serves the most authentic Mexican cuisine in Santa Fe. Start the fun with a flavorful Mexican fruit soda followed by good solid corn chips with a stirring bowl of molcajete salsa or delicious guacamole. And sure, there are the standards: taco plates made with steak, carnitas, chicken, barbacoa or adovada, as well as a variety of tortas, burritos, gorditas and empanadas, for example. But the tongue, pork stomach or pig head tacos might be your first clue you’ve left chain-food America far behind.

Breakfast at La Cocina offers burritos, Huevos Rancheros ($8.95), arbol chile and tomatillo, Chilaquiles with added queso fresco ($9.95) or the special Huevos Dona Clara ($9.95) with roasted tomato, jalapeño salsa, steak or ham. Add to these delights Blue Corn Pancakes with apple brandy piñon nut butter sauce ($8.95).
Lunch features Enchiladas with shrimp, or Taquitos, Quesadillas or a Mexican Combo with chicken mole and chile relleno (all priced between $9.95-$11.95). Try the tasty Queso Fundido ($6.95) made up of Mexican melted cheese, chorizo and poblanos, the Tortilla Soup ($6.95) or an Empanadas Sampler ($7.50) of shredded beef, cheese and potatoes.

Main courses include Tampiqueña ($13.95) with two ancho chile enchiladas, flank steak and guacamole, or Chalupas ($11.95), Chile en Nogada ($14.95) with poblano stuffed with ground beef and pecan cream sauce, or Tacos de Pescado o Camaron ($13.95) with mango pico de gallo and orange chipotle coleslaw. It’s a festival of authentic Mexican eats.

ImageJambo Cafe
2010 Cerrillos, 505.473.1269
Hours: 11a-9p daily; closed Sun.

This fascinating eatery offers African/Caribbean home-style cuisine in simple, practical surroundings set in a retail center off St. Michael’s Drive and Cerrillos Road. Goat Stew is one of the unique specialties on the regular menu along with Moroccan Lamb Stew ($11.95), Jerk Chicken ($10.95), curries and sides including crispy plantains dusted with cinnamon, chickpeas, couscous topped with chutney and lots of raisins. Prize-winning Chef Ahmed Obo has a subtle touch, and his Island Spice Coconut Peanut Chicken Stew ($7.95) has won Santa Fe’s annual Souper Bowl three years running. Try the Piri Piri made with shrimp in East African hot sauce with organic curried quinoa, sweet potatoes and sugar peas ($12.95). Jambo is another example of the wide variety of cuisines available in Santa Fe. 

544 Agua Fria, 505.820.6440
Hours: 11a-10p daily; closed Sun.

It’s something of a shame that Indian restaurants are associated with quantity-over-quality lunch buffets. There are few cuisines in the world which match the complexity of flavors found in skillfully prepared Indian food. And that’s what you will find at Raaga, where chef, owner and Mumbai native Paddy Rawal creates bright, crisp, memorable dishes that will change the way you think about Indian restaurants. The fluffy naan bread with its Italian-style rosemary and olive oil accents (carb-loading was never so delicious) and the gluten-free papadum are your first indications that the cuisine here is a step above. And as you dig into entrées like the Lamb Vindaloo and Bombay Fish Masala, or find that old standards like Chicken Madras are given new life by the use of whole curry leaves, you begin to realize that unusual levels of thought and creativity are the main ingredients at Raaga. There is indeed the aforementioned lunch buffet, but that’s just a small part of the picture at this fine restaurant. The Hindi word raga means “sweet melody.” How fitting.
Santa Fe dining
The best of the rest

315 Restaurant and Wine Bar
315 Old Santa Fe Trail, 505.986.9190

Aqua Santa
451 W. Alameda, 505.982.6297

319 S. Guadalupe, 505.982.2565

There’s a reason this sprawling eatery and taproom in the heart of Santa Fe remains one of the most popular destinations in town. Lip smacking barbecue and southwestern standards are the signatures of chef Patrick Lambert.

La Casa Sena
125 E. Palace, 505.988.9232

Mu Du Noodles
1494 Cerrillos, 505.983.1411

Tanti Luce 221
221 Shelby, 505.988.2355

ImageSan Q
32 Burro Alley, 505.992.0304

A Japanese pub operated by Kohnami owner Sang Gyoo Park, the specialty here is “japas,” or Japanese tapas. The novelty factor alone is worth the visit.

The Shed
113 E. Palace, 505.982.9030

A memorable red sauce and tasty versions of New Mexican standards make this a worthy destination.

Tia Sophia’s
210 W. San Francisco, 505.983.9880

229 Galisteo, 505.820.2253

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