Let’s be honest! Food lovers know that Santa Fe New Mexico is a place that oozes relaxation and serenity, great food and ambiance and of course, stunning views. I didn’t focus on the foodie scene last time I was in Santa Fe, so this time around, it was fun to explore various options in the different parts of the city. In other words, nope – they’re not all downtown or walking distance from the main square.
Here are 5 Santa Fe Restaurant picks from our Santa Fe visit in January, and not necessarily listed in the order of our preference.
I’ll start with The Compound, where we had a long and leisurely lunch. We stayed longer than we originally planned, for three reasons: the general manager Jane Steele was top notch — she gets service and knows how to make customers feel like they’re the only ones in the restaurant, the food was exquisite and the ambiance was a lovely mixture of classic and artistic, right up my alley. We also had a fabulous waiter – Hats off to ya Tomas O’Halloran!!
Let’s tempt you first with the Jumbo Crab and Lobster Salad, made with mango, red onion and butter lettuce with a tangerine vinaigrette. This dish was to die-for and is apparently a house favorite. I can see why – I could have had two of these alone with a lovely Chardonnay and been in heaven for the rest of the day.
But, rather than have two lobster salads, we then dove into the Veal & Prosciutto Meat Balls, which Jane recommended. They are served over creamy polenta, San Marzano Tomato Ragu, Arugula and Parmesan, with a 15 year old Balsamic.
Third up was the Organic Scottish Salmon with Roasted Tomato Risotto, Parmesan, Cilantro, Onions, Shaved Fennel and a Micro-Green Salad.
While I thought I was going to leave the restaurant with the Lobster Salad as my top pick, this number tied for first place. A little on the rich side, so you I’d recommend not ordering anything else heavy, the Sweetbreads and Foie Gras had me at hello. They serve it with Cayenne and a Spanish Sherry – simple, rich and oh so divine!
They have delicious sides as well, such as their Blood Orange Maple Glazed Carrots, Wild Mushrooms, Truffled Mac & Cheese and French Fries, a standard we found on many menus in the south and southwest. While we didn’t try the Chicken Schnitzel, apparently locals just love it and it is a regular menu item and has been for years. It is served with capers, parsley, lemon and sauteed spinach.
Desserts included a Bittersweet Chocolate Torte, Blood Orange Sorbet, Coconut Panacotta (yum!!) and a Mandarin-Lime Tart.
Below is a snippet of one of the tables – the entire building is creatively carved out, with beautiful accents and artwork throughout, a look created by designer Alexander Girard. Apparently, Girard also donated more than 100,000 pieces to Santa Fe’s International Folk Art Museum, clearly a man I’d love to have a meal with and listen to story after story.
Rich in history, the Compound Restaurant used to be an adobe home, which was a centerpiece of a group of houses on Canyon Road known as the McComb Compound. This is where socialites and movie stars headed earlier in the century as a way to get lost from the hustle and bustle of their famed lives.
We also had an opportunity to meet the Chef, Mark Kiffin, who doesn’t come without a very long list of accolades. Apparently The Compound is his 20th restaurant opening and over a long stretch of stints, he wound up here in likely a calmer way of life. Santa Fe has a way of calling to people eventually we were told by many and I can see why. Kiffin is also behind several cookbooks and has participated in several James Beard events over the years.
With that background, it should be no surprise to learn that The Compound also had a fabulous wine menu. With over 200 selections to choose from, their list offers gems from most wine producing countries around the world, including the US, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Portugal.
It is worth noting for those who are new to Santa Fe or not art followers, that the establishment is on the well known Canyon Road, which is teaming with art galleries. For planning purposes, book a leisurely lunch but start early — afterwards, walk up and down Canyon Road for a wonderful array of eye candy in all directions.
Two Thumbs up — The Compound was surprise we weren’t expected to have at lunch and one we will generously remember for years to come. We would definitely return!
653 Canyon Road
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Now, for a completely different style restaurant, let’s visit The Cowgirl, which not only varies in its ambiance but its food selection and preparation as well. A Farm-to-Table restaurant, you’d never guess that this foodie gem would deliver such exquisite food when you first walk through its doors.
Casual in every way, with an almost diner/family style restaurant look-and-feel to it, once you pick your booth or table and are handed the menu, your evening is about to change. First of all, the menu is diverse and vast, with so many choices it may be hard to choose at first. They have casual fare like burgers and sandwiches (BBQ Beef on a Bun, Pulled Pork and Buffalo Burgers) and a number of salads, ranging from classic Caesars and Harvests to Arugula and the Cowgirl Salad, all of which you can add a protein to, including seared flat iron steak, Chimayo or Jerk chicken breast, salmon, seared shrimp or portobello mushrooms.
We opted for this delicious Arugula Salad with warm goat cheese and a sundried tomato vinaigrette – simple, but to die-for! Also, below it is the Harvest Salad, which is served with yellow beets (love beets in this part of the country), goat cheese, asparagus, roasted peppers, Marcona almonds, shaved fennel and watercress with organic greens.
Before we move onto other dishes, it’s worth noting their side dishes, which are all gluten free (they had an umber of GF offerings btw). We started ordering Cole Slaw as soon as we hit the south (Virginia) and continued to order a side of slaw wherever they offered it at every restaurant between Virginia and California.
Cowgirl sides are small but tasty — from slaw and green chile strips to sauteed mushrooms, guacamole, shredded BBQ brisket and Chipotle pulled pork. Their slaw was a stand-out, so much so we returned later in the week for more of it.
I didn’t expect the chef’s name to be Patrick given how many Mexican-styled dishes they had on the menu….let’s just say Patrick is a magician in the kitchen! While we didn’t meet Patrick, we hung with David Reyes, the general manager for awhile who guided us on what to try — he had a little pressure since I asked him what could I not leave the restaurant not tasting, that will forever change my palate?
He suggested the Cornmeal Fried Okra with a Remoulade Sauce (a bit like a thousand island sauce but with scallions and capers). Great choice! It also makes for a great side dish to share if you come with a group or family.
I wanted to try something that was a little out of line with their more standard fare such as southern styled dishes like Jambalaya, burgers, Jerk breast, pulled pork, Cajun Mahi and Crawfish Etouffee – you see the pattern yes? All delicious and all worth trying, but I was more curious by a more classic dish on their menu – the Seared Sea Scallops and so, they dished one up for us.
It is served with cider beurre blanc, chive oil mashed potatoes and topped with an arugula lettuce, pomegranate arils (so delicious), apples and candied pecans, all toasted in a roasted garlic vinaigrette.
When David returned, he informed us that we can’t leave without trying their award-winning chile cheeseburger, said with a wry smile. Huh? The Mother of All Chile Cheeseburgers? Yup, that’s what it is called and was the winner of the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. Who knew?
Their burgers are popular for obvious reasons (great buffalo burgers btw), but this specialty is a secret blend of all natural beef, local buffalo and Applewood smoked bacon, grilled with green chilies, melted brie, truffled green chile and tomatoes. It is to die-for, especially with their perfectly salted hand cut truffle fries!
You can also get a Game Burger (highly recommended), which is a steak of ground Elk, Buffalo and Venison grilled to order and served without a bun, smothered in Green Chile, topped with cheese if you’d like and served with a Cowgirl salad.
Doesn’t this say it all?
Desserts include a molten chocolate cake, a peach/blueberry cobbler and a mud pie. Ahh yes, mud pies. I remember how popular they were when I waited on tables in my younger years (can you say 21?) in Florida. They also have an ice cream baked potato (yes, really — no typo there) and in David’s words, it is amazing, made with vanilla ice cream coated with cocoa powder, banana butter and walnuts, dipped in a green powder. Apparently, it looks like a baked potato.
Instead we went for the Tres Leches Cake with walnuts and homemade ice cream, which was moist, moist, moist!! It was followed by the exquisite flourless chocolate cake with chile, which is served with dolce leche ice cream. OMG!!
Now for the cowgirl, oh so western ambiance!! They also have a bar area, where we sat when we returned later in the week for a Margarita. Think of it as an authentic down-to-earth American comfort restaurant but with 4+ star food. They play live music here regularly, so be sure to check out their schedule at www.cowgirlsantafe.com for the details.
Cowgirl Santa Fe (note they have other locations in the country)
319 S Guadalupe Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501
La Boca is the one restaurant that was located in downtown Santa Fe, a stone’s throw from the Plaza. This cute eatery where we had lunch one day specializes in distinctive Spanish small plates carefully curated with Mediterranean & South American wines. So yes, tapas — big and small!
Knowing we wanted to dive into some heavier tapas, we started with a simple Kale Salad, which is topped with Fried Garbanzos, roasted garlic and a lemon vinaigrette. Simple but elegantly displayed and oh so delicious!
Still staying on the lighter side, I had to sample the Gambas al Ajillo, which is a spicy garlic shrimp, chili de arbol, green onions and white wine with olive oil. It was incredibly fresh and would pair nicely with a soft Sauvignon Blanc, although I was on iced tea until the next batch arrived and well, then we went for Riojo and Cab in that order.
What you’ll begin to notice as you scroll through these exquisite dishes is just how elegantly and beautifully presented they are, all of which is the artistic talent of chef James Campbell Caruso and sous chef Reagan Nelson. Well done guys, well done!
Below is their Grilled Artichokes tapas, which they serve with a Spanish Goat Cheese, orange zest and mint. Let’s just say that it was perfectly grilled!
While I am not a huge fan of Anchovies, the “table” decided we should try them out and so out they came. If you’re a anchovy lover, these little gems will excite your palate – I was even able to sample one and doing so brought a smile. They call them Boquerones, aka Spanish pickled white anchovies with fennel and a strawberry escabeche.
Anthony and I marveled at yet another incredible beet salad concoction, which we had been sampling all the way across the country. Yet another great presentation and artistic blend of a beet salad, but here, it was done somewhat tapas style. On the larger side, this Ensalada Betabeles was served with both golden and red beets, goat cheese, watercress and frisee, tossed in a sherry and shallot vinaigrette.
The other thing you’re probably beginning to notice in addition to La Boca’s elegant presentation is how fresh everything looks. Every dish that came out was fresh and mouth watering and not one disappointed!
The below shot was taken on my iPhone, not my Canon, so the granularity and color is a little off, but I can assure you, don’t let the slight blur deter you from this delicious tapas dish. Yup – it’s a Pork Belly skewer! This gem is coated in a Membrillo Clove Glaze and served with a red cabbage and pineapple slaw side.
While we mainly stuck to tapas and salads, it’s worth pointing out that they offer a delicious Paella, Flat Iron Steak and Squid Ink Pasta as well, which is served with shrimp and mussels in a sofrito fish broth.
They also dish up sandwiches, soups, fries and a wide array of cheese platters (think manchego of course given the Spanish influence, cabrales (mixed goat, sheep, cow) and softer goat and sheep cheese. Because of their diverse cheese selection, they offer over 10 sherries by the glass to pair with them (hidalgo, lustau, and toro albala). It’s an unusual but nice addition to a menu, and something you don’t often see.
While we were there for lunch, they’re open for both lunch and dinner and have a nice selection of wines by the glass and bottle as well. Dessert options included a whipped honey/almond nougot semifreddo, a winter spiced Spanish custard, a Chocolate/Espresso Granache custard with a lemon anise polverone cookie, an Almond Cake with creme fraiche, blackberries and ginger, a Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with candied grapes and candied mint (this one has my vote!!), Balsamic marinated strawberries with a PX creme anglais and Pecan wedding cookies in powdered sugar. (remember that southern New Mexico is known for its pecans).
I loved the fact that they recommended a pairing with each dessert, from Sauternes and Malbecs to 10 year Tawnys and well, you could also just have one of their sherries or coffees. We left happy campers that afternoon, full of vigor to explore the historical part of the city.
72 W Marcy Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501
We’ve had a little traditional and classic style, a mishmash of old world and Spanish tapas, family style southwestern, but what we haven’t hit yet is a haven for the vegans and vegetarians among us. Vinaigrette is just the stops for the healthy conscious eaters and given how many heavy dishes we had in the South en route to New Mexico, Vinaigrette was a welcome retreat.
As foodies or those who have done restaurant reviews know, as delicious and organic of a dish a restaurant chef can churn out, when you dine out night after night, you begin to crave nothing but a simple salad from time-to-time.
Vinaigrette, located in a completely different part of town (for variety — be sure to explore all neighborhoods of Santa Fe, not just the tourist ones) gives you so many salad choices, so many that it took us a half an hour to devour the menu before we placed our order.
You name the lettuce, they have it and it’s all organic. Of course, they have the classic salads, like Cobb, Greek, Garden, Caesar, French Frisee and Spinach, but it’s what you can do with them that makes this place so interesting. They suggest a topping to your salad – examples include Seared Diver Scallops over a Spinach Mushroom Salad, Pork Tenderloin over a Garden Salad, Grilled Shrimp over a Greek Salad, Hibiscus Duck Confit over a French Frisee salad and so on.
Of course for the non meat eaters, you can simply leave off the meat – there are plenty of delicious veggie sides as well including grilled marinated baby artichokes, roasted vegetables and grilled tofu.
Before we even got started, I had to try the simple but oh so good Sauteed Kale, which they served with garlic and ginger.
Other great starters and sides include Celery Root Mash, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Eggplant Parmesan (an old favorite of mine from childhood) and Fried Kale fritters. While they also offer a variety of sandwiches on their menu as well (roasted veggie, classic reubens and tuna melts, pork shoulder and hot turkey), salads are the order of the day at this cute and simple but happily decorated restaurant.
Who said that salad had to taste or LOOK boring? The chef here clearly disagrees.
Since we barely had any soups on our journey, we decided to taste a couple – they had a delicious Cajun Gumbo as well as a Mushroom Stew, which was loaded with forest, button and porcini mushrooms. (vegan friendly).
They also have something on their menu called Signature Salads, which is about a dozen salads with varying types of lettuce and protein toppings. You can mix and match however, adding a Lemon-Herb Chicken Breast, Flank Steak, Pork Tenderloin or Duck Confit (traditional meat offerings), or seafood (Seared Tuna Steak, Diver Scallops, Sauteed Shrimp or the fish of the day).
The below “Beet Goes On” Salad recommended Grilled Artichoke Hearts as its topping, however I went with seared tuna on mine. This fresh baby greens and arugula blended salad was tossed with a tangy goat cheese, chopped pistachios and balsamic roasted beets and then topped with a honey-balsmic vinaigrette.
I also swapped out my dressing however and went for the cumin honey-lime vinaigrette instead. On the side, I sampled a few of their dressings and stand-outs include the tangy lemon-dill vinaigrette (yum!!) and the hibiscus vinagrette, which they typically serve over their Arugula Duck Salad (goat cheese, arugula and balsamic roasted pears).
They offer wine and beer, but given our mood that night and trying lighter dishes overall, we opted for a few of their freshly made non-alcoholic signature drinks.
While I failed to take any photos of any of these pours, be prepared for your mouth to water as you imagine a Ginger Turmeric Tonic, served with ginger and carrot juice, lemon and seltzer. It was surprisingly refreshing and btw, for those of you with aches and pains, both turmeric and ginger act as a great anti-inflammatory. Also worth testing out is the Golden Beet & Pear Spritz, which is a blend of pressed golden beets and pear juice with fresh ginger syrup and sparkling water.
After eating (and drinking) such healthy options, it makes it easier to lose the guilt when it comes to ordering dessert. How can you say no to this organic chocolate delight and freshly made carrot cake?
They call themselves an eco-friendly eatery and they deliver what they preach. Seventy percent of the organic produce served in Vinaigrette during peak season is grown on owner Erin Wade’s bucolic, 10-acre farm – Los Portales – in Nambé, New Mexico, about 20 minutes north of Santa Fe.
After renovating the 300-year old adobe farmhouse, Erin began to clear the land, nourish the soil and learn the art of farming. She read voraciously about how to farm organically and the even trickier task of doing it in the high desert with its short growing season, clay-based soil, and non-existent humidity.
To extend the farms growing capacities into the fall and winter months, Erin and her family installed a 1,200 square-foot greenhouse that is bursting with micro-greens, herbs and other cool-season delights in the winter and a jungle of tomatoes and hot house crops in the summer. And, how cool is this? Food waste from the restaurant is brought back to Los Portales where it is either fed to the plump farm pigs or composted in a network of worm-filled “vermiculture” piles.
Two thumbs up! We would gladly return to this gem of a find – thanks John for the heads up!! My only regret is that we were so tired and so full that we couldn’t try more of their farm-to-table offerings and hang out for a little longer.
709 Don Cubero Alley
Santa Fe, NM 87505
Four Seasons Terra Restaurant
We’ve almost hit all the categories, but a foodie who has been to a Four Seasons knows, that if there’s one in the area, it’s hard to pass up. I’ve reviewed a few Four Seasons hotels over the past few years including this one, as well as their restaurants and they’re always a memorable experience. The Santa Fe property’s Terra Restaurant didn’t disappoint, largely due to the knowledgeable and fun-to-talk-to sous chef Ruben Tanuz, who has an interesting back story — be sure to read my separate review of the restaurant.
New Mexican-born Tanuz shared what he knew about herbs, spices and and chilies, which he seemed to know a lot about, no grave surprise given that it is New Mexico’s largest export and where he grew up.
I was personally thrilled to see both Silverado and Opus on the wine menu and despite the fact that we went with a chicken and lighter pork dish, we dove into a California Cabernet rather than a Pinot which would have gone better with both. It was one of those nights…
The food was exquisite. Even if you’re not a salad lover, I’d recommend starting with one to complement another appetizer. The roasted pear salad frisee with arugula, endive, cranberries, pomegranates with a bleu cheese hazelnut vinaigrette and their beet and goat cheese salad with figs, candied pecans served with a balsamic reduction are both outa this world. They use a briquette grill and the result are tastes that will linger on your mind for weeks after you leave the restaurant.
They had an interesting Agave Vinaigrette on the salad menu which is worth noting – they make it with apple cider, salt, pepper, lime, egg, parsley and grape seed oil.
Other light options on the menu included a scrumptious Parsnip Bisque, which is house made with apple butter and candied pecan crumbles, their Poblano Chile Crab Cake, with tempura avocado, red Chile oil and Margarita Aioli, Pan Seared Scallops, Calamari, Roasted Lamb Chops, with kale, garlic potato puree and a mint lamb jus and the outa this world Green Chile Braised Short Rib Pumpkin Pasta with mushrooms, squash and whiskey cream.
On the seafood side, they offered a Chilean Sea Bass, with parsnip puree, sautéed spinach and a Saffron vanilla sauce and a Pan Roasted Salmon with potato pave, burnt orange marmalade and autumn vegetables.
Instead, we went with the Black Truffle Chicken with sweet potato croquets, wilted greens and a chicken jus and the Grilled Venison Loin, served with poached pears, blackberries, crispy kale and a chocolate sauce. Yum — both were to die for!
And, of course, you wouldn’t sign up for a Four Seasons unless you weren’t into a little decadence after all. How about this double chocolate creation for dessert? It was divine. It is made with a Cayenne Marshmallow, Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet and a Grand Marnier Sauce.
Also on the menu was a classic Apple Pie with cinnamon custard, almond ice cream, caramel sauce and almond brittle and Cinnamon Churros with caramel sauce, and Madrona ice cream. OMG!
The restaurant decor and design is classy, with elegant lighting, a cosy but modern fireplace in the center and a massive horse painting facing every table. Creative, edgy, modern and chic!!
They had a delicious 20 Year Grahams Tawny Port on the menu and a 10 Year Ramos ‘Pinto’, which is a great way to finish off your evening. A long list of fuel injected coffees was also available, everything from pepper mint schnapps and hot chocolate to hot buttered rum and Amarula Cream Liqueur with Highland Harvest Scotch! Ouch!
Two thumbs up! The restaurant is the stand-out on the property — they also have a lovely spa on the grounds in a very serene setting surrounded by glorious views. Worth doing is their couples massage, which is incredibly relaxing and can be followed by an outside hot tub soak.
Four Seasons Rancho Encantado / Terra Restaurant
198 State Road 592
Santa Fe, NM 87506
- Ecco: For incredible gelato and apparently Santa Fe’s #1 local coffee shop.
- Zia: A fun place with great cocktails and a happy hour from 3-6 every day where you can get $3.00 appetizers.
- Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen: Think a blend of modern and homey but with elegantly presented fresh dishes, along Pacheco Street.
- Bouche French Bistro: If you read this site enough, you know I’m a fan of French Bistros – this one is casual but elegant and they do oysters!
- Geronimo: Recommended by 3 locals back-to-back. Known for their “global eclectic dishes” and crab cakes & lobster tails. Fine dining on Canyon Road.
- Pyramid Cafe: Known for their fun ambiance. They also have a location in Los Alamos.
- Bang Bite: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a food truck given their growth in recent years. It’s on 502 Old Santa Fe Trail.
- Santa Fe BBQ: Per my note above, food truck #2 does tender, slow-smoked, dry rubbed beef and pork ribs. (note there are many other food trucks)
- Omira Bar & Grill: This is an all you can eat Brazilian Style Grill on 1005 South Street.
- 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar: I love wine bars, so wanted to add this to the list. They apparently have an award-winning wine list. Located on Old Santa Fe Trail.
- L’Olivier: This is fine dining with a twist on Galisteo Street – I love the unique blend of Southwestern and French cuisine under one roof.
- Revolution Bakery on San Feliope Avenue: For the gluten free among us, they not only do gluten free, but vegan and sugar free options as well. Bravo!
- Mucho Gusto: Authentic Mexican food on Paseo De Peralta.
- Joseph’s of Santa Fe: A 400 year old human sized statue of St. Michael watches over the dining room. Fine dining with melts & bison ribeyes.
- Skylight: Had wanted to go to this entertainment joint that has live music till midnight, but we didn’t have the time. Ambiance and music are order of the day.
- Del Charro: Inside the Inn of the Governors in Santa Fe, they have a lovely menu, outdoor firepit (massive one that gives great ambiance) and are open late.
- Raaga: Old World style, but elegantly done. Indian options, also meatballs and great curries on Agua Fria Street.
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.
She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.
Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.
Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.