Best Things to Do Santa Fe, New Mexico


Santa Fe offers abundant dining options, many of which include three-season al fresco dining. Traditional northern New Mexican food blends Mexican and Spanish influences and revolves around savory red and green chile, corn and beans. Yet Santa Fe's culinary scene spans the globe — you'll find everything from crispy frog legs and Vietnamese pho, to Indian curries and East African goat stew. Many restaurants emphasize some combination of local, organic, gluten-free and vegan fare.

Just off the Plaza is Café Pasqual's, a favorite among locals and a great stop for breakfast. The menu offers flavorful breakfast burritos loaded with chorizo sausage, huevos rancheros made from golden organic eggs, and eclectic options like smoked trout hash with Gruyere. The atmosphere is lively, and the dining room is lined with hand-painted Mexican tiles and murals — just be prepared for a wait, especially during peak seasons. Locals usually opt for the community table, which is a great way to converse with fellow travelers, and the wait for a seat is far more bearable.

Tecolote has been a beloved Santa Fe eatery since 1980. The menu offers just about anything you might need to get you going: vegetarian burritos with spicy chile sauces, blueberry or Tollhouse pancakes, French toast made with assorted homemade breads, and old-fashioned eggs Benedict with thick Canadian bacon.

For lunch, head to The Shed, where the legendary blue corn enchiladas and fiery red chile have been trademarks of the restaurant since it opened in 1953. Here you can also try the mocha cake, one of the best frozen desserts in Santa Fe. Tomasita's is another Santa Fe institution. Located near the railroad tracks in the historic redbrick station house, this busy eatery serves locals, politicians and tourists with the same speed and friendliness. Try the roast beef burrito if you're really hungry, or the Mexican plate if you're not. The sopaipilla, or "little pillows" are easily among the best you will ever try — especially with some honey butter spread on top.

Another lunch option is Maria's New Mexican Kitchen. Maria's has been welcoming guests for more than half a century in a house originally built in the 1880s, and the margaritas are famous (or perhaps infamous). There are more than 200 to choose from, and the recipes for these can be found in The Great Margarita Book, written by former owners Al and Laurie Lucero. Don't miss Maria's wonderfully tender shredded carne adovada.

For a casual meal downtown, try the San Francisco Street Bar & Grill, which overlooks the plaza from the corner of San Francisco Street and Don Gaspar. The restaurant offers contemporary southwestern and American dishes, including a pan-seared shrimp salad with sliced mango and candied pecans, as well as hearty pasta dishes. Another informal choice is the Blue Corn Café & Brewery. The main attractions here are hip versions of New Mexican food, big two-fisted hamburgers and handcrafted IPAs and root beer.

To experience a fine upscale meal, make reservations at Geronimo or Santacafé, both award-winning contemporary global restaurants. Both are also hangouts for Santa Fe celebrities, although you don't need to be famous to be seduced by the food. Santacafé blends southwestern and Asian cuisines, as in the cactus and shitake mushroom spring rolls — and the seafood dishes are sublime. If you eat at Geronimo, consider the elk tenderloin.

Chef John Sedlar's restaurant ELOISA is located at Drury Plaza Hotel. The restaurant offers diners a spellbinding take on indigenous New Mexican cuisine. The menu pays homage to Sedlar's grandmother — who cooked for Georgia O'Keeffe — and the cuisine of his childhood. "The Father Of Modern Southwest Cuisine" has drawn national recognition for his artistry in the kitchen.

Canyon Road is home to some of the most esteemed dining establishments in Santa Fe. For a refined meal, James Beard Award winning Chef Mark Kiffin's The Compound offers a perfectly harmonious union of artistic and gastronomical creations. Designed by renowned architect Alexander Girard, the walls and ceilings are sprinkled with colorful Native American designs and folk art. The crispy sweetbreads and foie gras appetizer will linger deliciously in your memory, as will the buttermilk roast chicken on the stacked salad.

For dinner, treat yourself to a meal at 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar, a cozy French bistro with a wonderful wine list and attentive service. While the steak frites and mussel entrees are classics, ask about the specials. And if the weather allows, relax on the patio. 

For dessert, satisfy your sweet tooth at Kakawa Chocolate House, a specialty chocolate company whose passion is authentic and historic chocolate elixirs from Pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican, Mayan, Aztec, 17th-century European, Colonial American and Colonial Mexican traditions. They have been described as a kind of "time travel" for the palette — and everyone swoons at their sumptuous delights.

For more places to dine, search GAYOT's Santa Fe restaurant reviews.