Santa Fe Favorites
Eating out in Santa Fe can be expensive, but you don’t have to break the bank to have a special lunch. Sure, we have our share of the usual fast food places. A few of the chains—say, Bumblebee’s and Bert’s Burger Bowl—serve good food at reasonable prices. But here in Santa Fe, local is the way to go. Whether you’re exploring the downtown Plaza area, are out and about, or heading out of town on a day trip, you’ll find some wonderful restaurants that feature a variety of entrées under $10. Here’s a sampling of some of the best:
113½ East Palace Avenue
The Shed, located in a charming old adobe tucked into the historic Prince Patio just east of the Plaza, serves some of the best and most popular local fare in town. Most everything on the lunch menu is just under $10, from their great selection of soups and salads (although the soup and salad combo is a bit over $10) to the burgers and sandwiches to the local favorites the Shed is famous for. The enchiladas are fabulous, served with pinto beans and posole. They tend to feature their red chile, which is vegetarian and to die for, though green is of course also available (and also delicious). I’m a green chile girl myself, but at the Shed I order Christmas chile: red on one enchilada, green on the other.
133 West Water Street
4056 Cerrillos Road #G
Another popular spot for local food is the Blue Corn Café. If the ambience isn’t quite as special as the Shed’s, it’s still a great bargain. Lunch specials include such New Mexico favorites as enchiladas, tacos, and huevos rancheros. The carne adovada (slow-cooked pork cubes in red chile) is especially good here. They also feature soups (including their famous grilled corn and chipotle soup), sandwiches, wraps and burgers. Their microbrewery features a variety of ales, lagers and a Sleeping Dog Stout; if you’d rather not imbibe, try their yummy prickly pear iced tea. The Blue Corn Café is located downtown at the corner of Water and Galisteo Streets. Their south-side location, convenient to south-side shopping, is on Cerrillos and Rodeo Roads near Pier One (entrance on Rodeo).
50 East San Francisco Street
Not in the mood for chile? Another moderately priced downtown lunch spot is the San Francisco Street Bar and Grill. Relocated to their present site (happily still on San Francisco Street) since late 2003, this self-described American Bistro serves a creative array of sandwiches, salads, soups and snacks in a casual and lovely open space. My favorites include the chicken breast sandwich with provolone, roasted red peppers and basil aioli on a fresh ciabatta role and the grilled Swiss and tomato sandwich with basil pesto on black bread. Salad fans won’t be disappointed: these aren’t the same old boring greens. Try the Cobb, sesame chicken spinach or tuna nicoise salads, or, if you’re in the mood for Middle Eastern food (a tough itch to scratch in Santa Fe), there’s a Mediterranean salad plate and a red chile hummus appetizer. Look for the San Francisco Street Bar and Grill on the upper level at the corner of East San Francisco and Don Gaspar Streets.
187 Paseo de Peralta (in the De Vargas Center)
Under the same ownership as the San Francisco Street Bar and Grill, the Santa Fe Bar and Grill provides a nice selection of local foods, salads and sandwiches at lunchtime. I seem to order salads here (my favorites are the grilled gulf prawn and avocado salad and the NY strip steak salad); the portabella and mozzarella sandwich is also a winner. I hear the local cuisine entrées are also good, but keep in mind that Diego’s is just a short walk down the mall.
193 Paseo De Peralta (in the De Vargas Center)
This friendly, casual restaurant, also located in the De Vargas Center, serves (in my not-so-humble opinion) the best green chile in town: sweet and not too spicy, but with just enough of a “bite.” I’m especially addicted to their chicken enchilada, smothered in the yummy stuff and served with a fresh sopapilla. My other favorite here, although there’s no green chile involved, is the chicken flautas, served with a spicy salsa on the side. This family-friendly place has a children’s menu; there’s a full bar for the grownups.
510 North Guadalupe Street (on the north side of the De Vargas Center)
Jinja calls itself an “Asian bistro,” but don’t be put off by the contradiction: this cozy restaurant serves delicious pan-Asian appetizers, soups, salads, wok bowls and lunch entrées. Adding an appetizer to your lunch will take you over the $10 mark, but the lettuce wraps and pot stickers are worth it. I’m a big fan of the jungle green curry with shrimp, rice and vegetables. When I can manage to order something else, though, I’m never disappointed. The rice paper salmon is especially good, as is the Five Tigers (lemongrass marinated tiger prawns with pineapple salsa). A few entrées are just over $10, but most come in just under the mark.
500 Montezuma Street
Sanbusco Market Center
Order at the counter and take a seat overlooking the Sanbusco Market at this local lunch spot serving authentic New Mexican food at, you guessed it, reasonable prices. Have your taco with chicken, shrimp or salmon, or try the vegetarian enchilada: all are made to order with fresh ingredients. Not in the mood for local food? El Tesoro also offers sandwiches (try the spinach and goat cheese on foccacia or Cajun chicken on whole wheat) and salads.
319 South Guadalupe Street
Does anything say “Santa Fe” like the Cowgirl? This is a spot that manages to be both family-friendly and a hot night-spot. Have your lunch at the old western-style bar or in one of the tiny rooms filled with cowgirl-themed decorations, or out on the patio (partially covered during winter months). The barbecue specialties and entrées are more pricy, but there’s plenty on the menu that’s under $10. The fare tends toward barbecue (try the brisket on a bun), southern (sweet potato fries), or Tex-Mex (everyone’s favorite indulgence: Frito pie, available with Texas-style beef or vegetarian chile) and New Mexican (although you can have your quesadilla with brisket or smoked chicken if you like to mix things up). In addition, many of their Cajun-Creole lunch specials (gumbo, po’boys, jambalaya) are also priced under $10. For the best deal yet, try the $6 Blue Plate Lunch Special: at that price, you can treat yourself to the chips and Texas caviar (black-eyed pea salsa) and still stay on your budget.
504 West Cordova Road
This popular local hangout is busy all day long (they’re open at 6:00 a.m. every day and stay open till 8:00 p.m. every night except Sunday, when they close at 6:00 p.m.). Breakfast (omelets and other egg dishes, waffles, pancakes, and cereals) is served all day, so if you’re jonesing for a breakfast burrito past 11 a.m., this is the place to go (try it with their sweet red chile). But that’s not the only reason to lunch at the Santa Fe Baking Company and Café: they have a great selection of sandwiches and wraps, a fresh juice and coffee bar, a lovely array of baked goods (the chocolate chip cookie is seriously scrumptious) and daily specials, all at great prices. This super-casual café is the place that locals meet, greet, and run into each other all day long. Free wireless internet and lots of outlets are available, along with a computer where the laptop-less can check their email.
NM 599, Tesuque
Located in the charming, tiny village just north of Santa Fe, Tesuque Village Market is the best place to have lunch in Tesuque. Okay—it’s the only place to have lunch in Tesuque (El Nido Restaurant, just up the road, is open for dinner only); luckily, this popular little spot serves up a great lunch at a moderate price in a very casual atmosphere. Tesuque Village Market uses fresh ingredients (beef, lamb and chicken are roasted in-house) for their sandwiches and salads. Also a popular breakfast spot (the breakfast burritos are great), you can get huevos rancheros (made with organic eggs) all day long. Some of the native New Mexican dishes are priced higher, but sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads are all under $10. There’s a full bar here, and lunch is served all afternoon (till they switch to dinner at 5:00). The market itself has a great selection of wines as well as groceries. To get there, take either Tesuque exit from NM 285 (it’s a loop) and drive in a few miles. You can’t miss it. For a more scenic adventure, Bishop’s Lodge Road will take you from downtown Santa Fe right into Tesuque.