The Best Spots to Eat & Drink in Santa Fe
Green chile burritos, blue corn donuts, purple glittery drinks... dining in Santa Fe is like eating art.
Santa Fe is known for its expansive art scene, and that penchant for creativity certainly applies to the culinary arts as well. Just as its famous galleries and resident artisans have calcified the city as a full-blown cultural mecca, its restaurants, bars, and bakeries are doing the same with popular vittles like green chile and blue corn, but also a whole rainbow of flavors from red chile donuts to glittery purple mochas.
Food-wise, it’s a city that threads the needle from old-school to new-school, weaving together a patchwork of local and global flavors. Here, traditional New Mexican cuisine gets new twists from transplants, innovators, and culinary artists inspired by the region’s striking natural beauty and agricultural resources.
From bulging breakfast burritos and fresh-from-the-fryer fritters to seasonal tasting menus and funky beer gardens, here are some of the best places to eat and drink on your visit to Santa Fe.
Rise and shine with spicy donuts
In a nondescript space along Cerrillos Road, Whoo’s Donuts is a wonderful surprise that defies its modest motif. Follow the aromas of maple-bacon, cinnamon-sugar, and sweet corn cake to discover a dizzying array of colorful donuts. The shop doles out wildly original recipes, along with seasonal one-offs like summer peach and strawberry-rhubarb. All the Americana staples are present and accounted for as well, like vanilla sprinkles and Boston cream, but what you’re really after are the Santa Fe novelties: the blue corn-blueberry-lavender tastes as bright as the sheen on its fruity frosting, the green chile apple fritter adds a punch of savory smoke to a doughy classic, and red chile-bacon-toffee marries salt and sugar with a bit of heat.
Find your breakfast burrito bliss
Breakfast burritos are to Santa Fe as cheesesteaks are to Philly. The ideal morning fuel before a day of hiking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, grab 'em to-go at Betterday Coffee. The coffee is indeed excellent, and this is one of the few places in town where you’ll find cafe au lait on the menu. But the stars are the breakfast burritos bursting with cheesy scrambled eggs, crispy potatoes, and red and/or green chile. Options include sausage, veggie, bacon, or bean and cheese burritos, but the real winner is the brisket burrito, stuffed with succulent slices of smoky beef.
Pair savory brunch with Hungarian cake
Dolina Cafe & Bakery looks like a quaint cottage you’d expect to stumble upon in a forest. Which makes sense, considering Dolina means “valley” in owner Annamaria Brezna’s native Slovak. She outfits her menu of sweets and savories with New Mexican and Eastern European flavors. This includes a morning soup of New Mexico lamb broth and wild rice, along with a Slovakian stew called kapustnica, brimming with sauerkraut, prunes, and klobasa sausage. Don’t sleep on those pastries at the front counter, either. The chocolate chip-walnut cookies are some of the best you’ll find anywhere, and the fruit-filled strudels and makos dios (a Hungarian poppy seed cake studded with walnuts and raspberry preserves) are habit-forming.
Sip mezcal in style
One of Santa Fe’s essential cocktail bars is a teeny mezcal-spiked nook called La Reina. This whimsical watering hole is tucked into a polished adobe-style motel, El Rey Court, which looks like it’d make a great setting for a twee desert-chic Wes Anderson movie, with bright pops of color and wall doodles of a cactus smoking. Pull up a stool and let your bolo-clad bartender whip you up something with agave. The tight menu rotates, but staples include a masterful Ranch Water with tequila, Topo Chico, and lime. Or go for La Ultima Palabra, made with Genepy, maraschino liqueur, mezcal, and lime juice, which somehow makes pine-y, smoky, and fruity flavors taste good together.
Throw yourself an al fresco pizza party
If you’re at El Rey Court on a weekend, chances are you’ll luck out with some wood-fired sourdough pizza courtesy of Tender Fire Kitchen, which typically sets up shop by the hotel’s back lawn Thursdays through Saturdays. This roving mobile pizzeria uses naturally leavened dough—fermented for three days—to create thin-crust pies rich with ripe, complex flavors. Seasonal offerings change frequently, but example toppings include creamed nettles, hot honey, or coconut creamed corn for the vegan elote pie. Tender Fire’s gluten-free pizza uses dough made from buckwheat, brown rice, psyllium husk, chia, and flax, which is not only tasty and different, but low-key healthy (until you negate it all with a sourdough chocolate chip cookie, which you totally should).
Go for old-school Santa Fe comfort
This straightforward diner in Santa Fe Plaza has been slinging tamales and enchiladas since 1975. It’s a place so hallowed, it lays claim to the coining of the term “breakfast burrito” and the phrase “Christmas-style,” referring to the combo of both red and green chile. Those are bold claims, but if there’s one institution that can talk the talk and walk the walk, it’s Tia Sophia’s. Though the restaurant has moved locations and grown over the years, its timeworn recipes endure. Breakfast staples include eggs with chile stew, huevos rancheros, and requisite breakfast burritos. While lunchtime favorites run the gamut from ooey-gooey enchiladas to Sophia’s Sandwich, a ham-melt on a tortilla with guac and salsa.
Get your green chile cheeseburger fix
Right up there with a bangin’ breakfast burrito, green chile cheeseburgers are essential eats in Santa Fe—but few scratch the itch like those at Shake Foundation. Looking like a retro roadside burger stand bedecked with dangling chile ristras, this casual counter spot grinds sirloin and chuck into plump patties, slathers them in Jack cheese and green chile, and heaps them on buttered buns. The menu is refreshingly concise, mostly just a few iterations of cheeseburger, with additional options for lamb or bison, and oddly enough, fried oyster sandwiches with red chile mayo. As the name suggests, they also have milkshakes.
Treat yourself to the finer things: truffle mac & cheese
Every city needs their own Restaurant Martín, the kind of venerable, enduring restaurant with a rigorous commitment to seasonality and an affinity for gorgeous presentation. Helmed by acclaimed chef Martin Rios, this is one of Santa Fe’s fixtures for finer dining (yet still not froufrou or outrageously expensive, since Santa Fe keeps things pretty casual). The dynamic menu includes the Snake River Farm double-cut pork chop with tamarind-black malt glaze, garnet yam confit, pickled honshemiji mushrooms, grilled peaches, and blackberry-ancho reduction; or pan-seared salmon with prawn-sushi rice pave, sesame bok choy, Meyer lemon confit, and jalapeño-lemongrass dashi. Whatever you do, don’t pass up the epic truffled orzo mac & cheese.
Pair your fermented ales with farmers’ market risotto
Santa Fe, like seemingly every other city, is in the midst of a brewery boom, and at the forefront of that boom is Rowley Farmhouse Ales. Somewhat hidden in a warehouse-filled part of town on the southwest side, this hip gastropub and micro-brewery specializes in mixed fermentation beers, with an emphasis on puckering farmhouse ales and sours. It’s delightfully audacious ales include the Germophile, a coffee sour that defies its oxymoron-sounding description by tempering the sourness with dry and tart flavors from Thiriez yeast, and dry-hopping the brew with coffee, resulting in a quaff that’s perfectly sour, tart, and bitter. Rowley’s seasonal food menu exceeds gastropub expectations with pork belly corndogs, green chile tuna melts, baked-to-order pineapple upside-down cake, and an ever-changing, vegetable-laden Farmers’ Market Risotto.
Handmade tortillas are the specialty at Paloma, where chef Nathan Mayes uses heirloom landrace corn from Oaxaca that’s nixtamalized in-house. Start with Baja sea bass ceviche, squash blossom quesadillas, or smoked chicken sopecitos made with dainty blue corn masa cakes and pickled onions. The tacos—like the pork shoulder carnitas sweetened with roasted pineapple or the crispy cauliflower accented with golden raisins and almond salsa—are basically mandatory in order to fully appreciate the texture and flavor of the tortillas. But larger plates, like mole amarillo oyster mushrooms or short rib birria, are worth making room for.
Sip margaritas with a view
For a modern, high-end take on Southwestern cuisine, stop at Coyote Cafe in downtown Santa Fe for chile morita prawns over griddled grit cakes, or duck leg confit with chayote and sweet corn succotash. But for something more casual, keep it low-key at Coyote Cantina. Oh wait, yes—same place. Besides scenic views of the street below, the lively roof deck has shareable offerings like mini chimichangas, barbecued duck quesadillas, red chile beef Frito pie, and quenching margaritas. It also has some of the tastiest tacos in town, especially the al pastor tacos with grilled pineapple, sweet onion, and heady arbol salsa.
Drink coffee with the locals
Come for the smothered burritos and the cream-cheese-frosted cinnamon bundt cake, then come time and again for the beer-battered salmon tacos, the grilled tofu banh mi, and the seitan spring rolls. This frills-free, people-pleasing bastion of patio dining and coffee-sipping has been open since 1996. The Aroma Organic Coffee and surprisingly ambitious menu merit repeat visits. Seriously, if you luck out on a day they still have saucer-sized cinnamon rolls in stock, you might be spoiled forever.
Immerse yourself in margarita clouds
It makes total sense that Meow Wolf, the trippy immersive art experience where refrigerator doors lead to neon-lit passageways, would have an on-site bar so whimsical and over-the-top that it makes the Mad Tea Party look like Starbucks. Float Cafe & Bar is extra in all the right ways, with traditional absinthe drips, lattes bedazzled with glitter, and “Meowgaritas” tinted purple with butterfly pea flower tea and topped with puffy “clouds” of cotton candy. Float serves equally eccentric coffee drinks and cocoa, like a purple hot chocolate garnished with Lucky Charm marshmallows and “unicorn shimmer,” aka edible glitter. It’s a sparkling example of Santa Fe’s evolution as a city whose well-established artistry is pushing the bounds with edible and potable art as well.