Santa Fe: A Foodie Weekend
Thursday morning there weren’t any plans for the weekend. Come Thursday night, Nathan convinced me that driving to Santa Fe solely in search of New Mexican food was the perfect way to spend the weekend. Quickly verifying that cuisine in New Mexico merited a weekend trip, I agreed and we had plans to head out on Friday. Yup, we left on Friday afternoon to return on Sunday exceptionally full.
What our trip lacked in planning it made up for car time. We had a six-hour drive from Denver to scope out eateries on the way. Just so you know, that’s a long drive for a quick weekend trip.
To condense my labored research, here are a few rushed takeaways from my findings:
- New Mexican food is different from Mexican food, although it’s unlike for any non natives to fully be able to tell the finer differences;
- The chile is an art form and will works its way into just about any dish;
- New Mexican food creates a blend of a variety of cuisines, including Spanish, cowboy and Mexican food.
And with that, let’s dive into the eats. In true unrefined fashion, we skipped the 5 star restaurants in favor of 5 star Google reviews and fellow food bloggers recommendations. If it sounded even the slightest grungy or talked about large portions with robust flavor, we were there. As for places that hinted to needing to dress nice, we were out.
To the best of our knowledge (and their online descriptions), we went head on into the New Mexican Cuisine. In theory, each of these dishes falls into that category.
210 W San Francisco St, Santa Fe
Our first debut into the cuisine, Tia Sophia was a perfect choice for lunch. Giving the ambiance of a family joint with decades of experience, you’ll find this place small and inviting. Waiting only 5 minutes for a table, we were quickly directed to a booth in the back.
Scrumptious! Went for lunch and indulged in their flavorful Chile smothered enchiladas. Ever eager to dive right into what was the reward for a long drive, we ordered the Saturday special Duo #2: A Rolled Blue Corn Chicken Enchilada – and – beef enchiladas.
I highly recommend for flavor and affordable price point. From what I read, this is authentic New Mexican cuisine. Waited 5-10 minutes to be seated, but the food was crazy fast coming out of the kitchen. Our server was very friendly and have great recommendations.
Here’s a snapshot of the Saturday special. It also came with a side of Sopaipillas, which are this stunning puffed fry bread perfect for soaking up the last ounce of flavor on your plate. Did I mention they were still warm?
With a photo like that, can you not wait to just dive in? Either dish did an amazing job when it came to the flavor department. The second dish came with a dash of posole. Gave it an interesting twist.
500 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe
This restaurant was the only one on our weekend adventure that a slightly nicer attire may come in handy. It’s not overly fancy, but a minor step above the hiking attire we were adorning. If you’re going to go in the evening, mirror your grandma and go early. We hit here shortly after 5pm and still had a half hour wait. That seemed nothing to the wait when we were leaving.
That said, don’t let the wait discourage you. It’s worth it.
This stellar place is currently working to put in solar panels (sweet!) so the parking lot is under construction. As for the ambiance, you’re looking at a fun fairly nice restaurant with a great New Mexican flair. While you’re waiting to be seated, you can read about the history of this family owned place, as well as their impact on the community. It’s a great appetizer.
One your buzzer finally rings, you’ll be escorted to your seat. It’s a fun place, so enjoy the ambiance. Then you’ll get to the monster menu. If you fail when it comes to decision making, you’ll need a little help.
Since we were on the New Mexican food hunt, we narrowed our initial search to the favorites. As our decision-making faculties were toast, Nathan ordered the Combination Plate, a savory mix of rolled red chile cheese enchilada, taco, Spanish rice, posole, pinto beans and green chile.
Ok, admission. I was struggling by the time we rolled into our dinner venue. The idea of an entire meal was overwhelming to say the least. So, I bowed out and ordered the Tortilla Soup. Of course, I had to confirm that Nathan would be willing to share some of his meal in the process.
1616 St Michaels Dr, Santa Fe
Following the wise direction of Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, a true pioneer in unrefined palate eating, we chose breakfast at Tecolote Cafe. The reviews mentioned longer waits, but showing up on a Sunday morning around 8:30 we only waited 10-15 minutes. It looked like the restaurant had recently been expanded and it was still packed.
The menu is huge, so settle in when it comes to ordering. While they have a ridiculous number of options, stick to the favorites. For the majority of entrees, you’re going to be faced with a dilemma. Do you want a basket of baked goods on the side with your meal or a tortilla. Nathan was seduced at the mention of cinnamon roll where I opted for a tortilla to help with my dish drowning in chile.
Warning before ordering: This place is not for the faint of appetite. Serious portions that get bolstered by an option of adding a bread basket (cinnamon roll, muffin, AND scone) to your breakfast entree.
Nathan was smart. He stuck with a local recommendation Carne and Huevos. He was treated with a vibrant array of flavors infused into a plate full of potatoes, eggs, and chile. We added in extra chile to the fix and found that it meshed well when you scrambled everything together.
Our second dish fell flat in comparison. Yes, my ordering skills lacked. Enticed by the description of the corned beef hash and a side of chile, I diverged from the local recommendations. Don’t do that, no matter how tempting the description. While the photo looks mouthwatering, know photos can be deceiving.
The corned beef hash was slightly cold and devoid the burst of flavor the first dish. Not bad, but not amazing. I left wishing I ordered the green chile rather than the red, a choice I made in fear of the green chile being too hot. As each restaurant took their own zeal and flair when it came to the chile. After the other two restaurants, Tecolote Café was the least spicy.
As for the service, we found it friendly and our coffee was always topped off.
If you’re eating here come hungry. Originally we had planned on grabbing an early breakfast then stopping by one of the other earmarked restaurants to get a to go lunch for the road. Planned derailed. Portions here were WAY too big. Add in that bread basket that is a “side” is practically a full breakfast in itself.
BONUS: Farmer’s Market
Grabbing our morning coffee on Saturday (yeah, it was at McDonald’s), an older couple traveling through mentioned the Farmer’s Market happening that morning. Since the main restaurants weren’t opening for a few hours, this is a fantastic way to spend the morning. You can also enjoy scrumptious samples, taste the eats from street vendors (a personal favorite) and appreciate the music as you walk around.