- Santa Fe Restaurant Reviews -Café des Artistes
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Café des Artistes - 223 Canyon Rd. #B, (next to Pachamama Gifts)
What: light salads, pastries and drinks
Price range: Expensive – natural soft drinks are $3.50.
(June 2008) Yet another French-inspired café along the historic streets of Santa Fe. This one is nestled among the first leg of artistic Canyon Rd. Very small inside, it is advisable to claim one of the outdoor tables and people watch. The menu is just as miniscule as the seating, so not really the place you want to plan for a group lunch. The café is suited best for those urgent needs of nourishment or refreshment after walking and shopping the city. Prices are pretty prohibitive, but the Brie and Berry Salad was lovely, fresh and generous. Pastries are generally sold out by mid-afternoon and drinks from the refrigerator are costly, but natural and tasty. If you’re on a budget, you’ll probably want to skip this spot. If you want a sweet and shady space to rest a bit and take in the creative atmosphere of Canyon Rd., Café des Artistes fits the bill.
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Café Paris - 31 Burro Alley St. (off of San Francisco)
What: French bistro food, pastries, coffee, breakfast
Price range: $20 buys hearty breakfast for 2.
(June 2008) Surprising as it is to find authentic French influence in the middle of rich Spanish/Mexican/Native American territory, Café Paris transports you to Montmartre. Positioned humbly in an alley just off the plaza, this bistro with ample patio (street) tables is hard to resist as you walk by, early morning pastry aromas wafting out of open doors. Breakfast is your best bet, and generally a nice cool event in a shaded spot outdoors. The Swiss Omelet was fluffy, savory and mild – a nice break from the barrage of spice in the city. If you prefer a warmer start to your day, try the Chipotle Omelet, with onions, tomatoes and Swiss cheese. Breakfast comes with hearty garlic potatoes and sliced baguettes with butter and jam. Portions are large, including the mochas, but we found the coffee drinks to be a bit manufactured. With so many great coffee stops in town, I recommend walking down the street to get your Jo. Progressive meals are not only fun here, but practical as the variety is overwhelming. Staff is bi-lingual at Café Paris, so if you care to, you may order in French. This is a great on-the-way café as you’re getting your day started, or needing to stop for a bite.
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Chocolate Maven Bakery & Café - 821 W. San Mateo Rd.
What: Breakfast, lunch, brunch, sweets, pastries, etc.
Price range: $6.50-$8.95 per entrée.
(June 2008) My first piece of advice is to use GPS navigation or ask a local for directions. The roads aren’t confusing, but you may drive past the Maven, tucked behind a mechanic’s shop with sparse parking. If I hadn’t seen Giada’s review on the Food Network, the warehouse exterior might have turned me away. Not only should you go inside, but you should do so more than once while in town, preferably on your way out home so you can bring goodies back. Breakfast is a real treat here and the best time to visit any bakery as they are in the middle of pastry preparation. If you can swing it, stop in for afternoon tea Mon-Fri; ask for times and prices. Request a table by the bakery window so you can watch the artisans create masterpieces of dough from start to finish. If you’re a foodie, this will make for a memorable meal. If you’d prefer a more secluded meal, upstairs seating is available. Once again, vegetarians will have no problem locating delicious choices on this menu. The Country Breakfast has nice variety with 2 free range eggs, skillet potatoes, toast and your choice of meat or veggie bacon/veggie sausage. The eggs were distinctly better in quality, and the presentation was delicate and fresh. I highly recommend the Eggs Benedict. It’s so rare to find a vegetarian version: 2 poached eggs perched atop an English muffin (order the veggie Canadian bacon) and drenched in the most exquisite hollandaise and spinach sauce. The side of skillet potatoes makes it quite hearty, but you won’t leave feeling weighed down. Do me a favor: order a Mayan chile hot chocolate if you’re brave and needing a shot in the arm, or a Mexican hot chocolate if you’re a little skittish about heat, but still want a taste. I cannot stress enough what an amazing way this is to start your day, even in the middle of summer. Trust me, if you’re feeling a little under the weather, you’ll be right as rain after you polish off one of these tonics. The Chocolate Chai and regular organic coffee are also excellent. The Eggsadilla is a southwest breakfast complete with poblanos and yummy black beans. The Smothered Breakfast Burrito sounds innocent enough, but will feed a family of 3 easily! It is loaded, but in case it’s still not enough you can add veggie bacon and ask for it Christmas style - red and green chile sauce. If you’re not really in the breakfast mood and want some comfort food without the guilt, try the Chile Cheese Home Fries. Really…they’re so much healthier than they sound! Sweet and new potatoes smothered in red and green chile sauce, bell peppers and just a little Jack cheese - this is your chance to have it meat-free. On your way out, select a couple of gargantuan croissants filled with sun-dried tomato and basil, spinach and feta or raspberries for the hike later. To take home, their famous homemade granola, cookies and brownies will serve well. Locals and tourists frequent this spot, and the predominant atmosphere is friendly and quite happy. Who wouldn’t be giddy surrounded by such heavenly treats?
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El Farol - 808 Canyon Rd., (almost the top of Canyon Rd.)
What: Spanish fare, Tapas
Price range: $30 bought an afternoon tapas for two.
(June 2008) Set along the magnificent art of Canyon Road, El Farol transports you back to its own time – 1835. Quality, not quantity, are the priority here. Tapas is meant to be shared snacking food, usually in the afternoon; perfect light fare during the warmer days of summer. It will be well-suited to your needs if you start the day out with a hearty breakfast in the Plaza, then casually meander through the shops and beautiful residential streets in the area. Dinner won’t be necessary. (Get there around or before 3pm to get the lunch prices.) The grilled polenta is luscious and the cevice de atun is refreshing. The fun surprise on the menu was the Aguacate, flash-fried whole avocado with salsa fresca and lime crema. A tapas platter is colorful, festive and has everything you need to make it back down the road with a happy tummy. If you want to make a night of it, make reservations for the Wednesday evening Flamenco show. Dinner is served buffet style inside or on the patio, depending on attendance. The patio affords the luxury of inhaling delicious mountain air and watching sightseers pass the narrow road. Wherever you dine in this restaurant, the history is palpable, and so is the passion for food and friends.
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Kakawa Chocolate House - 1050 E. Paseo de Peralta
What: The 7th level of heaven!
Price range: Not important…
(June 2008) What a treasure! If there is such a thing as a chocolate shaman, I believe they would be found here. Kakawa’s specialty is historic drinking chocolate, most of which is dairy free, made instead with the whole chocolate bean, water and various creative pairings. On the business card, the owner’s title reads: Chocolate Historian, Alchemist, Pastry Chef, Herbalist. These are not Valentine’s day truffles – this is serious business, sacred business. Ask any question you dare about the origins of chocolate, ancient recipes, physiological effects of ingredients, or artistic pastry creations and you’ll likely be fascinated and sated. But please don’t ask how many calories – it proves you don’t get it…and I sensed it might even be perceived as disrespectful. The warm, spicy air hits you as soon as you step inside the small store. A case heavily laden with flourless chocolate torts and all manner of cakes greets you. Step up to the counter and you will be invited to taste any of the dozen or so historically accurate drinking chocolates freshly prepared. Four words for you: sit down and sip. Obey the requests to turn off all wireless devices and remain present to your senses. The drinking chocolates (served in 3oz. sizes for $3.50 and 6 oz.) are the best way to really grasp what Kakawa is trying to cultivate. You are intensely pinned to the present moment in order to experience each element, while at the same time transported to an ancient historic tradition. Many cultures are represented from the 1666 Italian Citrus blend to the 1790’s Jeffersonian American drink. I was enraptured by the cinnamon, rose and chili elements of the 1644 Spanish drink. The Rose Almond is lovely, a little spicier, more grown up. I recommend tasting the drinking chocolates before you choose, as you may be in over your head with some. The Aztec Warrior is aptly named – pure cacao and hot chili, with no dairy or sweetener to quiet the burn. If you weren’t a warrior before, you will be after you drink it! Most recipes pre-date the 18th century and are painstakingly followed according to original documents. Chimayo Chile, a regional delight, is used in many of their products; Chimayo is considered a holy site to Catholics all over the world as well as many locals. Many pilgrimages are made to the chapel in Chimayo to gather dirt and water which are believed to possess healing power. What a beautiful way to incorporate the concept of healing energy in your food – grow crops in blessed soil! There are a variety of items to sample, including chocolate truffles adorned with Wasabi, Thyme and orange, Goat cheese and Chili, Violet, Jasmine, Rosemary and Pearl Sake. The brownies showcase the genuineness of the ingredients just as nicely. The truffles are quite expensive, but still a steal considering the quality (nothing processed, many local ingredients) and skill going into each piece. My recommendation: pull a few dollars out of your monthly supplement/medication budget and reassign it here. I went most of the day running only on the 3oz. of drinking chocolate I had here and felt magnificent! Kakawa’s is not a chocolate shop, they are a wellness center…and they don’t take insurance!
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Latitudes Espresso and Ice Cream - 228 Old Santa Fe Trail (across from Inn of Loretto)
What: Gourmet ice cream, coffee, pastries
Price range: About $4 for a gourmet drink with ice cream
(June 2008) One of the newer cafes in Santa Fe, Latitudes sits on a bustling corner and hosts cozy, shady sidewalk tables. The Austrian half of the owner duo is responsible for gourmet ice cream and European flair. We had the Eiskaffe, a scoop of decadent ice cream floating in aromatic coffee. This was a lovely, refreshing retreat from pounding the pavement downtown. Latitudes is another example of the growing trend of green operations in and around Santa Fe. The use of recycled paper products, corn cups, spoons and straws isn’t just a nice earth-friendly gesture – it’s proof that the big picture is valued, and that has a big impact on the food served. There are some great little shops all around the café, making it a perfect stop along your tour, and another independent business to support.
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Pasqual’s Café - 121 Don Gaspar (corner of Gaspar & Water)
What: Healthy Traditional Mexican & regional dishes; organic & free range.
Price range: $30 buys organic, hearty breakfast for 2.
(June 2008) It may be the most expensive breakfast you’ve eaten, but let me tell you: this is where you want to blow your budget! You don’t buy food here, you invest in your day. (In all practicality, do avoid dinner here unless your budget is unlimited; breakfast/brunch is the least expensive meal here.) The menu consists of 95% organic produce and 100% organic/free range meat and dairy; most products are locally sourced as well. Their motto explains simply: “full stomach, happy heart!”. This is Mecca for natural foodies! Vegetarians will find the Soy Chorizo breakfast burrito as substantial as they come and protein packed. The Chile Rellenos is the best I’ve tasted anywhere (meaning I could actually distinguish flavor from the chile), and is well-rounded with 2 free range eggs on top and savory black beans. I recommend the Huevos Motulenos for a culinary adventure in wonderland – eggs over easy on corn tortillas served with sautéed bananas, green peas and feta cheese, garnished plentifully with salsa fresca and green chile. What more could you ask for? If you’re looking for a more traditional dish, the Breakfast Quesadilla is a good fit. Scrambled eggs, cheese and salsa fresca cradled in a griddled whole wheat tortilla. Beware: a double order will cost you double, and adding soy chorizo adds another $2 per quesadilla. If you’re super hungry, go for it; otherwise, I recommend 1 quesadilla and a side of granola or soy chorizo. If you want to avoid the spicy stuff, but explore traditional foods, try the Fried Blue and Yellow Cornmeal Mush, the Tamal Dulce (sweet corn and raisin tamal wrapped in banana leaves, served with half mango and Mexican Hot Chocolate) or the Whole Wheat Pancakes. Rainbow Trout is the regional fish and the Smoked Trout Hash or Fresh Pan Fried Trout are prepared in native style. Breakfast is served until 3pm, so you have plenty of time; dinner looks equally dazzling, but warrants a well-stocked wallet. Pasqual’s is possibly the only restaurant I’ve encountered where they get the whole picture: art, creativity, ecological and biological responsibility, community, and most of all – taste! Turn off your cell, ask for the community table so you can glean from the locals and sip an organic coffee or white chocolate mocha. If you have to wait a bit, wait! You’ll leave happy and most likely healthier for the experience.
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The (Famous) Plaza Café - 54 Lincoln Ave.
What: Eclectic Southwest/Greek diner food.
Price range: $30 for 2 entrees and a shared appetizer
(June 2008) Right in the center of the Plaza sits Santa Fe’s oldest restaurant, in operation since 1918. As I perused the menu just outside the building, a few people encouraged me to just go in, that the food is amazing. (Always a good sign.) This is a fun, family-oriented 1950’s style diner with counter seating. The patrons seem to be a mix of locals and tourists. A giant pastel mural map of New Mexico adorns the back wall. The service was friendly and fast. We ordered the vegetarian Burrito (choice of red/green Chile) and something called a “Mulita”, referred to as New Mexican comfort food. The Nachos come vegetarian (a rarity in most places) and are probably the healthiest I’ve seen. Each ingredient is tasty in its own right: pintos, homemade guacamole (maybe the best I’ve had in a restaurant), tasty (not greasy) cheese, and easy to eat. Everything was fresh and savory. The Mulita consists of 2 large Portabella mushroom caps sandwiching refried beans, guacamole, pickled purple onions, greens and mashed potatoes. Bizarre and wonderful – every bite is a different experience! Half the family ownership is Greek, so you’ll find Greek salads and Mousakka on the menu alongside elegant homemade desserts. You have to visit this Santa Fe favorite.
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Rooftop Pizzeria - 60 East San Francisco St. (top floor of the Santa Fe Arcade facing Water St.)
What: Fine Italian, pastas, pizzas, local brews and wine
Price range: $8.50-$15 for entrees; $30 bought us a 14-in. pizza, an antipasti pizza and a dessert.
(June 2008) This is one of those places you stumble upon. We were walking in the plaza one night and heard laughter and revelry from a rooftop. We sought out the source and found the Rooftop Pizzeria. It is quite upscale in décor, but small and like every place we went in Santa Fe, varied in its patrons. Some came dressed nicely, dripping in money, some wearing jeans shorts and cowboy hats and some families came for a night out with the kids. The beauty was that all savored their meals and the view side by side. The community table may be your best bet on a busy night, but if you’re willing to wait a private table outside is nice. If you don’t mind barstools, the bar seating outside is simply the best view of the plaza, the mountains and sunset and affords plenty of space for your meal. The Smoked Salmon Antipasti was so tempting I ordered it for my entree. Smoked salmon, mascarpone, sweet and crunchy red onion, basil and capers looked like a chef’s palette of flavor on the grilled artisan pizza crust. Perfect if you are craving something cold, savory and not quite so Mexican. We also ordered the #6., a 14 inch roasted garlic, spinach, sun-dried tomato, Kalamata olive, artichoke heart and goat cheese pizza. The New Mexico twist to this one is the blue corn crust it rests on. The flavors melded so beautifully we felt we were eating the art of the city. A 14 inch was enough for 2 (plus my antipasti), plus some leftover for snacking the next morning – even better cold! What’s better than watching the sun set over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains after dinner? Watching the sun set while indulging in the Mini Chocolate Pot, a flourless chocolate tart with a vanilla cream Anglaise. Each flavor popped out to embrace your tongue and the velvety texture was luxurious. Don’t be fooled by the size – it may be a teeny little pot, but 2 people can’t handle more decadence than this in one sitting. If all you’re in the mood for is a good dessert and drink to wind down the day, you’ll find Rooftop Pizzeria accommodates; for a full sensory Santa Fe dining experience, make a meal of it.
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Santa Fe Farmer’s Market - (see website for locations/times)
What: Fresh, organic, locally grown fruits, veggies, meats, dairy, pastries, beans, etc.
Price range: Reasonable for high quality and diverse offerings.
(June 2008) If you happen to be in Santa Fe on a Tuesday a.m. or Saturday a.m., and have access to a kitchen (knock on someone’s door if you have to!), you MUST gather ingredients from the market to cook at least one meal while in town. Even if you can’t impose on someone’s facilities, stop by anyway – there will be fresh baked flatbreads, sweet, savory and spicy pastries that will make you wish you had more cash on you, and hearty raw goat/sheep cheese for you to indulge in. Bring your canvas bag, buy some golden cherries and organic raspberry red chile ginger jam for that bread and you’ve got a gorgeous mountain picnic mix. We were fortunate enough to have a kitchenette in our room so made a lovely dinner with our selections. About $30 bought a bursting bag full of turnips, golden beets, some pak choi (similar to bok choy), golden zucchini, fennel (lasted 2 weeks), purple onions, a bottle of handmade garlic olive oil – Pistachio Tree Ranch - (40 cloves to an oz.), 3 loaves of flat bread, ½ lb. raw goat/sheep cheese and a pint of golden cherries. Considering most of these products were organic and sustainably grown/harvested, that’s a bargain in anyone’s book! The breads are whole grain, in many cases using agave nectar to sweeten the fruit breads, and often contain grains such as quinoa or teff. Bread options on that day included roasted garlic, green chili and cheese, pumpkin piñon, vegetable calzone and mushroom, any of which are self-contained meals. With none of my seasonings/herbs from home, I prepared all of the above simply, with only the fennel, garlic olive oil and some sea salt purchased from the local Wild Oats. I boiled the beets and turnips in the same pot to add a little sweetness to the turnips. They turned out buttery and luscious! The zucchini, onions and greens were simply sautéed in oil with a little salt and fennel fronds – fresh perfection! The sharpness of the raw cheese with the chewy chile flatbread was divine. This market is in 2 locations during the week, so be sure to confirm with locals the exact location before heading out (they frequently change as development progresses for a new building). You can pick up red chile ristras from street vendors anywhere in the area, but artfully assembled ristras are available at the market as well. It was truly an honor to be able to experience meal preparation with local ingredients and chat with passionate environmentalist food cultivators at the market. Make this a must-do on your next trip!
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The Shed - 113 ½ E. Palace Ave. (just east of the plaza)
What: Traditional New Mexico cuisine
Price range: $25-$30 for dinner for 2; $40 if adding appetizers & shared dessert
(June 2008) If you don’t have dinner reservations, you’re in for a wait. This is a popular spot, especially later in the evening. Make yourself at home at the bar or in the garden waiting area until your table is ready. There are a multitude of seating options as this building is quirky and quaint and every square foot is utilized. After a significant time lapse between seating and the wait staff arriving, we ordered the Gazpacho and the Cold Red Raspberry soup for starters. Both were sparkling with flavor in completely different ways. The raspberry soup was not heavy or overly sweet, but was leant a nice zing from the addition of Rose wine. The Gazpacho was traditionally spicy and garlicky, but not too much – veggies were still crisp and individually flavorful. Our entrees were a simple Cheese Enchilada with Red chile sauce and Fish Tacos. (Note: the Enchilada Plate is NOT vegetarian due to the pork in the posole.) We were slightly disappointed at the limited vegetarian entrée options, but this was the only place we went in Santa Fe where this was the case. The enchiladas were very well prepared on two blue corn tortillas, not greasy or too cheesy. The red chile sauce was really the star, ground daily from the proprietor’s farm, and was moderately spicy – not for beginners. A milder option was the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos, accented with a sweet, crunchy garnish and Spanish rice. Very light, mild and fresh – a nice diversity of flavors. To end things sweetly, we shared Zabaglione – a decadent Italian custard infused with Cointreau and white port. Delicate, rich and tipsy – just how you want to feel on your vacation, right? Overall, the service was a little lacking, but the atmosphere was cool and dreamy and the food was artistically assembled.