Babaluu's Cocina Cubana: Worth the drive from Santa Fe or Albuquerque
Babaluu's is a little off the beaten path but if you are going for a nice drive from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and driving Hwy 14 (aka The Turquoise Trail) then you are in luck as this restaurant is located just before you get to Santa Fe.
This is a quaint restaurant with "world cuisine" with a Caribbean Flair.
The restaurant is cozy with nice white tablecloths and professional waiters. The owners may stop by your table to check on you and introduce themselves. They definitely are proud of the restaurant as they should be. The food is divine.
Favorite Dish: My husband and I sampled a number of dishes. The Salmon is great and the mussels in a sweet curry sauce were delicious. Also, Chef Amaury sometimes has his Cuban pickles for sale. I recommend buying some to take home. They are sweet and spicy and cut thick. To die for.
I'd like to suggest this as a lovely drive and lunch destination for any Balloon Fiesta . Please check their website as they are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays for lunch.
- Wine Tasting
- Food and Dining
The Shed: New Mexican flavours galore!
Having wandered around Santa Fe for a while, it was time to give our tummies some nourishment to see us through the rest of the day. We'd heard good things about The Shed and, after a little searching, found it tucked away just through one of the alleys in one of the courtyards off the road.
Originally opened on Burro Alley in 1953, The Shed moved to its present location in 1960 and has been a family-run establishment from that time. These days Courtney and Linnea with their children Josh and Sarah take loving care of the establishment where the chile still come fresh from the farm and are ground on site to ensure freshness.
As this was my first full day in New Mexico, I wanted to immerse myself in some true New Mexico flavours and selected the taco plate from the menu.
Favorite Dish: The taco plate includes two soft blue corn tortillas which are filled with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and a choice of lean ground beef marinated in red chile or baked chicken with red chile, green chile or salsa (I opted for the beef). These are served with pinto beans and posole (a pueblo stew of Nixtamal corn, pork, coarse red chile, garlic and oregano).
I really enjoyed this filling selection which wasn't overly hot for my unaccustomed palate.
In November 2011, my meal cost a little under US$17.
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
Tia Sophia's: Where the locals go
When we were exploring the small park next to the cathedral one morning some local women, who were working on a small archaeological excavation there, recommended breakfast at Tia Sophia’s, saying that it was where the locals would choose to go, so we decided to give it a try one morning.
We found a cheerful, bustling, traditional Mexican-style homely sort of a place, with a steady stream of diners eager to try its legendary breakfasts. We were lucky only to have a wait a couple of minutes, and to get a nice booth near the counter. The service was friendly, with the staff coping well with a full café and managing everything with good humour.
Favorite Dish: The menu has all the regular breakfast items, some with a New Mexican twist, and all the local favourites. We were both in the mood for omelette, and chose the one with cheese and guacamole. It proved to be a generous size, well-stuffed with its spicy filling. We both opted for a side of potatoes (we could have had the local stew, posole, beans or tomatoes instead) and drank juice (orange for Chris, cranberry for me) and coffee. The latter was the only disappointing part of the meal – after a couple of days when I’d been able to get good espresso, here I was back to the “brown water with a hint of coffee flavour” filter stuff that passes for coffee in too many US establishments. Despite that though I would certainly recommend Tia Sophia’s for an excellent local-style breakfast in one of the more casual and friendly places in downtown Santa Fe.
Note that the café is only open for breakfast and lunch (closing at 2.00 pm) and is also closed all day on Sunday. I’ve included a link to their Facebook page below as they don’t seem to have a website and that page helpfully has images of the menus.
Blue Corn Café: Great value New Mexican food
On our first evening in Santa Fe we went to the Blue Corn Café as it got a good write-up in our Moon Handbook and had also been recommended by the owner of the Casitas when we checked in that afternoon. The Moon book did comment on its slightly chain-like appearance (in fact there is just one other branch, on the south side of town) but in my view that’s a little unfair. OK, it is above a small shopping mall, but we were to discover that this is true of quite a few restaurants in the town, and although the space is large it has been well laid-out, with wooden tables and chairs comfortably spaced and some very good local photos displayed on the walls. We enjoyed our meal here, and the friendly service, and found it good value for money in what can be a pricey town.
Favorite Dish: Although I didn’t have the Chimichanga I have to recommend it as Chris did choose it (with chicken) and pronounced it the best meal of the trip so far! I was nearly as pleased with my red chilli pork Tamales, and the accompanying beans and Spanish rice, in generous portions, made it a substantial meal – especially as we hadn’t been able to resist starting with a shared portion of the trade-mark blue and white corn chips with Guacamole! I had the house margarita and Chris a pint of one of their own micro-brews, the Atomic Blonde Lager. We were too stuffed for dessert! Our bill was $42 with tax but before service – not bad at all for the quality and portion size.
Café Pasqual’s: Great breakfast – at a price!
We had opted not to take breakfast at the B&B owned by the same people as our Casita, and we also didn’t want to self-cater, despite having a very serviceable kitchen. Instead we preferred to sample a variety of breakfast places in the vicinity of our little home. The first we tried was one that came highly recommended in our Moon Handbook. Café Pasquale is very popular, so we were lucky to be able to get a good table without a wait – we observed that others who weren’t so lucky were quite happy to wait some time, such is the reputation of the place. It seemed to be popular not only with tourists but also locals – girl-friends meeting for breakfast, and a couple of local businessmen. I loved the colourful décor, with bright murals and Mexican tiles, and our table on a raised area at one end of the small room gave us a great view of this and of all the activity.
Favorite Dish: The breakfast menu is quite extensive, as befits somewhere famous for its breakfasts. I decided to try something different, the “Three House-made Blintzes, Golden from the Skillet, Topped with Strawberry Jam and Sour Cream”. These were good but very filling, with a bit too much cream for that time of day (regular cream, which I left to one side, as well as the sour cream promised by the menu). Chris chose what he expected to be a healthy option, the “housemade” nutty granola, with yoghurt and berries, but the portion was so huge that it probably wasn’t that healthy after all! He also had a cappuccino and I had a double espresso, really appreciating the availability of strong coffee to kick-start my day.
All this didn’t come cheap however. The cappuccino alone was $5 which is more than we pay in pricey London, and our total bill (with two grapefruit juices as well) was $50 – more than we had paid for the previous night’s dinner! So although we liked the breakfast, and loved the atmosphere, we went elsewhere on the subsequent mornings.
Coyote Rooftop Cantina: Great location, great margarita
The Coyote Café is one of the more upmarket places to eat in Santa Fe, and looked rather more formal than we usually opt for when on holiday – the sort of place you’d celebrate a birthday or anniversary maybe, but not for casual “any night of the week” dining. But adjacent to it, and under the same management, is a rooftop bar and more informal eatery, the Rooftop Cantina (not to be confused with another Cantina in Santa Fe that gets rather mixed reviews on Trip Advisor).
Favorite Dish: We didn’t have a reservation but it wasn’t too busy so we decided to start by having just a drink while seated at the area put aside for drinking only, the table around the edge of the terrace. Perched here you have a great view of the street below, and, if you time it right (we did), of the sun setting at the end of the road. But my attention was regularly diverted away from the sun’s orange glow by the possibly lovelier glow emanating from my excellent margarita, which proved to be possibly the best of the entire trip – the “Norteño Margarita”, which they make with a green chilli infused tequila. If you like a bit of heat, give this one a try – you won’t regret it!
We then moved to one of the lower tables more suited for dining. I decided to have a change from tortilla-based dishes so chose the salmon served with polenta and hot chilli sauce: “Fire Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Crunchy Fried Polenta, Bird Chile Sambal Sauce, Organic Lettuces & Pepinos”. Chris had the Kobe burger: “American Snake River Kobe Beef Burger with Manchego Cheese, Crispy Fried Vidalia Onion, Greens, House made Beer Pickles, Tomato & Cilantro Mayonnaise, Sweet Habanero Tomato Ketchup & Boardwalk Fries”. Both dishes went down very well indeed, although mine was a little on the small side – I compensated by pinching a few of the French fries that came with Chris’s burger ;-) We shared a dessert – the “trio of sorbets”, and with drinks (three beers and that wonderful margarita) paid $65 including tax and service. Although this was more than we paid elsewhere, it did include our pre-dinner drinks too, and we felt the quality justified the slightly higher prices. With more time in Santa Fe we would definitely have come back here again.
Note that the Rooftop Cantina is only open April to October, for obvious reasons!
The Shed: Best of the bunch!
Of all the restaurants we visited in Santa Fe, the Shed was probably our favourite – no, was definitely our favourite! We came here twice, once for lunch and once for dinner, and enjoyed both meals a lot. We also loved the setting and ambience. The restaurant is located in an old hacienda (dating back to 1692) and spread over nine rooms, as well as a small courtyard at the front. The décor is bright and cheerful, with lots of interesting paintings and other traditional crafts. When we were here for lunch a lady stopped by our table to look more closely at the painting behind it and we got talking. She explained that she was from Guatemala (where we had been just last year) and recognised the style of the painting as Guatemalan, so was trying to make out the artist’s signature – sadly neither she nor we could do so.
The Shed is deservedly popular and therefore very busy. They don’t appear to take reservations for lunch and when we arrived we were told there would be a 15 minute wait. We were given a sort of pager and took a seat in the courtyard to wait but in fact were called to a table inside in about 10 minutes (we would have waited longer if we’d wanted an outside one I think). On leaving we asked about reservations for dinner on the Friday, two days ahead, and could only get a table at 8.30 pm (or 5.30pm, but that’s too early for us). We accepted it and on the day arrived a little early, and in fact got seated by 8.20 or so. On this occasion too we were inside, but in one of the smaller rooms off the main one, which was very cosy with only a few tables and less noisy than the larger space where we’d had lunch.
Favorite Dish: So, on to the food. On our first, lunch-time visit, we were looking for something light, and found plenty of choices. I had the gazpacho which was refreshing and tasty, and Chris chose a “small” salad (that is, smaller than the “big” version of the same!) of chicken, blue cheese, walnuts and salad leaves. With an orange juice for Chris, sparkling water for me, and two coffees we paid $27.
Returning for dinner two days later, and with rather bigger appetites, we were keen to try the New Mexican dishes for which they have such a good name. So we shared some chips and salsa to start with, which Chris followed with the “layered enchiladas” – two blue corn tortillas layered with cheddar cheese, onion, covered with red chilli & baked – a sort of New Mexican lasagne! I had the taco plate, made with two soft blue corn tortillas filled with cheddar cheese, onion, tomato, lettuce and a choice of meats – I opted for chicken (I could also have had ground beef) and green chilli (I could naturally also have had red). These were served with pinto beans and rice. Both meals were excellent, but mine especially so – one of the best I had on the whole trip! To drink I had a “Shed Red”, a margarita with pomegranate juice, which was very good, without reaching the dizzy heights of my green chilli version of the previous evening. Chris had a beer, we shared a cheesecake for dessert, and paid a really reasonable $45 (with tax but not including service)
Burro Alley Café: Lovely spot for breakfast
After our rather pricey breakfast on our first morning in Santa Fe we decided to look elsewhere and discovered this lovely spot. The Burro Alley Café has a really pretty courtyard opening onto the lane that gives it its name, and we breakfasted here on our second morning in town. The courtyard has some small trees which must give welcome shade in the heat of the day, but is mostly sunny which was great for an outdoor breakfast. Its wall are adorned with brightly painted wooden
shutters (see my photos) which were very photogenic and kept our cameras busy while we waited for our order. We returned for breakfast two days later, but as this was a chillier morning we opted to sit inside on that occasion. The interior is also welcoming in its different way, with quite a simple décor and a tempting display of pastries.
Favorite Dish: Right next door to the café is a bakery which produces excellent pastries served fresh for breakfast. On our first morning Chris had a chocolate one while mine was a huge almond one – both served still slightly warm from the oven. With two glasses of orange juice, a cappuccino for Chris and a double espresso for me (hooray, real caffeine!) we paid $24.50 – roughly half the cost of previous day’s breakfast. Although had the pastries again on our second visit, they do have a full breakfast menu with omelettes, bacon and eggs and all the usual favourites. They are also open for lunch and dinner but we never got round to trying them for either of these meals.
French Pastry Shop: Sweet treats
While Santa Fe’s buildings are a homogenous group of light brown adobe structures, the interiors occasionally surprise, and none more so than this cosy little place. Step through the doors and you might almost be in an English, or at least European, tea shop, with dark wood furniture and a glass case displaying tempting pastries.
Favorite Dish: We came for a light lunch, so Chris had a grilled cheese sandwich, but unusually for me I decided that the dessert menu was the more tempting, especially the sweet crepes, so I chose the blueberry one to go with my very good cup of coffee. We paid $21 in total, with Chris also having a coffee. This place would probably be a good choice for breakfast too but we never made it back here to try.
Rooftop Pizzeria: A disappointment
Chris loves pizza and so on our last evening in Santa Fe we headed for the Rooftop Pizzeria. We had already enjoyed a couple of beers on a previous evening in the Marble Brewery that is part of the same complex so we were expecting a good meal. The same menu is served in the bar at one end on the first floor of the shopping complex where the two properties are located, and in the restaurant at the other, but we decided to eat in the latter as its interior looked very attractive with stylish furniture and art work on the walls. Both bar and restaurant also have an outdoor terraces but after dark in late September it was a little chilly for us to eat outside, although plenty of others were doing so.
Favorite Dish: Our meal started well as we shared the excellent antipasto of “Mediterranean vegetables” and a selection of very good breads. Unfortunately though, the pizzas didn’t live up to the hype bestowed on them by the menu: “It has been said that the label “Pizzeria” is not adequate to describe the culinary experience awaiting you at the Rooftop ... From the first bite of our thin crust gourmet pizza you will be one step closer in your quest for pizza perfection.” No, this is not pizza perfection, although mine was not at all bad – a very good crust made with blue corn (a speciality here) and a reasonable topping of sundried tomatoes, goats cheese, artichoke hearts and olives. But Chris found that his mushroom pizza had far too many garlic cloves, even for someone who does really like garlic, as they totally overpowered all the other flavours. Maybe if we hadn’t been looking forward to our pizzas so much, and if they hadn’t been so over-hyped, we would have enjoyed them more, but as it was we came away rather disappointed and wishing we had instead returned to one of our favourite restaurants from earlier in our stay for this last evening in Santa Fe.
We paid a reasonable $45 for the starter, two 12” pizzas and two draft beers (the Marble Pilsner, which went well with the Italian food).
Aqua Santa: Can heaven be better than this?
I'm lucky, because I have a lot of friends who love to travel and they come back and tell me all about their journeys. One such friend returned from Santa Fe raving about a new restaurant called Aqua Santa -- which sounds to me like it means Holy Water and if so, they aren't far off the mark. We were only going to be in town for luncheon, so it was really fortunate that the restaurant was open and could accommodate two weary travelers. But we perked up almost immediately when we entered the cool precincts and saw some fabulous black-and-white photographs of literary and artistic scions (some of whom, I'll admit, we recognized only as "That's somebody famous.") and things improved even more with some icy Prosecco to sip as we mulled over the menu.
We were both heading for New Orleans in another week, so it might have seemed odd to order fried oysters in New Mexico, but that's where we started. Oh! I have never tasted anything quite so delicious. Perfect, creamy, garnished with watercress. It was an effort not to lick the plate.
We ordered one of the salads and one of the specialty pasta dishes. Both of these were divine, as well, but as we enjoyed them we also got to talking to our waiter -- who was the owner, apparently. He was absolutely charming and added greatly to our enjoyment of the experience.
Lunch ended with some splendidly robust coffee and a dessert which was almost too much of a good thing. I was really sorry that we couldn't just stay on and sample the dinner menu!
Lunch W-F noon to 2:00 PM. Dinner T-Sat 5:30-9:00 PM. Reservations recommended.
Favorite Dish: Read the recent New York Times article on the place...it will make your mouth water.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Arts and Culture
- Food and Dining
Second Street Brewery: glad we stopped, wish we ate
Second Street Brewery was not on the agenda but I think our bartender in Taos had said it was his favorite in Santa Fe so since it was (kinda) on our way to Albuquerque. It's a classic example of location, location, location. Blue Corn got the nod the first day in Santa Fe as it was right in the Historic Old Town. This place was over by the rail road tracks on the outskirts. From experience, these places turn out to be better as they have to be. You could see as soon as you got there this was a local's hangout with lots of people there with their kids on a Sunday afternoon. It was a big noisy place but we secured seats at the big bar.
Favorite Dish: We were on a budget so had eaten something in the car before we went in to save some money but the food smelled and looked great. Everyone was eating and it was one of those times when we wished we'd eaten at the brewpub. In fact, we came close to eating there even though we had eaten! The prices were very reasonable and with this many locals eating here, it has to be great. We were happy to see a couple of German style beers on the menu, a rarity in these parts, so ordered both the Kölsch and Schwarzbier, both clocking in at about 4.5%. The Kölsch was a great example of the style, a straw colored ale with a great interplay of malt and hops and clean, dryish finish. The Schwarzbier was black with ruby highlights and thin tan head. Another winner for the style though dryer than many German interpretations except the very best. Two very clean beers. These were so good we decided to try their regular ales. The Railrunner Pail Ale at 5.2% was a deep golden beer with a floral citrus nose and a great interplay of malt and hops. A great example of a beer that is hoppy without being too bitter. The IPA at 6% was copper colored with a citrus aroma. This one had a much more pronounced bitter hop profile but with ample malt it remains well balanced. This was the best IPA of the young trip. We also got a small sample of the Tres Equis, a Dos Equis clone, light and fairly bland.
- Road Trip
- Beer Tasting
- Food and Dining
Il Vicino: Beer and Pizza
Handmade pizza and beer brewed in their own brewery.
Lunch special: Margherita Pizza, house salad and soft drink US$7.00
Afternoon special: 3-6pm
Late Night Special: 9-11pm Margherita Pizza and Il Vicino Ale US$7.00
Order at the counter and you will be served at your table.
Outside patio in the summer.
Favorite Dish: Pizza Salsicca
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
The Cowgirl: The Cowgirl
This funky little place near the Santa Fe plaza has Mexican food, BBQ and steaks. We tried the BBQ chicken sausage which came with lots of extras including BBQ beans. Also good was the quesadillas. The waitstaff was friendly and adorned in the latest 'cowgirl' fashions.
Santacafe: Elegant Southwestern Cuisine
The Santacafe Restaurant is tucked away inside the historic Padre Gallegos House near the Plaza. We sat in a beautiful room which had a large deer skull mounted on the wall above a mantle. In front of the skull was a lush bouquet of flowers, a little homage to Georgia O'Keeffe I suppose.
The food was ornately presented and each dish had a contemporary flair. Nice place for a romantic dinner. In warmer weather, they serve in their beautiful courtyard as well.
Favorite Dish: For an appetizer, the Shiitake & Cactus Spring Rolls are excellent. The Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast was very rich.
- Wine Tasting
- Food and Dining