Chile Reception: 6 Places To Eat Really Well In Santa Fe, New Mexico

"Green or red?" "Spicy or mild?" "Are you going to eat it on something (like a burger or enchilada) or in something (like a stew)?" This is pretty much the kind of responses you get when you ask locals where to get good chile in Santa Fe. Because in this city, it's not just a local specialty. In fact, many would argue it's a way of life. But you'll soon learn there's a lot more to Santa Fe's colorful dining scene than its famous roasted-pepper preparation. And while it might be convenient to stay downtown — it's packed with restaurants, but tourists as well — why not venture out a bit? A breezy walk or short drive will lead you to some seriously good bites, from an impossibly pretty, delicate lobster risotto to a lip-smacking miso-glazed eggplant. Here, we share six places (including a dive bar with a secret gyro) to eat really well in the City Different:


After launching two popular Los Angeles restaurants (Rivera and Playa), acclaimed chef John Rivera Sedlar returned to his hometown of Santa Fe to open up a contemporary New Mexican restaurant, named after his grandmother, that is dedicated to featuring the ingredients he grew up with as a child. Sedlar explains: "I'm taking the few things that are predominately New Mexican and exploring the dimensions to them." That means a humble ingredient like corn weaves through Eloisa's menu in several ways, like in the fresh tamales, taco shells and, perhaps most interestingly, flan. Presented in a husk and topped with nutty black quinoa, Sedlar's version is subtly sweet and custard-like, with a surprisingly pronounced corn flavor. It's a shining example of how the chef has mastered the art of making so much from little and coaxing the best out of his ingredients. 228 E. Palace Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501, 505-982-0883;

Izanami at Ten Thousand Waves

A short drive from downtown to this address will reward you with two awesome experiences: a therapeutic bath at Ten Thousand Waves, the Japanese-inspired spa and bathhouse, and an izakaya-inspired meal at Izanami, located at the same address. The sake list is surprisingly extensive and diverse. You'll find more than 50 varieties, including plenty of namazake (unpasteurized sake). As for the food menu, you'll discover savory small dishes, meant for enjoying with alcohol. Among the most memorable is the playful Wagyu Beef Ishiyaki, where you cook slices of delicate meat and on a sizzling 500-degree stone. The nasu dengaku (miso-glazed eggplant) is deeply savory, sweet and almost meaty: a total umami bomb. Even the pickles — chef David Padberg works with assorted seasonal vegetables, from cabbage to squash — are pretty and pack a punch. 3451 Hyde Park Rd., Santa Fe, NM 87501, 505-428-6390;

Opened in 1953, the Shed is a Santa Fe institution beloved for its affordable New Mexican cooking.

The Shed

Opened by Polly and Thornton Carswell in 1953, the Shed is a local institution beloved for its solid (yet affordable) New Mexican plates and fiery house red chile, which is grown exclusively for the restaurant on a farm in Hatch. (Warning: The stuff is can be numbingly hot.) Because the lines can get long during peak dining hours, your best bet is to drop by for a late lunch. First-timers should dig into one of the local specialties, like the Carne Adovada (pork roasted in the red chile) or the enchilada and taco plate (my favorite). All of them arrive with the house garlic bread, which sounds strange but works perfectly for chasing every last bit of the spicy sauce. And if you find yourself hooked on the heat, you can always purchase a jar to take home. 113 1/2 E. Palace Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501, 505-982-9030;

Restaurant Martin

As you pull up to the entrance, you might have the same thought I did: "This is a restaurant?" (That's because Restaurant Martin is situated in a historic adobe house.) While owner and chef Martin Rios honed his chops at some of the city's most notable fine-dining spots (like Geronimo and Inn of the Anasazi), the cooking here is fresh, artfully composed and far from predictable. The tuna tartare, for example, is plated with a pickled quince, hand-torn bits of airy black sesame sponge cake and fresh-snipped herbs from the restaurant's garden. Even the risotto — topped with tender, butter-poached lobster, sweet-potato bits, bright baby greens, and lemon oil — is incredibly easy on the eyes (and the palate, too). 526 Galisteo St., Santa Fe, NM 87501, 505-820-0919;

Terra at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado

With seemingly endless skies, mild year-round weather and a 7,400-foot altitude, Santa Fe sunsets are nothing short of spellbinding. And one of the best spots to take in the view is at Terra. Winding down with a cocktail and a bite on the outdoor terrace is a no-brainer, but if you're looking for a more lively experience, book the chef's table. The reservations-only perch, located right inside the kitchen, gives diners an exclusive opportunity to engage with chef Andrew Cooper and his team. After throwing on an apron, you'll get to play chef by helping prep, cook, call orders and expedite tickets. Your evening is capped with a multi-course dinner, which chef Cooper tailors to your appetite. 198 State Rd. 592, Santa Fe, NM 87506, 505-946-5800;

Bonus Tip: Evangelos Cocktail Lounge

To be clear: This is in no way, shape or form a restaurant. It's a bar. And for those who like to lurk late (myself included), Santa Fe can be tough, as downtown shuts down fairly early. That's why discovering Evangelos was such a godsend. Nick Klonos, the owner, runs the joint that his father opened in 1969, and the best part is he is always there. (He admits that he hasn't taken a vacation in 12 years and doesn't do sick days.) But beyond the heavy pours and chill vibes are his gyros. They look deceptively basic — you'll find the usual suspects of heavily seasoned meat, tomato, red onion, tzatziki, and pita — but man, they're anything but. To put it concisely, and in Nick's words: "My tzatziki is the best in the world." There's no menu, so politely ask Nick for one and become a believer like me. 200 W, San Francisco St., Santa Fe, NM 87501; 505-982-9014

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