First-time visitors to Santa Fe, New Mexico, might expect their trip to be full of traditional Mexican food like tacos, quesadillas, and burritos. While Santa Fe has plenty of those things, you might be surprised to find that New Mexican cuisine has its own unique cornucopia of spices, ingredients, and techniques. Of course, it's not all red and green chile here—the city has a veritable motherlode of fine dining and international cuisine, too.
This railyard favorite has drawn crowds since its opening more than 40 years ago. Run by the same family for three generations, Tomasita's is a perfect introduction to New Mexican cuisine, serving a menu packed with green chile, red chile, posole, and other hearty plates. The hot sopaipillas (a pillowy bread pocket served with honey) are the only way to end a meal here.
Steps from Santa Fe's vibrant plaza in a historic building, the white-walled Santacafé serves upscale renditions on American favorites, often with a New Mexican twist. The restaurant was one of the city's first fine-dining destinations when it opened in 1983 and still to this day relies on local sourcing for many of its dishes, like the grilled filet mignon, served alongside red chile and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. On a beautiful day (of which Santa Fe has many), sit on the patio.
One of those rare restaurants that's beloved by tourists and locals alike, Cafe Pasqual's (named for San Pasqual, the folk saint of Mexican and New Mexican kitchens and cooks) has been a downtown staple for more than 40 years. With an emphasis on organic and sustainable cuisine, Pasqual's seats just 50 diners at a time and is dedicated to making everything—from chile sauces to ice cream to bread—in-house. The colorful dining room is filled with hand-painted Mexican tiles and murals by Leovigildo Martinez, a renowned Mexican painter.
A classic along the gallery-filled Canyon Road, Geronimo's elegant setting in a circa-1756 adobe home draws diners in to celebrate special occasions or just enjoy a night out at one of the city's most beloved restaurants. The menu leans toward meaty dishes like New Mexico-raised lamb, locally-sourced elk, and lobster cooked over Mesquite.
The battle for the best chile is hotly contested in Santa Fe, and most people will tell you that The Shed serves up some of the best. Whether you prefer green, red, or Christmas (that's both), the chile at The Shed is kicky, flavorful, and perfectly balanced. Try the green chile in a spicy stew of roasted chiles, pork, and potato, and sample the red in a blue corn burrito stuffed with pinto beans, cheddar cheese, and onion.
Quirky and casual, Harry's Roadhouse is a breakfast and lunch hotspot with a menu full of Mexican and New Mexican classics—think migas, huevos rancheros, and blue corn waffles—and early morning favorites. At dinner, the menu skews a bit more international but everything remains excellent, year-after-year.
Santa Fe's oldest restaurant serves up New Mexico-inspired diner fare from its prime location on the city's plaza. While there are plenty of comfort food favorites like chicken fried steak and spaghetti and meatballs, Plaza Cafe really shines with its regional takes on these beloved favorites. An otherwise classic meatloaf gets stuffed with corn and green chile, while a pork chop dinner comes with a side of calabacitas, a veggie-packed side of squash, corn, tomato, onion, and garlic.
A Mexico City native, Chef Fernando Olea has been cooking in Santa Fe since 1991. He's famous for his wide-ranging menu of different moles, all expertly paired with specific proteins and other accouterments. There's also an extensive list of mezcal, tequila, and wine, including a strong showing of Mexican wines from the Valle de Guadalupe.
A Japanese izakaya in Santa Fe? It's true, but Izanami isn't your typical restaurant. Tucked away near the Santa Fe ski basin, Izanami is part of Ten Thousand Waves, a spa and hotel inspired by Japanese mountain resorts. Spend a day languishing in the relaxing baths before enjoying a chef-curated omakase, or shared small plates.
A hybrid wine shop and bistro, Arroyo Vino is worth trekking slightly outside the city center. With a predictably strong wine list, Arroyo Vino's food skews French and Mediterranean, with dishes like swordfish "steak frites," served alongside sunchoke pureée, hand-cut fries, and pink peppercorn beurre blanc. Wine might be the star of the show, but you'd be remiss not to try a cocktail, too; warm up with the A Hot Toddy, made with Iwai Japanese whiskey, Bigallet China-China, saffron, and bitters.
Maria's margaritas—all 100 of them—are large and strong. The exhaustive menu seems overwhelming at first, but with every margarita made from 100 percent agave tequila, you can't go wrong. Try Santa Fe's anniversary margarita, made with El Jimador agave silver tequila, Triple Sec, green chile (natch), and lemon juice. Of course, the food is excellent too—try the blue corn enchiladas, a local favorite.
A romantic fine-dining staple, The Compound is helmed by Mark Kiffin, a James Beard award-winner for Best Chef of the Southwest. Serving New American cuisine with an occasional Southwestern accent, The Compound is a longstanding foodie favorite in the city, especially catering to diners who are looking for luxury ingredients like sweetbreads, foie gras, diver scallops, and more.