Falling in love with New Mexican cuisine
The plate arrives looking like a hot mess, but the first bite of a cheese enchilada adorned with green chilies always makes my taste buds dance with excitement. The rolled tortilla with its soft texture, the perfectly seasoned enchilada sauce, and the spicy green chilies—just slightly hotter than the red—all make me so happy.
My first stop for food in the Santa Fe area is usually The Shed. Renowned for its traditional New Mexican cuisine, this bustling restaurant is always filled with locals and tourists seeking large plates, flavorful food, and margaritas.
Santa Fe is a city I hold dear to my heart. I love the culture, the skies, the 300-plus sunny days a year, the people, the mountains, and of course the cuisine. Fortunately, the city is filled with special finds like The Shed—restaurants that draw from the city’s Native American, Spanish, and Mexican influences (all superb influences for creating a meal that’s truly tasty).
Tucked away in a courtyard about half a block from the Plaza, The Shed has been around since 1953 (but is housed in a building that’s from the late 1600s).
Everyone in Santa Fe is intimately familiar with this amazing restaurant. It’s relatively inexpensive, flavorful beyond belief, and has a fun interior, making it a great stop on any Santa Fe trip. Plus, you can’t go wrong with anything from their menu.
Enchiladas with green chilies at The Shed
Cowgirl BBQ exudes community. Everyone seems to know each other, and if they don’t, they soon will—and that includes you. It has a boisterous bar, restaurant, and dancing area that lends itself to chatter and friendships.
The menu goes well beyond BBQ, also featuring chili (even a vegetarian version), pulled pork, brisket, mac and cheese, and salad (but you don’t go to Cowgirl BBQ for the salad). Leave room for dessert because you have to try the “Baked Potato.” Until you bite into it, you won’t believe it’s made of ice cream.
On a nice evening, be sure to get a table outside, where you can enjoy live music (and probably have the most fun).
Also known for its traditional New Mexican cuisine, Tomasita’s has more of a bar feel than The Shed. With plenty of space, it accommodates small groups and families well. This is the first place I ever tried “Christmas” (half red chilies, half green chilies) on my enchiladas. I like the variety, though some locals will scoff at ordering both (with the belief that the green chili ends up canceling out the red chili due to its overpowering flavor).
Tomasita’s is also my favorite place for sopaipillas, which are pockets of yummy fry bread served with honey. (And they can keep them coming!)
Viewfinder Tip: New Mexican cuisine can be heavy; consider sharing plates or ordering appetizers so you can sample more without the guilt.
Once you’ve filled up on cheese, pork, and sopaipillas, head to Vinaigrette for a fantastic twist to salad. This salad bistro serves greens as the main course, and protein plays only a minor role.
The menu has many suggested combos, but my favorite is the “Nutty Pear-fessor” with pears, pecan halves, and ruby-port vinaigrette. I add grilled tofu to complete the meal.
Located just down the street from my favorite hotel, the Hotel Santa Fe & Spa, its bright, sunny interior and alfresco seating will have you feeling good inside and out.
Santa Fe School of Cooking
If you’ve got some time, take a cooking class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. I’m a big fan of their tamale-making class where they teach you how to create the traditional pockets of meat and vegetables steamed in cornmeal dough and tucked into a corn husk or banana leaf.
But the class is about much more than the tamales. Their excellent chefs will fill your head with knowledge about the Scoville scale, ghost peppers, what makes kosher salt “kosher,” and the health benefits of capsaicin.
Are you ready to work off some calories after all that food? Consider hiking near Santa Fe.
What’s your favorite city for food?
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