This post was updated 7/29/15
Ask any woman, 40 is a big milestone. For a restaurant in the Land of Enchantment, it makes you eligible for the New Mexico Culinary Treasures Trail. Not just age gets an eatery on the trail, they have to be family-owned. In some cases, the original owners still run the restaurant or someone hand-picked by them carries on the tradition. Want to dine at a New Mexico culinary treasure while in Santa Fe? Here they are:
Two venerable Santa Fe places on the New Mexico Culinary Treasures Trail. The State also put together the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.
Bert’s Burger Bowl
Bert’s Burger Bowl closed on April 29,2015
Bert’s Burger Bowl (235 North Guadalupe 505-982-0215), a short walk from the Santa Fe Plaza, has been serving up burgers in a funky mid-century style drive-in since 1954. Bert’s claims they invented the green chile cheeseburger, but there are other claimants out there. We do know they’ve been making them for a long time. You can still get the original patty loaded with mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and, pickle or one of current owner, Fernando Olea’s contemporary additions. Berts offers burgers made from ostrich, Kobe beef, lamb, bison and pork. Whether you choose the traditional route or go mod, check Bert’s out. It’s a Santa Fe burger tradition.
Santa Fe Bite
Bobcat Bite is now Santa Fe Bite and at 311 Old Santa Fe Trail. They still serve great burgers in bigger spot.
When the trail was inaugurated in 2011, Santa Fe Bite was Bobcat Bite. They’d been serving up burgers since 1953. This destination dining spot was named “Best Burger in the United States” by bon appétit magazine and has been written about in Gourmet, Travel + Leisure and the New York Times. Because of all the publicity, it attracts burger fans from all over the country and maybe even the world. The original location was ruistic and small and about 15 minutes from the Santa Fe Plaza. The new digs are a few blocks from the Plaza, light, bright, contemporary and a lot bigger. But it’s still often crowded. The hand-made 10-ounce patties (they now have a six ounce version) are a mix of chuck and sirloin ground fresh daily. There’s a choice of toppings, but the toppings of choice are cheese and green chile. They now serve breakfast and have a menu that offers way more than burgers.
The Compound on Canyon Road is the only upscale entry on this list. It started out in WHEN as a steakhouse. Current owner, Chef Mark Kiffen kept the name and made the cuisine his own. His creative American menu has Mediterranean influences. Kiffen won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest in 2005.
Also on Canyon Road, El Farol is the oldest restaurant in Santa Fe. They’ve been serving food in this historic adobe since 1835. Current owner, David Salazar, has been at the helm of the current incarnation with its tapas menu since 1985. El Farol also offers entertainment. Their Flamenco Dinner Show is popular. And the bar is a hot spot in town. The New York Times called it “…one of the best bars on earth!” And at night, it’s one of THE places in town for live music.
The Shed may be the best known New Mexican restaurant in town. It was opened by the Carswell family (they still own it) in a shed Burro Alley 1953. They moved to their current location, a 1692 former hacienda, in 1960. The restaurant is known for its green chile stew and red chile enchiladas. While most New Mexican restaurants serve sopapillas with the food, The Shed tradition is garlic bread. They serve lunch and dinner. Reservations, strongly recommended, are accepted for dinner only.
The Pantry, out on Cerrillos Road about a five minute drive from the Plaza, opened in 1948. The menu leans towards New Mexican. It’s a great place to grab a breakfast burrito smothered in green (or red, if you prefer) chile. It’s popular with locals and on weekend mornings, be prepared to wait for a table. Traditionally, they served breakfast and lunch. They recently added dinner. If you want to eat where the locals do, try The Pantry.
The Plaza Café, on the west side of Santa Fe’s Plaza, has been dishing up food since 1905. The current owners, the Razatos family has been running it since 1947. Sadly, they’re currently closed, due to a fire over a year ago. They hope to reopen in January 2012. The good news; there’s an offshoot of the café, Plaza Café Southside, serving up the classic menu (with some twists). The diner-style décor is bright and fun and the best part; blow-ups of original photos of the Plaza from the 1940s grace the walls.
Make your Santa Fe dining experience historic and choose one of the time tested treasures on the New Mexico Culinary Trail.
Want other great dining suggestions for Santa Fe? Contact The Santa Fe Traveler. We know Santa Fe and we love food.
Author’s note: As a former hotel concierges and owners of a travel concierge and trip-planning business in Santa Fe, the writers may have at some time been guests of business or services mentioned in this post. These experiences have not influenced us in any way.