Growing up in Santa Fe and spending more than a decade in Albuquerque I feel like I have a pretty well-rounded perspective when it comes to the food scene in both cities, respectively. Like I tell our guests, my cooking may be average but I'm really good at eating and I imagine that makes me somewhat credible when it comes to good food! Truly that's come with the many emails, social media comments, and phone calls with all the foodie questions. The number one question we get on our culinary tours is, "Which city has better food, Santa Fe or Albuquerque?". You can imagine this to be a very loaded and dangerous question with how much pride we New Mexicans have when it comes to our food. For example, every other year Colorado claims to have better green chile than New Mexico and most of us laugh it off but others are ready for battle! Now, I don't expect our cities would ever spark a debate over which city has better food, but it is a very interesting question!
This question inspired me to write this blog post listing with just a couple of our favorite places to eat during the 2019 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I expect many visitors will be on the lookout for some of our local favorites in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque after working up an appetite at balloon fiesta. I participate in Albuquerque international balloon fiesta events every year and find that food is a top priority before, during, and after the fiesta. Whether its after dawn patrol, before the special shapes rodeo, or the balloon glow, you know I'm scheduling around meals. I can only imagine how overwhelming it can be for visiting guests to decide among all the good eats . I hope this blog helps out and I have to say, choosing just a few places to eat in these delicious cities is like slicing an onion with a spoon...you'll get it done eventually but you may drown in your own tears. We hope locals will help us with other recommendations in the blog comments but for now, here is what I came up with...
Some of our favorite places to eat in Santa Fe:
Restaurant Martin is the embodiment of a 20-year dream to create the perfect balance of refined and comfortable. Chef Martin Rios, and his wife, Jennifer, envisioned a certain ambiance where people from the community as well as Santa Fe’s many visitors could enjoy Chef Rios’ award-winning progressive American cuisine. Martin and Jennifer are long-time Santa Fean’s with a commitment to locality – Martin volunteers for Cooking with Kids, and Jennifer is president of The Horse Shelter. This family-owned restaurant caters not only to tourists, but to a large and local clientele. Chef Rios, a native of Guadalajara, grew up in Santa Fe starting in the restaurant business as a 17-year-old dishwasher, eventually working his way up to executive chef at several restaurants and hotels. Chef Rios received his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America and supplemented that with experience and training in some of the world’s most honored restaurants and with well-known culinary masters. (Refined New American dishes served in a contemporary space with a garden-lined patio.) We highly recommend pretty much anything Chef Rio's puts on a plate.
The exotic locale of Lamu Island, off the coast of Kenya, with its fusion of Swahili, Indian, Arabic, and European influences, is at the heart of Owner-Chef Ahmed Obo’s spirited cuisine. It was there, in his mother’s aromatic kitchen, that Ahmed mastered his homeland’s unique and fragrant cooking style, beginning a culinary adventure eventually leading him to Santa Fe, New Mexico where, in 2009, he opened Jambo Café. Jambo Café has a legion of loyal fans who wax eloquent over Chef Obo’s mouth-watering fare. Whether it’s a dine in, carry out or catered meal you crave, Jambo strikes “a superb balance between vibrant and subtle, making it better than most of what’s being served locally at many times the price.” (African home style fare includes jerk chicken, goat stew, plus wraps & pies in casual, colorful digs.) We recommend the coconut chicken curry and the pistachio encrusted goat cheese salad with a salmon filet on top.
Tomasita’s restaurant is a Santa Fe tradition serving classic Northern New Mexican Cuisine. Locally owned and operated in Santa Fe, New Mexico by the Maryol/Gundrey family for over 40 years, they take great pride in quality food, friendly and fast service, and great margaritas. Santa Fe locals have consistently voted Tomasita’s THE BEST. The Best Red and Green Chile, Best Margaritas, and Best New Mexican Restaurant. (Lively go-to for enchiladas, sopapillas, flautas & more Southwestern favorites amid basic decor.) We recommend the swirl margarita (half frozen margarita and half sangria).
The Tea house on Canyon Road in Santa Fe provides teas from China, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, and more. This homely hidden cafe offers Italian-driven plates for lunch and breakfast, plus beer, wine & global teas. We recommend the oatmeal... yes, you read that right. Oatmeal. You're welcome.
Located at Ten Thousand Waves, Izanami is an Izakaya serving upscale Japanese bar food. Small plates meant for sharing, creatively prepared locally-sourced meat and produce with an emphasis on seasonality, all accompanied by unique libations. Don't expect the usual. There is NO SUSHI. No soggy tempura. Definitely none of the sickly-sweet, hot sake that has given sake such a bad rap. "We have the best selection of artisanal micro brew cold sake found anywhere between the coasts, green teas from shizuoka, locally roasted coffee drinks, ten different Japanese craft beers, and house made spritzers. Experience the pyrotechnics of our charcoal grill at the counter or choose a custom-made, private booth, a cozy table for two, floor seating in the tatami room, or a chair at the communal table."
Warm and inviting, the elegant "Borrego House" was built by Geronimo Lopez in 1756. Thick adobe walls, kiva fireplaces and wood beams surround. Geronimo is the recipient of the AAA Four Diamond and Mobil/Forbes 4 Star Awards. Voted Opentable "Top 100 Restaurants in the Country". We recommend the elk tenderloin.
Un-fussy cafe, serving New Mexican cuisine, including burritos & enchiladas, and burgers for breakfast & lunch. By far the hottest green chile in Santa Fe. If you're being extra adventurous (don't do it) you can order the level two chile that is a secret menu item know only by locals.
Some of our favorite places to eat in Albuquerque:
Luis Ortega and his wife Nora Lopez wanted to bring the vision for a Mexican influenced seafood to the City Different. Thanks to their hard work in the construction and hotel services after coming here from Mexico, they were able to secure a loan from an angel investor which allowed them to open their doors twenty years ago and go on to establishing the best seafood restaurant in Santa Fe. Mariscos La Playa has won first place for “Best of Santa Fe” in Seafood for the past 12 years.
Located in Albuquerque's North Valley, Farm & Table recognizes that we are blessed with over 300 days of sunshine, irrigation from the Rio Grande, and rich soil. Nearby, farmers and artisans are growing fresh produce, raising happy animals, making delectable cheeses, cultivating pure honey, creating acclaimed wines, brewing great beer, and crafting special foods. A surge of backyard farmers are now planting and harvesting their own food, while many others flock to nearby grower's markets to purchase locally-grown foods. Our community is blossoming to promote health, sustainability, and the local economy. This celebration of local food and community is what drives the philosophy at Farm & Table.
Inspired by the day’s harvest, our cuisine wanders the line between rugged and refined. Located on an organic farm in the Rio Grande River Valley, our restaurant is a casual fine-dining experience, featuring the most purely crafted field-to-fork menu in the Southwest. Our Rio Grande Valley Cuisine is rooted in seasonal organic ingredients from our own farm, as well as from longstanding relationships with local farmers and herdsman.
Located in the stylish Hotel Andaluz, MÁS is a full-service restaurant and tapas bar inspired by the bold flavors, rich history and exuberance of Spanish cooking. MÁS offers fresh reinventions of traditional Spanish cuisine with an emphasis on organic, fresh and locally-sourced foods and high quality ingredients.
The Barelas Coffee House was founded on February 14, 1978 by brothers James and Michael Gonzales. Soon after the restaurant's opening, they were joined in the business by their sister Benita Villanueva. The Barelas Coffee House was named after the Barelas neighborhood community where it is located. Four generations of their family have resided in the Barelas neighborhood. The Barelas Coffee House would like to thank all of their loyal customers for their many years of loyal patronage.
In business since 1942, Duran Central Pharmacy is one of the oldest commercial establishments in Albuquerque. The original owner of the drugstore was Pete Duran, a graduate of Notre Dame and the Colorado School of Pharmacy. As a resident of Old Town, he wanted his business close by on Central Avenue, Route 66. A few years later, however, he moved a half a block south on San Pasquale. Duran Central Pharmacy – In 1965, Mr. Duran decided to retire and sold the store to one of his staff pharmacists, Robert Ghattas, a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Pharmacy. The business began to outgrow its location and in 1975 the pharmacy once more was moved to Central Avenue, where it has since been located. In 2010, Robert decided it was time to step back from the business and retired. Mona, his daughter, has continued the family business credo, sharing her passion in the care of their patients. The pharmacy has grown considerably over the years, reflecting changes in the health and medical fields. In addition, the business now includes a large selection of toiletries, gift items, and medical supplies. The original soda fountain has evolved into a small restaurant, serving fantastic New Mexican food and is famous world wide for its red and green chile.
Steel Bender Brewyard serves craft beer brewed by Robert Haggerty and hardy pub food in an inviting pub-inspired atmosphere. Located in Los Ranchos, NM. So as often as we're able, we feature local products & produce in our recipes. All of our bread is made right here in town at Swiss Alps Bakery. And of course, our chile...we proudly serve Bueno red & green NEW MEXICO CERTIFIED CHILE, all grown in the Hatch River Valley.
Canvas Artistry offers a multi-cultural street food menu with the influences of each other combined. We work closely with local farmers and vendors to ensure that the ingredients used are not only fresh, but support our local economy. All dishes prepared will be planned around what is currently in season.
BBQ. Just go. You're welcome.
Delicious soul food dishes highlighted by our signature chicken & waffles. You're welcome again.
I hoped this helped just a bit! Please leave me some feedback, and share this blog if you loved it!