Travel: Santa Fe, NM
Growing up, we made the eight hour trek west to Santa Fe every few years or so. I’m an only child, and family vacations for me were often a lot different than those of my friends; rather than centering everything around kid-friendly attractions, I was toted along wherever my parents wanted to go (100% not complaining). One year it was Boston, one year San Diego, another year Yellowstone National Park and another year Seattle/Vancouver. Ski trips to Santa Fe and summer weeks in Breckenridge, CO were the most frequent.
Santa Fe is a day’s drive from Oklahoma City but seems like it’s on a different planet entirely. That’s what I love about the southwest—the otherworldly landscape, the shift in culture, the checkered past. These aspects I grew to appreciate as I got older. Though the Canyon Road and Plaza areas skew toward families and retirees, there are plenty of interesting restaurants and attractions popping up for 20- and 30-somethings.
Two years ago my now-husband and I visited Santa Fe for my birthday. We got tattoos, drank tequila and explored Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. A couple weeks ago, we stayed for a long weekend over Thanksgiving, and this time it was all about the food. We went to bed early, woke up late and visited restaurants neither of us had been to before. My mom always joked that our family took “trips” rather than “vacations,” because we were always on the move. “I need a vacation from my vacation,” she’d say when we got home. This, though, was a true vacation, and it was glorious.
If you’ve ever visited Santa Fe, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite restaurants in the comments! Below is an accumulation of the places I’ve dined at over the years, some new and some old—all vegetarian-friendly, of course.
THE BURRITO COMPANY
Sweet Jesus do I wish I’d tried The Burrito Company years ago! It’s located just a couple streets over from the central Plaza area, right next to the Inn of the Anasazi. I’ve definitely passed it about a half dozen times, but didn’t stop in until this past Thanksgiving when Ed mentioned a coworker said they had the best burritos he’s ever had.
The Burrito Co. was established in 1978 and is a family-run restaurant that’s open for breakfast and lunch. I ordered the Burrito Plate—it featured a burrito (duh) stuffed with scrambled eggs and hash browns, smothered in chile and cheese and served with whole beans on the side. When in Santa Fe, I always order Christmas sauce, a combo of the milder green sauce and spicier red sauce. Seriously, though, this meal was the best way to start the day and was just an all-around classically deliciously New Mexican dish.
111 Washington Ave. theburritocompanysf.com
Ed and I absolutely love Indian food, and when we visited Santa Fe in 2016 we found an incredible place called Raaga that served some of the best Indian fare we’d ever had. Unfortunately it’s now permanently closed, so we had to find a new place to try. While Paper Dosa doesn’t have the typical offerings, like kormas and daal, it was tasty as all hell and we’ll be back again for sure.
The bread and butter at Paper Dosa, so to speak, is dosa, uttapam and curry. Dosa is a thin South Indian crepe made from a fermented rice and lentil batter, and uttapam is a South Indian “pancake” made from a fermented rice and lentil dosa batter—thicker and smaller than dosas with the ingredients cooked into the batter. They offer curries too, but the Winter Vegetable Curry wasn’t really floating my boat the night we visited.
We started with an order of pappadum (a lentil cracker) with chutneys, and I ordered the Paneer & Peas Dosa as my meal. The spice-tossed paneer ended up with a sort of delicious eggy flavor, and the pea/cilantro dipping sauce was truly, seriously tasty. The place was packed, and it was fun watching the chef toss crepes through the clear kitchen window. Highly recommend.
551 W. Cordova Rd. http://paper-dosa.com/
THE BURGER STAND
The Burger Stand is located on Burro Alley, one of the most infamous little streets in all of Santa Fe. In the 19th century, firewood would be carried in on the backs of burros; the owners would park them in Burro Alley, sell the firewood, and spend their earnings at the saloons and brothels mere feet away. Can you imagine all the stories the pavement of Burro Alley could tell?
Now, the alley is home to less seedy establishments, like the fantastic Burger Stand. I ordered the Romesco Burger (can be made vegan or gluten free upon request), which featured a fantastic house-made lentil patty with feta cheese, toasted almonds, green beans and roasted red pepper sauce. The joint has tasty fries too and a self-serve sauce station that is absolutely killer. This is a great place for a quick, tasty meal.
207 W. San Francisco St. santafeburgersandbeer.com
The Teahouse is situated on the famed Canyon Road, Santa Fe’s main arts district that features over 100 galleries and studios. I picked this place because Ed was getting a bit burnt out on chile sauce (impossible in my eyes), and their breakfast menu had a fantastic selection of interesting benedicts. I ordered the Mushroom Eggs Benedict that came with two poached eggs, a toasted English muffin, porcini & crimini mushrooms and a choice of Classic or Calabrian Chile Hollandaise (you better believe I went with the chile). The flavors in both the mushrooms and the sauce were hearty and rich, and the English muffin was super fresh and perfectly chewy. This ended up being Ed’s favorite meal of our Thanksgiving trip (he ordered the Brisket Eggs Benedict), so snaps for me!
821 Canyon Rd. teahousesantafe.com
We discovered Jambo Cafe on an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” and if it’s good enough for Guy Fieri then it’s good enough for me. It’s located in an unassuming strip mall, but when you walk inside you’ll notice they’ve done a fantastic job of making it feel homey and welcoming. Spices will soon flood your senses; on Jambo Cafe’s website, they note that “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.”
The menu was truly varied and featured several dishes that caught my eye. Ultimately, Ed and I started with the Curry-Encrusted Pistachio Goat Cheese over roasted vegetables and organic field greens and drizzled with pomegranate vinaigrette. Once you taste this, I guarantee you’ll want to encrust everything you eat in curried pistachios. Seriously that good. And for the main course, I ordered a cup of the vegetarian black bean, sweet potato & curry soup plus the Vegetarian Sandwich—it featured marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and Moroccan black olives tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar with spinach and organic feta on pita. This sandwich is phenomenal because of its simplicity and freshness, and the soup was so good that we even recreated it when we got home. You’ve got to make time for Jambo Cafe if and when you visit Santa Fe.
2010 Cerrillos Rd. jambocafe.net
JULIA AT LA POSADA
I am absolutely obsessed with the story of Julia Staab. La Posada, now a boutique hotel, was once the home of German immigrant Julia, husband Abraham and their seven children. An eighth child, Henriette, died just a few weeks after her birth, and a distraught Julia took to her bed for two weeks in mourning. When she finally emerged, her once dark hair had gone stark white; she was essentially a recluse after that and died at age 52. She’s said to still haunt her former home and is most often “seen” in her old bedroom.
Julia’s is a tragic story, but it’s not one without meaning. Her great-great-granddaughter, Hannah Nordhaus, wrote “American Ghost: The True Story of a Family’s Haunted Past” as a way to honor her ancestor and shed light on her mysterious life. It’s a fascinating book, one that I read cover-to-cover in a matter of days, and is essential reading for anyone enamored with the Land of Enchantment.
Anyway, I love the bar at La Posada and especially enjoy their Prickly Pear Margarita. The house/hotel is always decorated with interesting art, and this time it happened to be a bunch of portraits of dogs. I would love to actually stay here sometime and see if I encounter Julia herself.
330 E. Palace Ave. laposadasantafe.com
Rooftop Pizzeria is a slightly upscale joint that’s perched, as its name implies, on the rooftop of a building overlooking the plaza. They famously offer traditional crust as well as crust made with blue corn; this makes it lighter and crispier, kind of like a flatbread, and it’s seriously delicious. Be sure to try their decadent starter of warm roasted garlic cloves with lemon, fresh herbs & cracked pepper. Now that I’m looking over their menu again, I also see that they have oven-roasted pistachio crusted goat cheese (sound familiar?) served with cherry chutney, which I’m definitely trying next time.
For the main course, they offer some really interesting options. I recommend either the #6, made with artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese with roasted garlic spread on blue corn crust, or the #7 featuring wild and domestic mushrooms, roast garlic clove, truffle oil and four cheeses with alfredo sauce on artisan crust. If you prefer to build your own pizza, they have tons of unique toppings, including green chiles, avocado, cotija cheese, grilled pineapple and toasted pinon nuts.
60 E. San Francisco St. #301. rooftoppizzeria.com
SECOND STREET BREWERY AT THE RAILYARD
On our Thanksgiving trip, Ed and I stopped in at Second Street Brewery at The Railyard to chill for a second and make a game plan for what we’d do the rest of the day. One of their daily specials, a dish called Vladimir Poutine, instantly caught my eye; it was a vegetarian version of traditional poutine made with mushroom gravy, mozzarella cheese and sweet potato fries, and it was delectable. I’m not a big beer drinker, but I tried a couple of great ciders from Santa Fe Cider Works—one was a traditional cider but was uncarbonated, and the other combined apples with tart cherries (loved this one).
1814 2nd St. secondstreetbrewery.com
El Callejon was one of Ed’s picks, and let’s just say that he did a great job. The restaurant is a few streets over from the main Plaza area, so it feels just a bit more secluded and slightly less touristy. When you walk in, you’ll first notice the enormous bar and the abundance of dark wood; it’s super easy to picture this place as a bustling saloon in the 19th century.
You’ll definitely want to start with the Chips & Salsa, and be sure to add the signature guacamole sauce for an extra $2.50. The homemade chips were super crispy and seasoned with something like Fuzzy Dust. The salsa was slightly warm and smokey, and the guacamole sauce added a needed bit of creaminess.
I was blown away by my main dish, simple cheese enchiladas filled with queso fresco, topped with red and green chile and served with potato-carrot-cactus sauté. What some people don’t like about New Mexican cuisine is that everything is swimming in sauce, but these enchiladas definitely weren’t drowning. I love mild queso fresco, and the interesting vegetable sauté was a great touch. Hands down would order this again.
208 Galisteo St. elcallejonsantafe.com
So obviously on a major holiday like Thanksgiving, there aren’t going to be a ton of places open. We opted for Coyote Cafe, a swanky place just around the corner from the aforementioned El Callejon (the restaurant’s lights were super blue, which is why the photos above are so crappy). The Thanksgiving offering was an $85 prix fixe menu with your choice of starter, main and dessert; I opted for the Burrata, Vegetarian Wellington and Banana Cream Pie. While the food was all excellent, it was definitely overpriced for what you got; their regular menu trends in the same direction (and there aren’t many vegetarian options), but the menu for their rooftop cantina is much more budget friendly and frankly is a bit more accessible.
132 W. Water St. coyotecafe.com
LA CASA SENA
Back in high school when I visited Santa Fe with my parents and they said we were going to a restaurant where the waiters sang, I inwardly groaned. However, I was truly and pleasantly surprised by La Casa Sena! The concept sounds cheesy, but honestly it was really classy. Your waiter serves you a high class meal, then would politely excuse himself or herself to sing a Broadway-level showtune or operatic ballad. They mix up their menu frequently, but there are definitely vegetarian options (the lunch menu actually looks a bit more vegetarian friendly). Reservations required, for sure.
125 E. Palace Ave. lacasasena.com
The Pantry is sort of like the Jimmy’s Egg of Santa Fe. It’s been around since 1948 and has that classic diner vibe; it’s a place where families, seniors and 20-somethings all mix and mingle gladly. The menu is pretty extensive, and I ultimately went with a dish called the Huevos Consuelo—a corn tortilla topped with two eggs, spicy consuelo sauce (tabasco, ketchup, tomato sauce, jalapenos, yellow hot pepper, bell peppers and onion) and cheese and served with Pantry Fries and beans. It was all a bit too soupy for me, but it had really great flavor. Next time I think I’d try the Huevos Rancheros or Breakfast Sandwich.
1820 Cerrillos Rd. pantrysantafe.com
The Shed is my original favorite restaurant in all of Santa Fe. It was established in 1953 and is on the main drag of the Plaza, so it’s naturally always super busy (you basically can’t get in without a reservation). This is one of those places that covers everything in sauce, so be sure to order it on the side if you’re not into that. Heads up though that The Shed’s spicy chile is what they’re well known for; in fact, it comes directly from the family’s farm and is continuously ground on the premises to guarantee freshness. They even sell jars of it at the hostess stand. The Shed also does this quirky thing where all dinner features are served with garlic bread, which I think is kind of charming. All the classics are here, so you seriously can’t go wrong. I personally love the Blue Corn Burritos, the Huevos Rancheros and, of course, the basic Enchilada Plate. Add an egg to anything too for extra deliciousness!
113 1/2 E. Palace Ave. sfshed.com
SANTA FE BREWING COMPANY
Santa Fe Brewing Company’s Happy Camper IPA was the beer that we had at our wedding reception, and their 7K IPA is Ed’s current obsession, so we had to make a stop here. No food available (would be fun if they had a restaurant in the future), but the taproom was cool and everyone was super friendly and chill. Even if you’re like me and you’re not a huge beer fan, it’s still fun to do a brewery tour. The guy who led our tour had a mug of beer (literally, it was like a giant coffee cup) in his hand the whole time and let us take all of the limited edition unfilled beer cans we wanted. This was one of the highlights of our Thanksgiving trip, and I highly recommend taking the time to stop by!
35 Fire Place. santafebrewing.com
Nothing I could write here would even begin to sum up what you’ll experience at Meow Wolf, a unique, fully immersive art space that you’ve just got to see to believe. Prepare for sensory overload, a surprising/interesting storyline and the sense that you’ve stepped into a true alien dimension. Arrive early (like, 45 minutes before they open) because the queue gets really long really fast. A trip to Santa Fe truly isn’t complete without a sojourn in Meow Wolf.
1352 Rufina Cir. meowwolf.com