Breaking Bread: Group-Friendly Restaurants in Santa Fe

Photo courtesy of La Choza
Photo courtesy of Vanessie Santa Fe Restaurant & Lounge
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Photo courtesy of The Bullring
Photo courtesy of Cowgirl Santa Fe
Photo courtesy of Del Charro
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Photo courtesy of The Ranch House Restaurant
By Billie Frank, Santa Fe Local Expert

Dining out in Santa Fe with a group of friends or business colleagues? There’s an art to dealing with groups. Not every restaurant does it well. Do a bit of research and pick a place that’s good with them. Does your group love barbecue? The Ranch House is great with last minute groups. Want burgers and microbrews? Head for Blue Corn Café & Brewery where they can often handle you and your 50 best friends on the spot. For something a bit more exotic, call ahead to the African/Caribbean eatery Jambo Café where they can usually seat the gang fairly quickly. Sometimes you have enough time to make advance reservations to ensure a table. On the other hand, if you’re out for drinks with a group and decide you want to grab something to eat, it’s good to know your choices. Not every eatery welcomes unexpected groups, so don’t just pop in; call ahead. It’s a win-win. You’ll find out if there’s space for your party and the restaurant has a heads-up and can get set up for you. If they can’t take you at the last minute, you haven’t wasted a trip and time. Just call the next place on your list. Some questions you may want to ask a restaurant beforehand. Can the group to order off the regular menu? Will they give separate checks? Do they add gratuities? Do they have a full bar? Addressing these details before you go ensures a pleasant experience.

ps on short notice include Del Charro, Jambo, Blue Corn Café & Brewery and The Ranch House.

10. La Choza
Photo courtesy of La Choza

La Choza ("the shack"), specializing in northern New Mexican cuisine, is a great place for groups. The vibe is high energy, the ambiance is casual and portions plentiful. Off season, the restaurant says they can usually handle a group of up to 20 or 25 with little notice. A call, at least a half-hour in advance, might cut your wait. Plan to arrive before 6pm or after 8pm when it's slower. In high season, advance reservations are recommended. Want separate checks? Tell your server before you order. Food is reasonably priced and portions are ample. Enchiladas, made from blue corn and stacked the traditional New Mexican way, are their bestsellers. Stuffed sopapillas, crispy tacos and chile rellenos are also popular choices. All entrees come with sopapillas, little puffy dough pillows. Eat them with your meal or save them for dessert. Just add honey.

9. Vanessie Santa Fe Restaurant & Lounge
Photo courtesy of Vanessie Santa Fe Restaurant & Lounge

Looking for a sophisticated ambiance with more traditional food? Vanessie is a great choice. The upscale eatery, known for its piano bar, is perfect for small groups. The large round tables in their main dining room will seat eight comfortably. If you have a larger group, they call pull tables together in the windowed "patio room." They can comfortably handle 12 walking in unexpectedly. If your group is larger, you'll need to call ahead. They will do separate checks if you notify your server when ordering Vanessie specializes in grilled food including steak, elk and seafood. Though most entrees come with sides, a few steaks are completely a la carte Want lighter fare?.Order from the Lounge Menu. Want to listen to music while dining? Head for Vanessie's popular piano bar. As seating is on a first-come-first-served basis, arrive when they open to ensure you get a seated

8. Rancho de Chimayo Restaurante
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

On Sundays, you often see large family groups, from babies to great-grandparents, gathered around tables at Rancho de Chimayó Restaurante. Why? People love the food and they do groups well. This perennial favorite of locals and tourists alike has been serving authentic northern New Mexico cuisine for almost 50 years. While they prefer 48 hours notice, they'll accommodate last minute groups of up to 50 on very short notice. However, they'd love a heads-up phone call when you're on your way. In high season, when they're slammed, you'll need advance reservations. No separate checks here, though they will do one per table. Favorites include carne adovada: pork marinated and slow-cooked in red chile; posole: dried corn kernels made into a stew; tamales and sopapillas: puffed fried dough either eaten with the meal or as dessert. Start off with the signature Chimayó Cocktail, a mix of hard apple cider and tequila.

7. Jambo Cafe
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

Want something a bit more exotic for your group? Head to Jambo Café and they'll put out the welcome mat. Jambo means "hello" in Swahili. They can take small groups with little advance notice. A heads- up at least an hour's ahead of your arrival is appreciated. They've even taken groups of up to 50 on short notice. At busy time you may have to wait up to a half-hour or even more for a table. The eatery won't do separate checks, but will split a check by the number of people at the table. Chef/owner Ahmed Obo, a Kenyan native, mixes the flavors of his homeland with those of the Caribbean. The result: spicy and unique dining at reasonable prices. The eclectic menu features dishes Obo watched his mother cook as well as favorites such as jerk chicken, Moroccan Lamb Stew and Caribbean Goat Stew.

6. 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

Want something more upscale for your group dinner? The popular 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar is a great option. The eatery, housed in a vintage adobe building, has a full bar so cocktail lovers will be happy. Large parties are always welcome. Space permitting you won't need a reservation for a group of you 10 or 12 or even more. If they have space, they'll seat you. A phone call when you're on your way will confirm if they have space. It will also allow them to set up your table. Started as a French Bistro, it has evolved into a seasonally-inspired eatery serving fresh and local foods in inspired presentations. Their signature Steak and Frites are always on the menu. The menu changes several times a season with daily and weekly specials reflecting what Chef-owner Louis Moskow finds in his weekly forays to the local farmers' market.

5. The Bull Ring
Photo courtesy of The Bullring

If you want a steak the Bull Ring is the place to go. Specializing in USDA prime meat, the stylish, decades-old dining spot thrives on groups. Deals are made at this eatery which is popular with both politicos and business people. Space permitting, they can accommodate a group of up to 20 with no notice. Calling ahead is always appreciated and reservations even more so. Want separate checks? Ask the server before ordering. Meat portions are HUGE here. While you can get an eight ounce filet, most steaks are over 12 ounces. Everything here is a la carte. The long list of sides includes eight different kinds of potatoes. Portions are big enough for two; they'll let you share an entrée for a small split-plate charge. Caveat: prime cuts don't come cheap. In addition to steak there's also fish, seafood and chicken. For vegetarians there are salads and vegetable sides.

4. Cowgirl Santa Fe
Photo courtesy of Cowgirl Santa Fe

Does your group likes to party? Head to Cowgirl BBQ. It's a western bar straight out of western casting. The walls are lined with cowgirl memorabilia and you'll often see working cowgirls and boys bellied up to the bar. Show up with up to 15 of your nearest and dearest friends and they can seat you fairly quickly (except for Friday and Saturday nights in season). They'd really appreciate at least a half-hour notice and booking the day before is even better. To keep the load on the kitchen low, they break down ordering into two waves of eight about five minutes apart. No separate checks here. Eating late? It's one of the few places in town serving late-night food. Grab a burger, some BBQ, a Frito Pie or an on-tap craft beer and settle in to listen to the live music rocking the joint six nights a week.

3. Del Charro
Photo courtesy of Del Charro

If your group wants affordable downtown dining, head to Del Charro. Located a few short blocks from the historic Santa Fe Plaza, it's a popular spot for both locals and tourists. The combination of reasonably priced and well-prepared food is a winner. They can seat walk-in groups of 15 and under. It's all on a first-come-first-served basis, but call before heading over and make sure there's room. They can get pretty busy especially during prime dining hours and you may have a wait. If you want separate checks tell your server when you order. Their signature burger made from locally raised, grass-fed beef comes with fries and may be the best non-fast-food burger in town. Want something different? Try the Stuffed Green Chile Cheeseburger. Check out the daily specials; they're great deals. Save room for their signature chocolate mousse cake in Oreo shell with raspberry coulis.

2. Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

Like micro-brews? Blue Corn Café & Brewery's Southside outpost makes craft beer and ale onsite. Their two spacious dining rooms and large bar area are great for groups. They'll put out the welcome mat even if you arrive unannounced. In truth, they would appreciate it if you'd call ahead so they can get the tables set up before you arrive. In summer or on weekends, make an advance reservation or you may have to wait. Want separate checks? Just notify your server when ordering. They've handled walk-in groups of up to 50. Food runs from burgers to New Mexican to comfort. While the menu changes seasonally, a few favorite dishes always on offer including green chile cheeseburgers, slow-braised Carne Adovada (made here with pork shank), green chile stew and mac and cheese made with a zingy Santa Fe twist: bacon and green chile.

1. The Ranch House Restaurant
Photo courtesy of The Ranch House Restaurant

Barbecue fans will love The Ranch House. Chef/owner Josh Baum is passionate about 'que and does it well. The best part is they have lots of room so groups don't faze them. Show up with a group spontaneously and they'll take it in stride. Most times during the week, according to Baum, groups can walk in and be seated. On weekends, they get pretty busy and reservations are encouraged or you may have a long wait. Diners will find the usual smoked meats including brisket, baby back ribs, pulled pork and bb chicken along with traditional sides. However, The Ranch House's menu goes way beyond that. Other options include steaks, New Mexican favorites, burgers, sandwiches and salads. There's something for just about everyone making it a great choice for groups. There are two dining rooms as well as a separate barroom. Don't forget to leave room for the house-made desserts.