Everybody loves pizza! Santa Feans think Back Road Pizza has some of the best; it's constantly on the annual Best of Santa Fe list. The eatery was featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in 2009. You can catch it in reruns. Back Road Pizza started in Madrid, a small "ghost" town south of Santa Fe. It moved to its current 2nd Street location in 2003. What sets them apart? The thin flour crust gets a local twist. It's rolled in cornmeal, creating a unique texture and flavor. All food is hand-crafted on site. Meats are locally raised and much of the cheese is produced in New Mexico. Can't eat wheat? They offer a gluten-free crust. The signature pizza, the New Mexican sports New Mexico green chile, pepperoni and red onions. Enjoy Santa Fe micro-brews on tap as well as Santa Fe Cider Works' hard cider.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Every best list should have this popular "American" food and Back Road's version rocks.
Billie's expert tip: Try the popular Penny's Bruschetta, a recipe that came from owner Piper Kapin's mom. This favorite is one of the recipes Kapin cooked with the Food Network's Guy Fieri. Tune into the show next time the episode is on and learn how to make it at home.
A Santa Fe best restaurant list wouldn't be complete without a New Mexican eatery. The Shed, on East Palace Avenue half a block from the Plaza, has been dishing up the traditional fare since 1960. Norteno, the local cuisine, has some similarities to Mexican, but it has its own very distinct character. It's based on the three crops grown by the Pueblo People: corn, beans and squash and chile which arrived with the Spanish in 1598. They take chile seriously here and grind their own. Their signature dish: red chile cheese and onion blue corn enchiladas. There's almost always a wait for lunch unless you arrive by 11:30. Enjoy a margarita made with fresh-squeezes lime juice in their bar or browse through nearby shops while you wait. Dinner reservations are available. Make them early; weekends fill up quickly.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The Shed is a destination restaurant for locals and visitors alike serving up New Mexican cuisine since 1960.
Billie's expert tip: The Shed serves French garlic bread instead of the traditional sopaillias (little fried dough pillows). It's a holdover from their days as a continental restaurant. If you gotta have that sopa, head for their sister restaurant La Choza.
Some places get discovered the moment they open. Santa Fe was hungry for a different experience and Jambo ("hello" in Swahili) provided it. Chef/owner Ahmed Obo, a Kenyon native, has mixed the flavors of his homeland with those of the Caribbean, creating a spicy and unique dining experience at reasonable prices. Why the mix? Lamu, the island he hails from, and the Caribbean Islands share some of the same spices and both have multi-cultural influence. The synergy appealed to him. It works. The restaurant was so successful they expanded to the space next door. 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. The menu remains fairly constant with diversity added by daily specials.
Like tapas? Head for La Boca, an intimate dining spot offering Spanish small plates infused with Chef/owner James Campbell Caruso's contemporary twists. Fresh, seasonal and local are important here with seasonal menu changes four to five times a year. There are always evening specials offered. In addition to the extensive tapas menu you will always find a few entrees including Local Flat-Iron Steak. Signature tapas I clude Grilled Artichokes, Boquerones (Spanish white anchovies marinated in white wine, garlic, and olive oil), and Patas Bravas (fried local fingerling potatoes with spicy sherry). The restaurant offers an extensive selection of Sherry and European wines, many available by the glass. For a more contemporary experience, try Taberna La Boca located just around the corner. Try the traditional Pintxos (Basque tapas) lined up on the bar.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: La Boca's Chef James Campbell Caruso has mastered the art of tantalizing small plates consistently offering diners a culinary visit to Spain
Billie's expert tip: Go for Happy Hour. Munch on selected half-priced tapas and enjoy wine discounts. While La Boca's Happy Hour is in the afternoon and perfect for a late lunch, Taberna's is from 6 to 7p.m. You can have a delicious dinner and not break the bank.
Where do locals eat? One popular place with resident Santa Feans is 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar. Dine on seasonally-inspired eatery serving fresh and local foods in inspired presentations in French bistro ambiance. The winter menu features more robust foods like braised local lamb shank. Warmer weather brings beloved specials such as soft-shell crab and stuffed squash blossoms as well as house-smoked trout. Their signature Steak and Frites are always on the menu. The menu changes several times a season with daily and weekly specials based on what Chef-owner Louis Moskow finds in his weekly forays to the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Originally a wine bar (they have a great selection of wines by the glass), the restaurant now offers full bar service. Save room for the luscious desserts including their signature Chocolate Pots de Créme.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar is a local favorite where diners can enjoy well-prepared food paired with carefully selected wines.
Billie's expert tip: Want a reasonably-priced dinner for two? Sit in the bar and order from the interesting menu offering such tasty tidbits as petite sirloin with frites, fried calamari and house-made charcuterie plate. All items are $8 or chose five for $35. You can't go wrong with this deal.
The Anasazi Restaurant, an elegant, intimately lit haven, sits inside the Four Star/Four Diamond Inn of the Anasazi. Executive Chef Juan Bochenski adds the flavors of his native Argentina to the southwest influenced menu creating an exciting fusion experience. Start your meal with one of the bar's special cocktails that combine fresh ingredients with a southwestern flair while nibbling Bochinski's flavorful duck enchiladas with their dusky mole sauce. Their signature entrée, Free-Range New Mexico Lamb Rack is always on the menu. Want the perfect wine-pairing for your dish? The Chef will suggest what varieties work best with the dish's flavors. Save room for one of the tempting and unique desserts. In warm weather, opt for the casual dining experience offered on the front patio, one of the best people-watching spots in town.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The elegant dining room with its sense of place, the food's sophisticated flavor pairings and the signature cocktails offer a memorable experience
Billie's expert tip: Want to be alone with that special person? Dine a deux in the inn's intimate living room with its wood burning fireplace. It's the perfect spot to propose or celebrate a special occasion with someone you love or just because. Call the hotel to reserve this unique space.
Want a sunset view with dinner? Terra at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado, a 15-minute drive from the Plaza, boasts the best in town. If you time it right you can catch this nightly show. through the windowed wall in the contemporary chic dining room. Executive Chef Andrew Cooper creates seasonal menus using the best local ingredients sourced from the Santa Fe Farmers Market, local farmers and purveyors. He works with an impressive list of local farms. In addition to the regular offerings, nightly specials reflect market finds. Want to watch the chef in action? Dine at the Chef's Table in the restaurant's kitchen where Chef Cooper wows guests with his multicourse meals. Don an apron and grab a knife; you're helping to cook dinner. Garner culinary tips and trips as you work. You'll be talking about this for years. For a more casual dining experience, head to Terera's bar.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Terra under Chef Andrew Cooper is turning out inventive and delicious food served in a chic contemporary dining room.
Billie's expert tip: Ask about the Chef Culinary Adventures, five hours of shopping and cooking with. Chef Andrew Cooper. You'll join him shopping at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, choosing the freshest ingredients available. Upon return to the resort's kitchen, you'll work with the chef preparing a four-course feast.
Chef Martin Rios, owner (with his wife Jennifer) of Restaurant Martin, is as close to a culinary celebrity as you can get in this town. Among his accomplishments are five nominations for a James Beard Award and appearances on both the Cooking Channel and the Food Network. He's always been featured in SAVEUR and Bon Appétit. The man certainly knows his way around a kitchen. Combine that with a chic dining establishment, extensive wine list and attentive service and you have a topnotch eatery. Rios is committed to using the freshest seasonal ingredients for his "progressive American cuisine." In summer he even has his own garden outside his kitchen door. Sit on the patio and you may see him picking a few herbs for a garnish.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Restaurant Martin delivers great food combined with a carefully wine list, Santa Fe ambiance and excellent service.
Billie's expert tip: In summer sit on the spacious outdoor patio that Chef Rios built with his own hands. You can often see him emerge from the kitchen to pick an herb or two to garnish his fresh, seasonal dishes.
Ask folks in Santa Fe what the best restaurant is and you'll almost always hear, "Geronimo." This upscale eatery, set in a historic adobe former home, gets it. The entire dining experience is special from the exquisite food to the mellow ambiance and world-class service. The "global eclectic" fusion menu combines classic French technique with ingredients from around the world, including fresh and locally grown and raised whenever possible. Executive Chef Eric DiStefano is known for his Peppery Elk Tenderloin. Signature dishes that will always be on the menu include the Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Sashimi & Tartare, the Maryland Blue Crab Cakes and Mesquite Grilled Maine Lobster Tails. The extensive wine list is carefully selected to compliment the food. Geronimo serves dinner daily. Reservations are essential. If you don't have one, dine in the intimate bar.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Geronimo is arguably the best restaurant in Santa Fe, from the ambiance and food to the service and the well-chosen wine list.
Billie's expert tip: Keep your eyes peeled here, while being discreet. Many a Hollywood star in Santa Fe for filming or for pleasure has been spotted at this elegant eatery. Try to get a table in the elegant front room and you can see who's coming and going.