Love soup? Head on over to the Backstreet Bistro, a local favorite, where they've been serving up house-made soup since 1994. Their aim: to serve fresh seasonal soups made from scratch. No base used here, just good stock simmered for hours. Diners get to choose from eight options each day including favorites like Thai Curried Squash, Sweet Pepper Bisque and Butternut Squash. The signature soup: thick and creamy Hungarian Mushroom. Fridays bring favorites from two very different traditions: the Jewish Friday night staple, matzo ball soup and the meatless Friday superstar, New England clam chowder. There is always at least one cream, meat, vegan, and gluten-free option on the menu daily. In 2013, Backstreet Bistro was featured on the Food Network's hit show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The episode highlighted their Smoked Turkey Wild Rice soup and pumpkin pie. Desserts are made fresh daily. Bring cash; credit cards aren't accepted.
Recommended for Lunch because: Soup is popular. Think of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi. Backstreet Bistro excels at it. Service is fast and prices are reasonable..
Billie's expert tip: While soup is the star here, the menu also features sandwiches in two categories: Bistro and New York Deli Style. Try the hot corned beef, hot pastrami or Reuben. You can order either a half or whole depending on your appetite. The menu also has a salad section.
Some places catch on from day one. Vinaigrette is one of these. As the name implies, this is a salad place. The list of salads on offer is long and inventive. Ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible including from owner Erin Wade's 10-acre Nambe farm. The interior is stark and industrial-feeling. Much of the seating is on backless stools and the noise level can be a little intense. But, if you want an outstanding salad, this is the place to go. There is a range of salads from ones offering meat, to vegetarian and vegan options. Whatever you chose, you won't go wrong. The menu also has a few 'Starters & Sides' including mac & cheese, some vegetable offerings, sandwiches including a Cuban torta and three soups. They offer an interesting selection of wines by the glass.
Recommended for Lunch because: Sometimes you just want a great salad and Vinaigrette is the place to go for fresh, mostly organic and green cuisine.
Billie's expert tip: In summer, sit under a blooming apricot tree on the inviting back patio. Don't want to wait? Make a reservation. Sit and sip a glass of wine from the ever-changing list while you read the extensive menu. Leave room for one of the house-made desserts.
Terra Cotta Wine Bistro, opened in 2011, is tucked away on historic Johnson Street, home to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. The short byway (only a few blocks long), once home to Union Army barracks, is now a culinary treasure offering three restaurants, a bakery and the Santa Fe School of Cooking. The eatery's owners Glenda Griswald and Executive Chef Catherine O'Brien had run their successful Peas 'n Pod catering (still in business) since 1996. They were ready for a restaurant. The duo wanted a place that would both cater to locals and appeal to tourists. They've succeeded. They serve the same menu from their 11:30am opening until closing with the exception of the panini, which is only available until 5pm. Choose from small plates, soups and salads, entrees and sides. Signature dishes are planked salmon, Baltimore-style crab cakes and fried chicken with cheese grits and collards.
Recommended for Lunch because: Terra Cotta offers good food and an carefully-selected wine list in a friendly, casual setting.
Billie's expert tip: If you enjoy wine with lunch, Terra Cotta Wine Bistro has over 50 on offer. From opening until 6pm they offer a great deal: $6 a glass. Bottles are also well-priced. Need help choosing the perfect pairing for the seasonally-inspired cuisine? Ask your knowledgable server.
Chef Matt Yohalem opened his upscale casual Italian eatery, Il Piatto, in 1996. The rustic Italian country farmhouse décor sets the mood here. He sums the menu up as "regional Italian food with respect to the old country, using local ingredients, prepared by a French and Creole-trained New York Jew in New Mexico." His food philosophy is simple: "what grows together, goes together." His signature lunch dishes are grilled calamari served with shaved fennel salad; Caesar salad; fresh house-made pastas such as gnocchi with wild mushrooms and chicken liver agra dolce (Italian for sweet and sour). Or try one of the daily specials. Gourmands will love the well-priced three-course lunch menu. The restaurant also prides itself on its extensive wine list. The restaurant's farm-fresh deliveries arrive on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. If you're there at the right time, you may even meet the farmers.
Recommended for Lunch because: Il Piatto, offering well-priced, well-prepared farm-fresh food is a great option if you want a more upscale lunch accompanied by fine wines.
Billie's expert tip: If you like the daily special, order it. Il Piatto's Executive Chef Matt Yohalem is committed to fresh and locally raised food and the day's offering will reflect what's coming in seasonally. With farm deliveries three times a week, you know the food will be farm-fresh.
Del Charro Saloon, just a few short blocks from the historic Santa Fe Plaza, is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. The combination of location and reasonably priced, well prepared food is a winner. Their signature burger and fries plate is a great deal. The patties are made from locally raised, grass-fed beef. Want something different? Try the Stuffed Green Chile Cheeseburger filled with stuffed with apple wood smoked bacon, roasted green chile, gorgonzola cheese and green chile relish. Fans of batter-dipped and fried will love the vegetarian stuffed poblano pepper. The daily specials are really great deals. Save room for their signature chocolate mousse cake in Oreo shell with raspberry coulis. If you don't want to wait for a table, come right at 11:30am when they open or after 1:30pm when things slow down. Try for a table on the covered, heated patio.
Recommended for Lunch because: Del Charro's convenient downtown location and reasonably-priced food plus one of the best green chile cheeseburgers in town makes it a winner.
Billie's expert tip: If you get hungry later in the evening, head for Del Charro. It's one of the few downtown eateries that's open late. They serve their complete menu until midnight daily. Great options for late-night munchies include green chile cheeseburgers, nachos or wings.
Lunch at The Compound is an occasion. There's white linen on the tables and the service is first-class. Longing for a leisurely lunch with a martini or fine wine? This is the perfect place. The seasonally changing menu has a few signature dishes (Lobster & Mango Salad, Sweet Bread & Foie Gras and Chicken Schnitzel) that are always on offer. The restaurant, opened in the late 60s, is now run by Executive Chef Mark Kiffen, winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southwest in 2005. The interior, designed by noted mid-century designer Alexander Girard, is notable for its bar, a conversation pit; patrons are at eye-level with the bartender. You can lunch there or in one of the dining rooms. In warmer weather opt for one of the outdoor patios with their Old World feel. Want to make sure you get a table? Book ahead.
Recommended for Lunch because: Every now and then it's fun to have an elegant lunch. The Compound is one of the best places in town to indulge that fancy.
Billie's expert tip: After a leisurely lunch, walk off your meal on historic Canyon Road, one of the oldest streets in Santa Fe. There are scores of galleries and boutiques to explore and maybe take home a souvenir of your time in The City Different.
Bang Bite Filling Station is right out of Jon Favreau's hit film Chef. Chef/owner Enrique Guerrero, a man with an impressive culinary CV, traded his chef's coat for a tee-shirt. He's cooking up some really good grub in his bright orange movable kitchen parked at the busy intersection of Old Santa Fe Trail and Paseo de Peralta. People line up to order and then either take their lunches with them or, in warmer weather, eat at one of the picnic tables under festive red umbrellas. Fare runs from big burgers (there are at least 10 different ones offered), to sandwiches ('sammies') and 'Things with Cheese' including grilled mac & cheese. There are also daily specials. His perfectly fried potatoes are contenders for the title of 'best in town.' In colder weather, there are some hardy offerings on menu including black bean chile with turkey and local favorite: green chile stew.
Recommended for Lunch because: Bang Bite has one of the best green chile cheeseburgers in town as well as top-notch fries in addition to a variety of other offerings.
Billie's expert tip: Call your order in ahead. Bang Bite can get busy, especially in warmer weather. When you arrive, your lunch will be waiting for you when you get there. It's good to do this, especially if you have a large order.
The Beestro specializes in lunch to-go. This tiny spot started life as a lunch delivery service in October 2011. Enterprising chef Greg Menke and his partner Devon Gilchrist saw a need. A year later they opened a charming hole-in-the-wall on Marcy Street. Delivery is gone but the original formula remains. Food's prepared in a commissary kitchen nearby then biked to the café. Yes, biked. Chef Greg is a fan of sustainability. He also uses local produce whenever possible and is committed to saving bees, hence the restaurant's name which is a clever play on words. Patrons can take out or eat in either at an outdoor table or upstairs in their new chic dining room (which morphs into a crêperie five nights a week). The lunch menu is simple; panini, soups, and salads. They also offer simple breakfasts: burritos and French pastry as well as artisan-roasted coffee throughout the day.
Recommended for Lunch because: The Beestro consistently serves one of the best lunches in town. Their commitment to fresh local and sustainable food takes them over the top.
Billie's expert tip: Have dinner at The Beestro's crepe restaurant upstairs from the café. The small, well-executed menu will impress. Try one of the daily soups. Chef Greg is a master of flavors. There are unusual and delicious appetizer, crepe, salad and panini choices. Save room for a dessert crepe.