Dining Santa Fe: Best New Mexican

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Last week, The Santa Fe Reporter released its much anticipated Best of Santa Fe issue, the results of an annual reader poll ( SFReporter.com.) While we share a number of favorites, our short list for best New Mexican does not include this year’s multiple-category winner, Tomasita’s (although they do make fine sopapillas and fabulous honey butter.)  Check them all out and  send us your vote.

The Shed: Dependable excellence and charming atmosphere make this downtown spot just a block off The Plaza a mainstay for locals and tourists alike.  Good selection of non New Mexican fare if your party includes both the chile seeking and the chile adverse. We like the #10–one, blue corn, cheese enchilada and one, blue corn taco with chicken or beef.  The Chicken Enchilada Verde, with roasted chicken, is also quite good.  Carne Adovada with its deep red chile flavor is a popular item. The chile–especially, the red, is hot. If your palate or stomach favors milder fare, try the excellent Grilled Chicken, Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad, or the mushroom soup– light, creamy and nicely textured with bits of fresh mushroom.  Garlic bread is a surprisingly but pleasant side. Posole is regretably bland.  Expect a wait of at least 40 minutes for dinner, a little less for lunch, but don’t let that deter you from trying what is arguably Santa Fe’s best New Mexican restaurant. * Lunch: 11:00-2:30; Dinner: 5:30-9:00 RESERVATIONS RECOMMENDED * 113 1/2 E. Palace Ave. * 982.9030

Marias: Famous for its 100+ margaritas, Maria’s  takes the crown for the best local posole: full flavored, not too spicy, graced with chunks of braised pork and slivers of menudo.  We like the open faced tacos with beef and chicken as well as the enchiladas. The fajitas, served on a sizzling iron platter, have bright, deep flavor, and come with sides of tasty guacamole, fresh pico de gallo, and house made flour tortillas. The Garlic Butter New York (steak) also gets high marks.  Vegetarians have a few options, including cheese enchiladas, bean burritos and guacamole tacos.  Re: margaritas: Maria’s consistently wins polls for best margarita,  even earning the moniker “The Motherlode of Margaritas” from the Seattle Times. The range and variety of offerings bedazzle, like the flashing legs of a chorus line, but it’s the quality of ingredients that really brings home the accolades.  Maria’s only uses “real” tequila (made with at least 51% agave juice, although I’ve never had a Maria’s marg made with less than 100%) distilled and produced in Mexico and shuns mixes and flavorings in preference for freshly squeezed lemon juice and triple sec, etc. To avoid watering down the final product, the margaritas are shaken, not blended.  Denizen’s of lower altitudes, be forewarned, Maria’s margaritas are strong. Drink with restraint and respect.   555 W. Cordova Rd. *983.7929

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