Said to be the oldest restaurant in town, El Farol occupies a rustic adobe building on Canyon Road, so it’s a great choice for lunch while gallery-hopping; although to get a taste of the boisterous, bohemian ambience, complete with live music and dance performances, you’ll have to come for dinner (for a more sedate tapas scene, head to El Meson or La Boca). El Farol’s menu is heavily Spanish- and Portuguese-influenced and includes more than forty tapas, including chorizo de Rioja, gambas al ajillo, jamón serrano and albondigas. The flamenco performances at El Farol are extremely popular and usually sell out.
One of Santa Fe’s most lauded restaurants, Geronimo occupies an 18th-century adobe building in the midst of the colorful galleries on Canyon Road. The dining room has an unfussy elegance, featuring tan leather chairs, corner banquettes and wood-burning fireplaces; in the warm months there’s also a shaded patio. The menu showcases myriad culinary influences, and the restaurant calls its cuisine “global French Asian”, which translates to dishes including green miso sea bass; oven roasted rock hen; and Fujisaki Asian pear salad.
La Casa Sena
Housed in a hacienda dating from the late 19th century, La Casa Sena occupies a picturesque courtyard, a flower-filled extravaganza centered on a splashing fountain; it’s a half- block from the Plaza but feels a world apart. Like the Café Pasqual, La Casa Sena is big on local and seasonal food, and nearly all the produce, meat and fish on chef Patrick Gharrity’s menu is farmed or harvested in a sustainable manner. The lunch menu features salads and sandwiches, as well as classic New Mexico options including enchiladas. Before or after a meal, don’t miss the La Casa Sena wine shop and Todos Santos Chocolates, which are part of the courtyard complex.
Museum Hill Café
This is your only lunch option when exploring the fabulous art troves that make up Museum Hill, located southeast of downtown Santa Fe. Luckily, this restaurant, which has lovely alfresco seating and lofty views, does a great job with hearty dishes including steak tacos and daily soup, salad, quiche and sandwich specials. The menu also has lots of options for kids who balk at yet more spicy Southwestern fare.
Boasting a menu that runs the gamut from shrimp remoulade and lobster salad to grilled salmon and chicken enchiladas, the Pink Adobe is as whimsical as its former owner, Rosalea Murphy, who established the so-called Pink in 1944. Now part of the Inn of the Five Graces, the Pink Adobe restaurant has an undeniably romantic setting, in a historic pink adobe house with low ceilings and walls covered in paintings (Rosalea was an artist, and many of her clients paid for meals with pieces of their work). The tables are very close to each other, which some find intimate, others merely claustrophobic and noisy. The adjacent bar, the Dragon Room, is among the most congenial in Santa Fe, offering a mix of locals and visitors sipping cocktails, including such signature margaritas as the Black Dragon (silver tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and a float of cassis). It’s a lively atmosphere and one of the few spots in town that isn’t deserted by 10 P.M.
A former contestant on the U.S. version of Iron Chef (the only chef from New Mexico to be invited on the show), chef Martín Rios headed the award-winning Geronimo as well as the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi before venturing out on his own. The menu at Restaurant Martín is progressive American and features lots of regional flavors and interpretations that can be seen in the beef rib-eye enchilada with house-made red and green chiles, the Baja-style fish tacos with cabbage-grilled pineapple slaw, avocado-jalepeño salsa and jalapeño-orange vinaigrette and the Maple Leaf Farm duck breast with pearl barley, sharp cheddar, Tokyo turnips, blood oranges, butternut squash and Mayan chocolate. Dinner reservations are a must.
This American bistro is set in a 19th-century house with an outdoor patio and four separate dining rooms. It’s a great spot for lunch when sightseeing in the downtown area, as the menu features tasty, light fare.