Know how it feels to unearth a hidden gem? Lately, hunger for the new has led me to the places locals love and visitors love discovering. Santa Fe dining gets plenty of good press, but maybe southside Santa Fe is a new concept to you. Thanks to a lively downtown that managed to fill in all the empty spaces over the last 400-plus years, the City Different has been expanding towards the south. Where there are residents, there will be restaurants. And where there is food, you’re going to find fun. Let’s take a trip down south, shall we?
Music, the Southside Appetizer
I have been raving about (and delighting in) the weeknight Santa Fe Plaza Bandstand Music Series. I can never get enough of the sounds of summer and my favorite bands and dear old friends have all made an appearance. But no one I know is singing “Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody” because we head south to the other Plaza for Saturday night performances. From 7-10 p.m. through Aug. 30, every local music hound is rocking to the beat on the San Isidro Plaza. And when you combine a night of free music and dancing with dinner at any of my secret haunts, your Saturday night will be extra-special!
Miraculous Meals are at El Milagro
Author Wayne Dyer says, “I am realistic — I expect miracles.” He should head for El Milagro (translation: The Miracle) to prove that thesis on a plate! Tucked inside San Isidro Plaza, this is the spot to bite into a tortilla burger. Smothered in red, green or both, it’s El Milagro’s New Mexico twist on an American standard. I dare you to try passing on the jalapeno poppers.
A full roster of New Mexican specialties includes the famed Indian taco (frybread base instead of tortilla) so you don’t have to wait for Indian Market to indulge. And leave room for something sweet, because Food Network Magazine ranks El Milagro’s Sopaipilla Sundae as the No. 1 frozen dessert in New Mexico.
There’s More than One Plaza Café to Please Your Palate
When you wander onto the Santa Fe Plaza, you’ll see the Native vendors lined up under the portal on the north side and hungry eaters lined up west outside the Plaza Café. Fortunately for those in the know, there’s an expansive outpost of this renowned restaurant named (easy guess) the Plaza Café Southside.
Locals and in-the-know visitors head south to San Isidro Plaza to munch on old favorites and their dedication has made the southside diner a favorite for the hungry hoards. Diner-style means a huge selection and breakfast all day and the house-made green chile cheddar bread is the perfect foil for fried eggs. And like many diners across the country, the Plaza Café has Greek roots, so the savory Greek Cheese Fries (house-cut fries with olive oil, lemon-caper sauce, oregano, feta & myzithra cheese) are a regular on my radar.
Cap Off a Trip to New Mexico’s Capitol at The Capitol Grill
San Isidro Plaza keeps the food choices coming. And me, I keep coming back to the Santa Fe Capitol Grill for fish and chips. As much as I love our New Mexico cuisine, I am a fish-on-Friday girl and it’s even better if I can find it any night of the week. Appetizers are supremely appetizing — just thinking about the duck nachos makes me hungry. I love the seating here too.
Quiet booths in the back allow for a cozy dinner with your cookie and the convivial bar area is inviting for a meet-up. Two happy hour opportunities make me and my gal pals perfectly happy to meet for an after-work or an after-dinner cocktail. And those Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Sundays are a very comforting promise on Saturday nights.
Home, Home on the Ranch
Santa Fe’s arts culture is noteworthy, but ranch culture is also a big part of our history. And anywhere there’s a ranch, there’s a ranch house. When I travel south to scan the racks for vintage at Look What the Cat Dragged In, I cross the street for a treat at The Ranch House. If I time my shopping right, I can score a seat during the 4-6 p.m. happy hour for a Pineapple Margarita or a signature Burro cocktail with Taos-made Lightning Bourbon.
Only two steak brands – New Mexico all-natural or Gold Canyon natural reserve angus – but all four cuts come topped by roasted shallot bourbon butter and crispy onions with calabacitas (New Mexico’s classic squash and chile mix) and baked potato sides. And not only do I love to eat the BBQ in, it’s a to-go lifesaver after work.
Think Outside the Square
Just when you think you’ve eaten at all the best spots, someone you know ups the ante by asking “Did you try that little place south of town?” If you’ve been reading here before eating here, I know you’ve been licking your chops to add some global cuisine or patio dining to your next Santa Fe visit. Now you can also take my Southside Santa Fe secrets for a trip, secure in the knowledge that you have all the answers.