TGIF? No, TGIM – thank goodness it’s margaritas! A margarita is the natural partner for Santa Fe’s world-renowned cuisine, especially when shared in a taste-testing stroll around downtown Santa Fe. With judicious pacing, appetizing morsels, and plenty of water, you can make some tequila magic in the City Different.
Honor Margarita Basics at the Inn of the Anasazi
We arrived at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi prepared to sit and sip a while before moseying along. Perched on the patio, we got down to the business at hand, as classic house margaritas materialized, accompanied by warm buffalo empanadas, rich with spring onions and fresh chimichurri sauce created by chef Juan Bochenski. It was tempting to stay in this lively spot watching the world go by, but once our empanadas disappeared, we knew we should move on while the afternoon was young. Emptying our water glasses, we looked longingly at the Aria dessert menu with a vow to return.
Down Past the Plaza for Round Two
Relaxing in the natural light of La Plazuela, the dining room in the heart of La Fonda on the Plaza, the history of Santa Fe becomes a palpable presence. Formerly an open courtyard, this is a favorite haunt for locals and visitors. We arrived between lunch and dinner, so ordering a snack from La Fiesta Lounge menu was a snap. La Fonda margaritas are presented in classic glassware, perfect for capturing the characteristic salted rim. Chef Lane Warner must have known our need for something significant, because the towering platter of nachos that appeared was an ideal match for the Don Rael margarita. A girlfriend getaway means everyone agrees it’s okay to dig in for the cheesy bites. With the guacamole gone, and only a few pickled jalapenos remaining, it was time for more water and a walk in the fresh air.
Third Time’s a Chile
We headed for the Inn and Spa at Loretto to see what was shaking, where Sergio kept things lively in the aptly-named Living Room Lounge. In this case, living it up meant sipping slowly, since the Herradura tequila was infused with Serrano chiles. Paired with that hot-cold sensation, chef Brett Sparman’s grilled achiote shrimp was a menu item we’d have fought over, if we hadn’t been such good friends. Big, juicy, nestled in pumpkin herb mole, this dish is Santa Fe style all the way. It was hard to leave the Loretto behind, but the margarita trail was calling, so we soldiered on, after rehydrating with agua fria.
Sip Some Creative Concoctions at Del Charro Saloon
Del Charro Saloon, perfectly placed on the corner at the Inn of the Governors, invites you right in, with its tantalizing open windows. By now, we were braving more than classic house margaritas, although Del Charro’s policy of delivering the house version with its shaker is a nice touch. Our colorful mood made the mango margarita with its red chile-dusted rim dusted a definite crowd-pleaser. Adding blue curacao makes a margarita look as cool as it tastes, and our ruby red pomegranate margarita was sweet and fresh. Fortunately, our well-balanced plan kept our appetite for tantalizing treats alive, so we opted for a nacho reboot. Easy, cheesy, saucy with salsa, this bar snack is a time-tested favorite, and nachos do rate a repeat appearance. We checked off our mandatory glass of water and made our way to our next destination.
The Song of Summer Is Up on the Roof
Although we were too early for a sunset, that didn’t dampen our enjoyment of Coyote Cantina, especially after a warm welcome from chef Eric DiStefano. His cheerful smile assured us the menu would be rich in deliciousness. The Cantina’s signature Senorita margarita suited our slowing pace and lady-like fancies. We were less lady-like when the black-sesame honey shrimp arrived; the horseradish cream and pineapple sweet-and-sour sauce necessitated a certain amount of finger-licking. This lively outdoor rooftop is a favorite Santa Fe summer scene, but we had one spot left to complete our circuit.
What Would a Margarita be Without Agave?
It’s fitting to end where the name honors the tale of tequila, and that meant the Agave Lounge at the Eldorado Hotel and Spa. We’d made it all this way on foot, but when a friend driving by offered us a lift, we jumped in for hometown service to the hotel’s valet garage (the Lounge will validate, no need to look for parking). Had we been a little braver or earlier, we might have opted for a mezcal from the long list of premium choices, but we knew we’d better stick to the straight-forward approach. Being New Mexicans, we’re partial to turquoise, but the house La Casa margarita gave us that “mi casa es su casa” feeling with which to end our adventure. And noshes like the mini beef tacos with tomatillo sauce and pork taquitos with avocado dip, the case for frequent patronage is solid – yes, we’ve been many a time, and the future is bright for a return.
The Takeaway for a Getaway
As you can imagine, in a town renowned for culinary traditions and captivating choices all over the city, you can easily create your own tasting tour. Since every good girlfriend looks out for her pals, remember that our 7,000-foot altitude makes the liquor work faster, which is why we stress a water feature at every stop. Gather good friends to sample the tempting tastes of Santa Fe, and you can spend a memorable afternoon toasting togetherness in the City Different.