Eating a bad meal in Santa Fe is incredibly hard. We ate out 2-3 times a day and had only a couple of duds. Breakfast was usually eaten at the casita (another benefit over a hotel) but lunch and dinner were always out. We ate a lot of Tex Mex but also found delicious pizza, salads, and one of the best burgers I've ever tasted.
Since we landed in Albuquerque around lunchtime, my husband had already scouted out a place to stop for lunch: Duran Central Pharmacy Restaurant. It is only about a 10 minute drive from the airport and as the name states, it is a restaurant inside a local drugstore. But don't let that scare you off as it still has loads of character.
When we arrived for a late lunch, the place was populated with locals lingering over their meals. The food was probably the best (Tex Mex) we ate and the waitress was really helpful in tailoring menu items for the kids.
We discovered the Pantry, a delicious family-run restaurant, by accident. It was down the street from our first choice and when that turned out to be not what we had hoped, we decided to give The Pantry a try and I'm so glad we did. The chips and salsa was first rate as was everything else that followed. We obviously weren't the only ones who thought highly of this place - it advanced to the semi-finals in the Burrito Bracket, a contest to identify the best burrito in the U.S. (Duran Central Pharmacy was also in this bracket but finished a distant second.)
Many people (and guidebooks) recommended The Shed, but after looking at the menu it seemed like a better place for two adults enjoying a long meal and not a family of four looking for a quick bite to eat. Luckily, the Shed has a sister restaurant, La Choza, that fit the bill perfectly. One tip: get here early or make a reservation. We arrived about 30 minutes after they opened and still had to wait 45 minutes for a table. It was well worth the wait as evidenced by the fact that we were so busy eating that I didn't even manage to take any pictures!
I had read rave reviews about Cafe Pasqual's and we decided to check it out for breakfast one morning. Pasqual's is located in downtown Santa Fe and was filled with a nice mix of locals and tourists enjoying a quiet breakfast. The dining room is funky and the kids enjoyed looking around while we waited for our food to arrive. This guy watched over us as we ate:
We had a fantastic lunch from a taco cart on the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe. Roque's Carnitas, is owned by a very sweet man, Roque Garcia, who makes each carnita as it is ordered. The beef is thinly sliced, cooked on the griddle with onions and peppers, and topped with homemade salsa. It is then piled into a tortilla and wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, perfect for eating as you walk or sitting at one of the picnic tables scattered around the Plaza. Ava had the chicken (without the peppers and onions), which was also delicious, while the non-meateater among us enjoyed the green chile cheese tamales. Be sure and wash it down with the homemade lemonade and watermelon juice.
Do you ever eat somewhere on vacation and think why can't I have a restaurant like this in my town? Vinaigrette was one of those places for us. We loved it so much we ate there twice, which is unusual for us when we are on vacation. The menu offers 15+ different salads and many of the ingredients are grown on the owner's farm in Nambe, 20 minutes north of Santa Fe. While there is not a kids menu, there is mac and cheese (which is served with sliced veggies and apples) and at least two soups which change daily. I still dream about the Nutty Pear-fessor...
One night we were tired of Tex-Mex so we opted for pizza at Il Vicino. The pizzas are the perfect size for 2 people to split with a salad on the side or a hearty meal for one. There is indoor and outdoor seating and we took advantage of the beautiful weather to eat outside in the courtyard. Even though it was a weeknight, the restaurant filled up quickly so I would advise getting here early.
We ended our time in Santa Fe not with a taco or burrito but with a burger. We had tried to go the Shake Foundation at least twice prior to this but finally had success on our last day. It is very similar in feel to the Shake Shack as they serve only burgers, fries and shakes and while I can't speak to the shakes the burgers are every bit as good (maybe even better) than those at the Shake Shack. It is made from a mixture of sirloin and brisket and served on a buttered bun. They also offer turkey burgers, portobello burgers and a fried oyster sandwich which was perfect for our crew as two of us are not big fans of the traditional hamburger!