Santa Fe’s Best Patios
The Perfect Summer Scene: Dining Outdoors in the Land of Enchantment
*If you are inspired to sit on any of the patios listed below, please call ahead to make sure they are open. Though the State of New Mexico recently allowed for patio dining, some restaurants are still in the process of reopening. This article was written in 2019 and does not necessarily reflect the current open status of a restaurant.
One of the best things about warmer weather is getting to spend time outdoors. Of course, Santa Fe offers plenty of glorious parks and other places for picnics, walks and just relaxing on a bench, but when you're looking for something more—conviviality, ambiance, great food and live music—the city's got lots of spots for that, too. From rooftop bars with stunning sunset views to ground-level patios perfect for people watching and catching live music as you sip cocktails and nosh on great food, Santa Fe's patio scene is about to heat up, which is just the way we like it for summer. Here's a look at some of Santa Fe's most exciting patio destinations.
The Best Dining and Drinking Patios in Santa Fe
You'll find one of Santa Fe's most prized patios at the Cowgirl BBQ, which has been serving up some great grub, fine drinks and rollicking live music for nearly 30 years. This patio packs 'em in, always drawing crowds whether the entertainment is a local or touring musical act. No matter if it's lunchtime, dinnertime or weekend brunchtime, get there early to get seated right away. As locals rub elbows with out-of-towners, trading stories from table to table, servers dance their way between them, balancing trays loaded with famous Cowgirl fare. All the while, diners are digging into award-winning BBQ, buffalo burgers, fajitas platters, the world-famous butternut squash casserole and The Mother of all Green Chile Cheeseburgers, winner of Santa Fe's Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. If you can't find something that appeals to you on this meaty menu, then you must not be hungry. But that's alright, kick back and enjoy a refreshing margarita, a frosty beer on tap, or your favorite cocktail and just soak in all the good atmosphere.
SantaCafe's patio is as iconic as the restaurant itself. The courtyard of an old hacienda has been turned into one of the nicest outdoor dining spaces in town, complete with its own well and soothing fountain. The restaurant itself may have been reinvented by owner Quinn Stevenson, but the patio remains as pleasant as ever.
Bell Tower Bar
Perched high atop La Fonda on the Plaza, the historic hotel's beloved Bell Tower Bar offers stunning views of the city and its famous sunsets. You might feel as if you're in an aerie, as you take in scenic mountain views and identify city landmarks spread out below you. As you relax and admire the scenery, savor Southwest Sliders, a summery combo of brioche filled with pork carnitas, jicama slaw and avocado; or braised lamb with red onion escabeche and feta.Or try the quesadillas filled with borrego, spice pulled chicken or pork carnitas with New Mexico green chile and asadero. Whatever dis you choose to eat, pair your fare with the signature Bell Ringer margarita.
For an upscale patio experience, dine on the Luminaria Restaurant's patio at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. Tucked away from any streetside action, but still in the heart of downtown Santa Fe, this romantic, rustic patio will whisk you away from life's business, as you relax at a table beneath a veranda swatched in fabrics and vines. Hanging lanterns beneath a starlit sky only deepen the idyllic ambiance, creating the perfect place to share a meal with the one you love. Start with a strawberry-jalapeño margarita, created for the Santa Fe Margarita Trail followed by a shared plate of mussels and chorizo. Then try Parisian gnocchi, with baby squash, English peas, heirloom tomatoes and brown butter; and tomato water-braised halibut, with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, edamame and lemon pepper risotto. Be sure to linger after dinner so you can gaze at the moon. If you'd rather dine by daylight, go for the weekend brunch and try the Corn Flake French Toast with cinnamon and sugar and cream cheese frosting, or Pappardelle Verde, a combo of green chile pappardelle pasta with jumbo shrimp, charred corn, heirloom cherry tomatoes and parmesan poblano cream sauce.
The Coyote Cantina sits atop one of Santa Fe's storied restaurants, the Coyote Cafe, in the heart of downtown. Perched on high in this rooftop restaurant, you can swill craft cocktails and dine on famous Southwest fare while the sunset splashes vivid colors on buildings that surround you. The cantina underwent a recent renovation and is now enclosed in glass, but windows resembling garage doors slide open in warm weather, bringing the outside in. The menu offers snazzy bar snacks and appetizers as well as excellent entrées including the signature BBQ duck quesadilla, Frito Pie, a variety of tacos, green chile cheeseburgers and the Cantina Cobb. You'll never leave here hungry and the views of the sky and the street below will entrance you.
315 Restaurant & Wine Bar
Take a seat at a table on the lovely patio at 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar, and you'll be transported to a sidewalk bistro in Paris, complete with chalk-board menus listing delectable daily specials. Lush greenery and colorful flowers surround you, along with the hum of happy diners. You'll feel even more French as you dine on classic bistro fare— seared foie gras, bouillabaisse and steak frites, for instance. The restaurant's other signature dishes include basil-wrapped shrimp with apricot chutney and Madras curry sauce and French onion soup gratinee. For dessert, créme brûlée with Madagascar vanilla beans or profiteroles with ice cream? Mais, oui!
The Compound has its name for a reason. It was an old Canyon Road compound, or estate, that became one of the best restaurants in the Southwest, let alone Santa Fe. The huge central patio is a lovely way to spend an evening. With an extensive wine and cocktail list you can take your time enjoying the ambiance while you enjoy Chef Mark Kiffin's amazing food.
The weather is perfect to enjoy the beautiful patio of award winning chef Martin Rios' amazing food. The former Iron Chef and Beat Bobby Flay contestant (not to mention James Beard Award finalist and many more) recently updated his menu and, as always, the quality of food and service will be impeccable.
il Piatto Italian Farmhouse Kitchen
Go for lunch or go for dinner, but you absolutely must go to il Piatto Italian Farmhouse Kitchen, Santa Fe's beloved Italian spot. This rustic restaurant has been serving mouth-watering fare since 1996. Get a table on the small patio overlooking Marcy Street and you can drink in the street views and engage in some serious people-watching as you dine on house made pasta. Long-loved dishes include gorgonzola and walnut ravioli with sun-dried tomato pesto, and pappardelle with duck ragu, red wine and mascarpone, but any pasta dish on the menu here will become your favorite. Hearty entrées such as prosciutto-wrapped Idaho trout with wild mushrooms, lemon butter and grilled polenta or chicken breast saltimbocca are also wildly popular.
Vinaigrette's savory salads, sandwiches and soups are always delicious, but there's something special about enjoying them outside, on the restaurant's charming patio. Dotted with bistro-style umbrellas offering plenty of shade, the brick terrace features handsome wood plank tables and cherry red chairs, along with plenty of green foliage. It's a lovely setting for Vinaigrette's garden salad, a toss of tomatoes, baby greens, cucumbers, shaved carrots and pickled fennel dressed with Romesco; or the Cherry Tart salad with Swiss chard, baby arugula, dried cherries, feta and toasted pecans with champagne vinaigrette. The duck tacos are another great choice, a combo of duck confit, hoisin and hot sauce with peanuts, cabbage, scallions and carrots , all served in crisp jicama shells. Much of Vinaigrette's produce comes from the 10-acre farm of restaurant owner Erin Wade. You couldn't find better ingredients for al fresco dining than food that's grown in the great outdoors.
Take a seat on the The Teahouse patio and let your cares slip away. Located on the fabled Canyon Road, this peaceful oasis offers respite from the summer crowds. Known for its extensive selection of teas from Sri Lanka, India, China and Japan, The Teahouse also serves flavorful fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner, You could start your day with Paleo Eggs Benedict, a blend of braised brisket, poached eggs and hollandaise served on roasted eggplant slices. Or go for lunch and savor the panini with goat cheese, roasted pear, arugula and truffle honey in the shade of umbrellas and leafy trees. Stop by for dinner beneath the stars, and tuck into grilled salmon with polenta and a mixed green salad or the signature Italian chicken pot pie, featuring a Parmesan and polenta topping.
Just across from the Teahouse is El Farol. While most people sit inside at the bar or enjoy a Flamenco show in the dining room, the patio outside offers a great view of all the people walking up and down Canyon Road. It is an amazing place to rest your feet after a gallery walk, enjoy an amazing cocktail and try one of their Spanish-influenced tapas.
The Mine Shaft
The Mine Shaft boasts numerous patios where you can whet your whistle after a cruise to Madrid. They boast a great beer list, can sling great cocktails and have a great pub menu to boot. They usually have local musicians performing on the patios, too.
Plaza Cafe Southside
Plaza Cafe Southside serves some of the best comfort food in town, with a huge menu of favorites from breakfast to dinner. They have a pretty good tap list, too. What a lot of people forget is that they have a pretty good size patio in front of the restaurant across from the movie theater on Zafarano.
The small bar in the Hotel St. Francis has been serving up some of the best cocktails in Santa Fe for decades. If you are lucky, you can find a seat on the patio in front of the hotel to enjoy that Smoked Sage Margarita or Ramos Gin Fizz in the evening light of downtown Santa Fe.
Al fresco authentic Italian in downtown Santa Fe? Sign us up.
The back patio at Harry's envelops you in green, making the space feel private and welcoming. It's a great complement to their comfort food made with fresh ingredients. And make sure you get a slice of pie.
Just outside of town is the iconic Gabriel's. Enjoy their famous guacamole made tableside before you stuff yourself with generous portions of New Mexican cuisine. And if they ask if you want pomegranite seeds in your guac, consider trying it.
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