Big News in Santa Fe’s Food World

Gourmet Girl - April 17, 2013

Maria's and Vivre get new owners, new wine bar and restaurant opens in Las Campanas and more...

La Margarita de Paradiso at Maria's New Mexican Kitchen. Photo: Flickr user ldandersen

Once again, it's a game of musical chairs in the Santa Fe food world.

The news just broke that Gerald Peters has bought the iconic Santa Fe restaurant Maria's New Mexican Kitchen from Al and Laurie Lucero, owners for the last 27 years. The restaurant will keep its menu and the staff and ambiance will remain the same,.

Maria's has been open since 1950 when Maria and Gilbert Lopez started it as a take-out eatery. Former New Mexico State Police Chief Don Hammond bought it during the mid-1960s then it went through several owners, including Priscilla Hoback, whose mother Rosalea Murphy founded the famous Pink Adobe.

By the time the Luceros bought it, Maria's was struggling to survive. But soon, the Luceros turned their restaurant into a landmark, known worldwide for its traditional New Mexico food, which includes tortillas that are made by hand onsite in the restaurant for the diners to see. But above all, Maria's is celebrated as the Margarita Mecca of the Southwest, with more than 100 types of tequila.

Peter's company, Santa Fe Dining, is firmly entrenched in Santa Fe's food scene. Its stable of restaurants includes La Casa Sena, the Blue Corn Café Restaurants, Rio Chama Steakhouse and Rooftop Pizzeria, recently filmed for an upcoming show on The Cooking Channel.

In other big news in the food world this week, the acclaimed catering company Peas'n'Pod, bought Vivre, a French bistro on Johnson Street that had previous lives as Trattoria Nostrani and before that, Rociada.

Glenda Griswold and Catherine O’Brien launched Peas'n'Pod in 1996. When the chance to buy this space opened up, they couldn't resist. Plans are still in the works for what they will do there, but you can bet your pea pods it's going to be good!

Vivre's chef/owner Nelli Maltezos plans to keep her restaurant open for a few months, and will offer wine deals to reduce the inventory that includes some of Trattoria’s Italian wines.

Did you know that a fine wine shop opened in Las Campanas more than a year ago? And now, Arroyo Vino has expanded to include a restaurant and wine bar, where chef Mark Connell, of Max's and Tomme, will man the kitchen. The menu features seasonal small plates designed for sharing Arroyo Vino also hosts wine dinners and offers a community table. Dinner is served Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 8:30 p.m., and the wine bar is open until 9:30 p.m. Its located at 218 Camino La Tierra. For more info, click here.

In other news, Joseph Wrede, of Joseph's Table in Taos and more recently The Palace Restaurant & Saloon, has just left Tomme. He wants to open his own restaurant in Santa Fe, which will be a very good thing. For those of you who never got the chance to dine at Joseph's Table in Rancho de Taos, it was one of the best restaurants in the state. Dennis Hopper was a regular, and every time I was in Taos, I made sure to stop in for dinner. Food & Wine magazine chose him as one of its Best New Chefs in 2000.

A special thanks to Billie Frank of The Santa Fe Travelers for the tips about Maria's, Vivre, Las Campanas and Joseph Wrede. Check out her site here.

And finally, on a different note, Los Poblanos in Albuquerque was just ranked No. 6 by Bon Appetit magazine on its list of The Best Foodlover's Hotels in America. The food magazine described the historic inn, farm and restaurant as "a family-owned jewel of an inn that puts the focus on farm-to-fork dining." Congrats, Los Poblanos, on this well-deserved award! To read Bon Appetit's full write-up, click here.