There's a reason why the Zagat Survey rated Gabriel's as one of America's best restaurants, and it's not just because of the famous guacamole expertly made tableside while you watch in anticipation, or the refreshing margaritas, or even the flower-filled patio with mountain views. It's all of these details combined, in the same way the restaurant's delicious combination platters feature the foods of Old Mexico and the Southwest.
Gabriel's is a longtime favorite in Santa Fe, and not just with tourists. Locals have been coming here for years to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or just to dine outside on a perfect summer evening and enjoy the stunning views.
I brought my family here when they first visited me from the East Coast, shortly after I moved to Santa Fe in 1993, and I've been coming back ever since. In addition to the delicious Guacamole Especial served in a molcajete, my favorites include the Cochiínita Piíbil, an achiote-marinated pork dish that's slow-roasted and served with pickled onions and salsa verde; Rellenos de Santa Fe, made with fresh, roasted poblanos stuffed with mesquite-grilled chicken, jack cheese and cilantro; and San Diego Fish Tacos, loaded with red snapper and spicy seasonings.
The Puerto Vallarta is another signature favorite, a combo of tiger prawns, lump crab and chicken sauteed in a white wine and tomato sauce and topped with melted cheese. I also love the Crab Enchiladas, corn tortillas brimming with sauteed jumbo lump crab and topped with green tomatillo sauce and sour cream.
Fajita lovers are in seventh heaven here, as Gabriel's offers five sizzling options, from steak or chicken to Las Cobs, a tiger prawns and chicken combo, fresh seafood and a make-your-own combo. But there are plenty of vegetarian options, including Enchiladas Verdure, soft corn tortillas rolled with roasted yam and poblanos, topped with tomatillo sauce, cheese and sliced avocado. And for those seeking lighter fare, there are flavorful soups and an array of salads.
But don't take my word for it. Here's what the U.K.'s The Guardian had to say when including Gabriel's in its Top 10 Restaurants and Cafes in Santa Fe article:
“It's worth the 12-mile drive north of Santa Fe to chow on made-at-your-table fresh guacamole at Gabriel's. The scenic patio is perfect for soaking up high-desert mountain views in warmer months, while the beautiful interior is hung with art by Miguel Martinez that looks as good as the food tastes. The ribs here are fabulous, and so are the New Mexican offerings: the homemade corn tortillas and margaritas with freshly squeezed lime juice and gold tequila.”
You can start your meal with thirst-quenching drinks, such as La Granada, made with pomegranate juice, hibiscus, tequila and Cointreau, and La Rosarita, a combo of tequila, Cointreau, prickly pear juice and lime juice. And be sure to leave room for the end notes, including a delicious tres leches, a Mexican white cake with chocolate frosting, and traditional flan.
Whatever reason brings you to Gabriel's, the experience never disappoints. It's the perfect stopover for lunch on your way to or from the Tesuque Flea Market, Ojo Caliente, Taos or other points north of Santa Fe. It's also a lovely spot to enjoy dinner before a Santa Fe Opera performance. But you don't need a special reason to make the drive from Santa Fe...any time will do. Just be sure to bring your appetite.