New(ish) Hot Spots

Lynn Cline - July 17, 2018

If you haven't yet checked out these tantalizing additions to Santa Fe's dining scene, read on, to see why you should.

Santa Fe's cuisine scene is always exciting but in the last year it has grown even hotter, thanks to the addition of some excellent new restaurants and the revamping of some longtime favorites. This includes some creative restaurants devoted to tapas and pasta as well as sumptuous small plates and a deliciously creative take on American Southwest cuisine. If you haven't yet checked out these tantalizing additions to Santa Fe's dining scene, read on, to see why you should.  Buen Provecho!

Marvelous Mac'n'Cheese

These troubling times call for the ultimate comfort food, and Macalicious has it, in the form of gourmet mac'n'cheese. Here, you'll find 11 different, delightful combos, created by chef and owner Theo Gio.

The Santa Fe, of course, has Hatch green chile, Monterey Jack and cheddar, and the Mexican is made with chorizo, jalapenos, Monterey Jack, cheddar, salsa and cholula hot sauce. The Antonio combines sweet potatoes with candy bacon, maple, brown sugar, cheddar and ricotta and the Shroom & Truffle unites sauteed portobello and shiitakes with fontina and ricotta, all topped with truffle oil. There's a vegan version, too, with brown rice pasta, sauteed portobellos, red roasted pepper cashew cheese and gluten-free bechamel and bread crumbs.

Gio offers other cheesy delights as well, including a range of grilled cheese sandwiches, salads and starters. There's even comfort food for dessert or as a side dish, depending on your mood—candied bacon on a stick. Macalicious occupies a sweet space in a former home on a portion of Guadalupe Street that's become Restaurant Row, it houses so many popular eateries. If the weather's right, grab a seat on the patio. No matter where you sit, order the mac'n'cheese and you're sure to find comfort.

Your Neighborhood Italian Spot

On Galisteo Street sits Trattoria a Mano, where the pasta and bread are made in-house daily. The fusilli, tagliatelle, parppadelle and other fresh noodles are simply sublime. Don't miss the Tagliatelle “Fra Diavolo,” in which lobster tails are tossed with black pasta and chile flakes. The Spaghetti Bolognese is a hearty dish featuring beef and veal ragu with shaved Parmigiano. Stellar entrees include veal picatta with white wine, capers and spaghetti aglio e olio, porchetta-style roasted chicken and eggplant parmigiana.

The restaurant's rustic interior is charming and artistic, with eye-catching details such as the quotes from Federico Fellini, Sophia Loren and other food-lovers that hang in the entryway, the array of rolling pins that dangle from the ceiling in front of the open kitchen, and the bicycle on one wall, opposite wine bottles hanging in a window. It's the perfect ambiance for the creative fare served in this restaurant, one of three eateries operated by the new restaurant group, New Mexico Fine Dining, with dishes created by Director Charles Dale, of Bouche Bistro fame.

Cuisine of the Southwest

You'll be amazed by the flavors at Maize, which took over the space formerly occupied by Georgia last fall. With bold flavors and ingredients that reflects Santa Fe's long cultural diversity—the Pueblo people, the Spanish, the French— the food here delights the palate with smoke, spice and inventive twists on traditional Southwestern classics. Try the blue corn blinis topped with smoked trout, caviar and crème fraiche with a salad of aruglua, baby cilantro and jalapeño or the elk tenderloin carpaccio paired with fried capers and frisée greens.

For entrees, the Willow Basket is a stunner, made with market fish steamed in, and served in, banana leaf with mango jam and a vegetable medley. Colorado Lamb Two Ways includes a pasilla BBQ chop and a lamb shank tart, served with black bean-corn relish. Leave room for dessert—perhaps the Tres Leches Cheesecake with crema de mezcal or rice pudding crème brûlée.

Housed in a historic brick home on Johnson Street, Maize's artful interior was designed by fiber artist and interior designer Jennifer Day, who co-owns New Mexico Fine Dining with her husband, Jim Day. The group's Director Chef Dale works his culinary magic on the dishes here, too, as he does at Bouche Bistro, the restaurant he founded that's now part of New Mexico Fine Dining. Maize also has a handsome patio filled with flowers that's a romantic place to dine for lunch or dinner, as long as the weather's good.

Timeless Tapas & Flamenco

Up on Canyon Road, the historic El Farol recently changed hands and the restaurant closed for a stint to undergo a facelift. Re-opened last year, the place is as popular as ever, with a new menu and a regular flamenco show that often sells out.

Reflecting what the original El Farol was known for, Chef Shane Alexander, who hails from South Africa, has come up with some delectable tapas, from aguacate—flash-fried avocado with pico de gallo and lime creme—to croquetas de marciso, shrimp, crab, & scallop croquettes with smoked onion aioli and fresh herbs. Entrees include Paella El Farol, with chicken, shrimp, mussels, chorizo, piquillo peppers, lima beans, romesco, saffron, rice and fresh herbs, and other seafood dishes. There's plenty here for meat-lovers, including filet mignon, lamb loin and a grilled pork chop. Don't miss the desserts by award-winning pastry chef Taylor Burns, including chocolate olive oil cake with bittersweet ganache, citrus, hazelnut cocoa streusel,smoked sea salt and honey gelato.

In a town known for shutting down early, El Farol serves dinner daily until 10 pm, and the bar is open until 11 pm on nights featuring live music. It's great to see a venue that dates to 1835 still thriving today.