Savoring the Farolito Walk on Canyon Road

Lynn Cline - December 19, 2017

Where to Warm Up and Fuel Up

This Sunday night ushers in Christmas Eve, a sacred, hallowed time in Santa Fe. The farolitos, glowing paper bags filled with sand to hold lit votives in place, begin to appear in Santa Fe earlier during the holiday season. Electric versions are increasingly common, too. But never are the authentic farolitos more beautiful to behold than when they line Canyon Road and its neighboring streets on the night before Christmas.

Starting at dusk, the road is closed to cars. Families and friends—young and old, some with pets, others with flashing accessories that glow like Rudolph's shiny nose—stroll the street together, singing carols in harmonies of four-parts or more. They warm up beside luminarias, or small bonfires made of stacked wood, then head back out into the cold night to enjoy a wonderland illuminated by farolitos. The bags, carefully aligned on the ground to form mazes, stars and other shapes also light the way atop softly-contoured adobe walls in front of galleries, restaurants, shop and other businesses.

The annual Canyon Road Farolito Walk is one of Santa Fe's most treasured traditions, revered by locals and visitors alike. Hundreds of walkers turn out for the event each year and often are greeted with hot chocolate, hot cider and bizcochitos, New Mexico's official state cookies, to fuel them along the way.

If you're making the walk this year and would like to ensure you have a destination for sustenance before or after the event, here are a few nearby places that can help. Some words of advice: make reservations now as most restaurants were nearly filled at the time of this writing. And, since it's going to be a cold Christmas Eve this year, be sure to bundle up. I hope to see you on Canyon Road, but if we miss each other, here's to a very Merry Christmas!

French onion soup gratinée at 315.

Located near the base of Canyon Road, on Old Santa Fe Trail, 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar makes an idea place to rendezvous with friends before, or after, the farolito walk. It's intimate and cozy, with a relaxed, friendly vibe and if you manage to score any remaining reservations for what's being served that night— a prix fixe Christmas Eve dinner—you'll be in luck. Owner/chef Louis Moskow has created an elegant menu that includes French onion soup gratinée with French comté cheese and sourdough crouton, an appetizer option that will warm you up from the first spoonful. Other starters include lobster ravioli with shimeji mushrooms, fava beans and brandy sauce and the restaurant's signature house-made charcuterie with pickles and mustard, duck rillettes, country pate, cacciatore salume, bresoala and mortadella. For entrees, choices include 315's longtime classic, steak frites, a 10-ounce New York strip accompanied by au poivre, béarnaise or herb butter. At this favorite local's hangout, so you're sure run into friends and family from the farolito walk.

Rio Chama Chili served with cheddar cheese, sour cream and jalapeños, to take the chill out of the night.

On the other side of the street from 315, the popular steakhouse Rio Chama serves a Christmas Eve dinner with a la carte pricing. Some reservations remain, and you can request a seat in the dining rooms or bar of this rambling adobe, with fireplaces in some areas. You might start off with a bowl of potato leek soup or the house specialty, Chama Chili served with cheddar cheese, sour cream and jalapeños, to take the chill out of the night. For a main course, the 10-ounce slow roasted prime rib is a hearty choice, served with green beans, au jus, horseradish crème and garlic mashed potatoes. Or try the vegetarian version of a chile relleno, stuffed with quinoa, corn, zucchini and other squash served with mushroom mole and black beans. (A vegan version is available, too.) You could also bite into a burger, made with prime rib, buffalo or deep-fried portabello mushroom, and your choice of all the fixings. If it's sweetness you crave, you've got lots of choices, too, including white chocolate bread pudding and bourbon pecan pie, which suits the season.

Head north along Alameda Street from the Canyon Road intersection to the Drury Hotel in Santa Fe and you'll find Eloisa, where chef/owner John Sedlar has created a festive three-course prix-fixe Christmas Eve menu that will fuel you up for the farolito walk or warm your body after you've finished it. You might choose the corn bisque soup as an app, featuring pimiento cream, heirloom popcorn and those delectable blue corn muffins, then move on to classic turkey served with white wine mushroom gravy and pinto beans or salmon au vapeur with celeri, sage chestnuts. You also get to try different trimmings, from Oaxacan stuffing and cippollini onions to mashed plantains, chorizo Brussels sprouts. For dessert, don't miss the chocolate tart with burnt lime sugar.