The perfect summer scene
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.
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.
Bar Alto bills itself as “New Mexico's island in the sky” and just one visit to this popular spot on top of the Drury Plaza Hotel reveals why. This bar boasts one of the best sunset-viewing spots in the city. It also offers some refreshingly creative cocktails—as in Fire & Passion, made with jalapeño bourbon, PAMA, passion fruit and chocolate bitters; and also in Island Delight, a blend of vodka, coconut, raspberry honey and apricot. You can savor shrimp ceviche, a charcuterie board, beef barbacoa sliders and other bar fare. While other cities have famous spots where people gather daily to watch the sun go down—such as Key West's Mallory Square—Bar Alto has become the sunset destination in Santa Fe, as guests crowd the western-facing rail, snapping selfies with the glowing sun descending behind them. Once the event is over, you can relax in comfy chair and sofa arrangements, with fire pits to keep you warm.
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.
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!
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.