Locals know that when we mention simply “red” or “green,” we’re talking chile. Some years ago, the state agriculture department set out to do promotions pushing the sale of our pungent green pods at harvest time to selected supermarket chains. They succeeded beyond all expectations, creating near-hysteria for “Hatch green chile” nationwide. It’s all well and good that New Mexican chile of any kind has become a hot topic of conversation around the country. I think, though, that our red — the more mature version of the pods, coming into season in September — needs a little more love. Here are some of my Santa Fe favorites. Tell me about yours.
Day after day, year after year, this is my preferred red, piquant with a rounded sweetness. The staff grinds it daily from whole pods, out behind the restaurant in something that resembles a cement mixer. Since I moved here more than 40 years ago, one of the few constants in my life has been The Shed’s Number 4 flat cheese enchilada plate. If I’m extra hungry, I’ll get the Number 5, which adds posole and beans. A friend comes here so often, ordering the chicken enchilada combo, that the staff greets him as “Chicken Enchilada” when he walks through the door. It doesn’t hurt either, that The Shed — in historic Seña Plaza in the heart of downtown — is one of the most charmingly atmospheric restaurants in the city. The restaurant has been owned and operated by the Carswell family since 1953. Go at 11 a.m. or after 1 p.m. for less of a wait. They take reservations for dinner. (113 ½ East Palace, sfshed.com, 505-982-9030)
Also right downtown, and in this case, sitting right on its namesake Santa Fe Plaza, the Plaza Café’s another long-time family-owned and operated café. The Razatos clan has operated the Plaza Café since 1947. Start the day at this sleek and spiffy diner with blue corn breakfast enchiladas, piled high with eggs and crispy hash browns on the side. I like the bowl of chile at lunch, mixing the tasty red with beef, with a sopaipilla on the side. Take advantage of the patio on any warm days ahead. Check out the family’s Plaza Café Southside, too. (54 Lincoln, plazacafesantafe.com, 505-982-1664)
Another colorful casual eatery, La Choza’s owned by the same folks as The Shed. It’s wildly popular, too, but favored by many locals because it’s away from the plaza and a bit easier for parking. Expect similar quality in the red chile dishes at lunch and dinner. (905 Alarid, lachozasf.com, 505-982-0909)
A cozy breakfast and lunch spot, I like the red over the breakfast burrito early mornings, and over the tamales at lunch. (209 East Palace, palaciosantafe.com, 505-989-3505)
The Red Enchilada
Another basic but tasty café, The Red Enchilada serves its namesake at breakfast and lunch. Try the Salvadoran pupusas, too. (1310 Osage, no website, 505-820-6552)
As with most of the restaurants listed here, Posa’s red hails from near Hatch in Southern New Mexico. It’s flavorful without being blistering. I really like the pork tamales and tamale pie. Posa’s offers an unusual Frito pie burrito, too, with the traditional pie fixings filling the tortilla. For a morning meal, the huevos rancheros are heartier than most spots around town, ladled generously with chile, then served with fajita-like ribbons of beef or chicken, chorizo, breakfast sausage, bacon, or a cheese tamale. Breakfast through dinner most days. (1514 Rodeo Road, santafetamales.com, 505-820-7672)
Estevan Garcia’s chile regularly comes from the village of Chimayó. He serves up the New Mexico classics, but with a chef’s twist. If the carne adovada ravioli is on the menu, try it. Cool down here with a superb goat’s milk flan. Dinner only. (125 Washington on the second floor of Hotel Chimayo, estevanrestaurante.com, 505-930-5363)
The New Casa Chimayó Restaurante
Casa Chimayo, on the edge of downtown, changed hands in 2021. Chef Joaquin Quintana and his wife, Benina, offer a few more Mexican dishes as well as the Northern New Mexican specialties always found here. At dinner, try the red chile ribs and corn on the cob, red chile enriched posole, or the enchiladas named for Guy Fieri and his “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”
(409 West Water, Casachimayosantafe.com, 505-428-0391)
Atrisco Café & Bar
Atrisco’s no secret, but a lot of visitors never find their way to this DeVargas Center gem. You’ll find all the expected New Mexican faves at this family-run cafe. Atrisco also offers a lamb burrito and often, a bowl of chicos — horno-oven dried corn — both lovely in a sea of red. The sun-dried pods come from the Delgado family down in Salem. Weekend breakfast is a good choice, too. I opt for breakfast enchiladas. They offer lunch and dinner every day. Veggie enchiladas are especially good here, with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and squash. It’s a sister restaurant to the wildly popular Tomasita’s. (193 Paseo de Peralta, atriscocafé.com, 505-983-7401)
If you want ristras, our beautiful strings of chiles, there are various places to find them around town. If you haven’t already selected the perfect one, check with Rodolfo Herrera who brings them up from Hatch and sells them from his truck. He sits across from the Tesuque Village Market on many weekdays. Contact Rudolfo at 505-913-1205. You can cook with them or just enjoy their beauty.
Story and photos by Cheryl Alters Jamison
Four-time James Beard Foundation Book Award-winning author Cheryl Alters Jamison is the host of Heating It Up on KTRC and is now the “queen of culinary content” for SantaFe.com. Find new stories about the Santa Fe food scene each week on SantaFe.com.
This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead