Foods and flavors that have come down through history
Every time I leave New Mexico, it's isn't long before I find myself craving the smoky, earthy flavor of green chile, ladled over enchiladas, stuffed inside a breakfast burrito or piled on a cheeseburger. I also miss the sweet notes of fragrant red chile sauce, smothering enchiladas, adding the spice to carne adovada or flavoring soups and stews. Most people I know in Santa Fe feel the same way.
You can't deny that we are, indeed, lucky here in the Land of Enchantment. We enjoy some of the most unique and delicious cuisine in the country, dishes you won't find anywhere else. And New Mexicans are fiercely proud of these dishes. Not only has New Mexico enshrined the green chile as the state's official vegetable, it was the first state to officially appoint a state cookie, and that was the bizcochito back in 1989. In New Mexico, we have an official Breakfast Burrito Byway and Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, along with the annual Santa Fe Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. So let's take a look at some of the restaurants in Santa Fe where we can savor the foods that have nourished New Mexicans for centuries. These dishes are not only filling and flavorful, they warm our soul and spirit, and connect us despite our many cultural differences and backgrounds.
Tomasita's has been feeding locals and visitors for some 40 years, serving classic northern New Mexican fare made with longtime family recipes. The restaurant is such a landmark that owners—the Maryol/Gundrey family—opened a second eatery, Tomasita's Albuquerque, last fall. It's fitting that the Santa Fe restaurant occupies a century-old brick building that once housed the Chile Line, because the dishes served here are made with chile and other ingredients that people have eaten in the region for centuries. Tomasita's enchiladas are a popular dish, filled with cheese, ground beef, veggies or cheese and served with cheese, onions, pinto beans and rice. Smother them in red or green chile, or choose the combo called Christmas, as most regulars do. If you've got a big appetite, go for the burrito grande, stuffed with roast or ground beef, chicken or vegetables, and topped with the beloved red or green chile. Huevos Rancheros, a traditional New Mexican dish that translates from Spanish to English as “rancher's eggs,” is a breakfast dish but it's so popular it's on the dinner menu here, made with two eggs atop a corn tortilla, blanketed with chile and cheese and served with pinto beans (New Mexico's other official state vegetable).
Atrisco Cafe & Bar, sister restaurant to Tomasita's, is one of only four Santa Fe restaurants on New Mexico's Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, so if you're a fan, be sure to try one. It's crafted with six ounces of local, grass-fed ground beef and fresh green chile, topped with your choice of cheddar, Swiss or American cheese and accompanied by house-cut fries. This is one hefty burger you can wrap your hands around and you'll relish every bite. Much of the food at Atrisco is made with ingredients grown in New Mexico, from the beef, lamb and chile to seasonal vegetables and honey. Order the AtriscCombo for a sampler of the traditional New Mexican cuisine served here, made with recipes that reflect Tomasita's rich culinary history, since the two restaurants are now run by family member George Gundrey. This combo plate consists of a delectable chile relleno with green chile, a hearty beef taco accompanied by beans and posole and a blue corn chicken enchilada with red chile. If you're in the mood for meat, try one of the house specialties, a burrito stuffed with sliced Colorado leg of lamb and served with red, green, or better yet, Christmas. Carne adovado is another signature Atrisco dish, made with red chile-marinated pork that's roasted and smothered with cheese.
Maria's New Mexico Kitchen has been serving authentic New Mexican fare since the 1950s. The restaurant has passed through several owners over the years and is now in the hands of Santa Fe businessman Gerald Peters, who purchased it a few years ago. Not much has changed at this Santa Fe institution. The tortillas are still made in house and the famous margarita menu is still pages long. The food menu is also extensive, offering fajitas, barbecued ribs and other dishes from outside our borders. But the regional classics are all available, from chile rellenos and burritos to carne adovada, made with pork or chicken. Try the green chile stew, an iconic New Mexican dish that's hearty and heart-warming, made here with pork or chicken. The blue corn enchiladas are a flavorful feast, filled with carne adovada, beef or chicken and with served with red, green or Christmas. The combo plate will fill you right up, with cheese enchilada, chile relleno, tamale and beef taco.
No matter what dish you decide to order when you visit any of these acclaimed restaurants devoted to traditional New Mexican cuisine, you'll be savoring the flavors and foods that have come down through history.