The Iconic Santacafé: A Dining Landmark for More than Three Decades

Gourmet Girl - June 14, 2016

"New American cuisine with a Southwestern flair"

Santacafé is the type of storied spot that draws movie stars, fashion moguls and other celebrities as well as devoted locals, out-of-towners and serious foodies. It's one of fashion designer and film director Tom Ford's favorite Santa Fe restaurants and Food Network' star Giada De Laurentiis included it as one of her top places to eat in the city on her show, Giada’s Weekend Getaway.

A Santa Fe landmark, Santacafé opened in 1983 in a historic 19th-century adobe and became famous for its New American cuisine with a Southwestern flair. The New York Times described it as “a restaurant to love, offering perhaps the best combination of inspired food and attractive surroundings in the city.”

Santacafé's former executive chef Ming Tsai, who went on create the Emmy award-winning television show, East Meets West, helped put the restaurant on the country's culinary map and you can still taste the flavors of his Asian-inspired fare in such dishes as the Shiitake Mushroom & Cactus Spring Rolls with Southwestern Ponzu; Wild Gulf Shrimp Tempura with Chimayo Red Chile Sweet & Sour; and Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Miso, Wasabi & Soy. Other signature dishes here include Tequila Lime-Marinated Bay Scallop Ceviche with Avocado Mousse; Braised Osso Buco with Green Chile Country Mashed Potatoes and Wild Mushroom Demi-Glace; and the Housemade Pasta of the Evening.

The best way to begin your dining experience at Santacafé is with the Margarita of the Day in the bar, where you can peer down into a covered 40-foot well, which dates to 1857. Take note of your surroundings, as this historic gem was built between 1857 and 1862 by Jose Manuel Gallegos, a renowned politician and priest who was defrocked by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy in 1852. Lamy was the subject of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather's novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop, in which Padre Gallegos was portrayed as a glutton and gambler.

When you're ready, take a seat in one of the intimate dining rooms, where candlelight and firelight from corner kiva fireplaces create a romantic atmosphere. Or sit outside on the charming patio, inspired by artist Georgia O'Keeffe, where you'll be surrounded by colorful flowers and simple elegance. Start your meal with a basket of Santacafé's famous red chile flatbread, served with whipped butter, and, perhaps, the Crispy Calamari with 4 Chile-Lime Dipping Sauce or Mexican Braised Beef & Chorizo Quesadilla. Signature entreés include Grilled Filet Mignon with Serrano Chile Butter, Roasted Poblano Chile Relleno and Grilled Sterling Silver Ribeye Steak with Chimayo Red Chili Béarnaise. Be sure to leave room for classic desserts, including Warm Chocolate Upside Down Cake with Toasted Almonds & Housemade Vanilla Ice Cream and Madagascar Vanilla Crème Brûlée.

Santacafé celebrates Happy Hour Monday through Friday, from 4 to 6 pm with drink discounts and specials. The restaurant also serves Sunday Brunch from 11:30 am to 2 pm with such decadent dishes as Maine Lobster Mac'n'Cheese with 4 Cheeses; Poached Eggs on Housemade English Muffin & Chorizo with Cilantro-Lime Hollandaise; and Mascarpone-Stuffed Housemade Brioche French Toast with Fresh Berries,Applewood Smoked Bacon and Vermont Maple Syrup.

This is a great place to take your dad for Father's Day Brunch this Sunday June 19 (10:30 am to 2:30 pm) or Dinner (from 5:30 pm). Or check out the organic wines and olive oils during a Wine Dinner with Chacewater Winery and Olive Oil Mill, held June 22 through June 25,with open seating starting at 5:15 pm. The special menu includes Pineapple Gazbacho with Basil-Cilantro Oil; Grilled Quail Legs with Bing Cherry-Ancho BBQ; Grilled Lamb Chops with Summer Vegetable Panzanella and Summer Berry Pudding with Tres Leches Anglaise.