In Santa Fe, New Mexico, this question refers to types of chile sauce. Not that I’m telling you how to live your life, but the answer is both. The answer is always both.
The City Different has an extra special place in my heart because it’s where my grandmother lives, and it’s where my sister and I used to spend summers at music camp. It remains one of the most beautiful places on earth, in my humble opinion, with its endless skies and summer rains, its turquoise and adobe. When visiting Santa Fe, here are some places not to miss.
A traditional New Mexican meal is a must, with all of the chilies. Tia Sophia’s just off of the Plaza is a great place to start, since you’ll no doubt want to explore the Plaza and its surrounding museums. More on that in a sec. Tia Sophia’s has standard New Mexican fare, your classic enchiladas and chiles rellenos, and SOPAPILLAS. Sopapillas taste like happiness and sunshine, and they are a specifically New Mexican situation. Fried puffy bread that you drizzle and dip in honey. They are somehow both an appetizer and a dessert, and they are perfect.
La Casa Sena, also downtown, has excellent modern New Mexican options. I opted for stuffed peppers with quinoa, fried kale, and pimento cheese. So good. Basically what I’ve learned from Santa Fe restaurants is that if you stuff a chili pepper with basically anything and cover it with red and green sauce, we’ll have a good time.
After your Casa Sena meal, you MUST visit Todos Santos, a chocolate shop unlike any other. I ate dark chocolate chili-infused truffles, sticking with the theme. It was all I could do not to buy three large bars of the stuff. Next time.
For those of you vegan and gluten free folks, never fear! Rasa Juice bar has all manner of smoothies, yes, but also vegan and GF takes on New Mexican classics. This black bean and veggie soup with avocado and vegan sour cream was SO TASTY and filling.
If you have some extra dough to spend, The Compound off of Canyon Road is arguably the nicest restaurant in town. It’s certainly delicious, seasonal, and a beautifully curated fine dining experience. This trip, we were celebrating my grandmother’s 90th birthday (!!), and The Compound was the perfect place for a celebration. Look at this lobster risotto feat. chanterelles and tell me your heart rate didn’t just increase.
The Compound also has an incredible pastry chef, Becky, who made my grandma a custom lemon blueberry cream cake for the occasion. I’d recommend one of her cakes even if you’re not dining in, though seriously, save some cash and find a way to have a meal at The Compound. Your taste buds will thank you.
Art and Attractions:
Santa Fe has a vibrant, varied art scene. Let’s start with the Plaza. The center of downtown SF, it’s full of boutiques, jewelry stores, souvenirs, and flanked by museums. If you want to some authentic Native American turquoise, the Plaza is the place to go. The jewelry makers that set up blankets of goods have to be certified 100% Native, for one thing, and prices are reasonable and bargain-able.
The New Mexico Museum of Art is located directly off of the Plaza, and houses rotating exhibits of local art. It’s also in one of the most beautiful adobe buildings in sight.
The Georgia O’Keefe Museum is also downtown and also well worth a visit to soak in these floral beauties. Next, a quick drive out of town and to Museum Hill will surround you by some of Santa Fe’s best muesos: the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. If you didn’t get your turquoise on the Plaza, the Weelwright’s gift shop has stunning pieces, also by local artists. The Santa Fe Botanical Garden is also along Museum Hill. Finish your day with a walk through the local desert foliage, aka my favorite plants on earth.
Now. MEOW WOLF. Fun fact: George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones books and my personal bibles, lives in Santa Fe and is a huge contributor to the arts scene. He owns the Cocteau movie theater and helped fund the new-ish Meow Wolf: House of Eternal Return interactive art experience extravaganza. The installation is in the old bowling alley and features an entire house with some wild secrets. By exploring the family’s home, basically by snooping their mail and journals, the Meow Wolf guests are given the opportunity to uncover a mystery that leads into all kinds of other dimensions. It’s trippy and insane and so, so fun. You can spend hours putting together all of the pieces or just playing with the crazy rules of the multiple dimensions from portals in the house. Trust me, just walk into the fridge. You’ll find way more than moldy cheese and ketchup bottles.
Last but not least, take a stroll down Canyon Road and pop into the many galleries lining the street. Sculpture, painting, photography, you name it, it exists on Canyon Road, and you’ll want to cover your home in your findings.
Santa Fe is also surrounded by gorgeous hikes. Rent a car, get close to the ski basin, and explore the mountains. Be sure to drink a lot of water – the 7,000 ft altitude sneaks up on you, but getting close to nature here is the most worth it. And expect rain. In the summer, it rains for about ten minutes almost every day, a phenomenon that has always felt magical to me. I prefer to soak it in sans umbrella, but that’s just me.