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Top 6 Santa Fe Restaurants

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Santa Fe is a city of only 65,000, yet it is a citadel of the good life that boasts scores of restaurants that range from beloved dives to exceptional everyday eateries to world-class gourmet kitchens.

The cradle of Southwestern cuisine, Santa Fe emphasizes local, seasonal ingredients and chile peppers on restaurant menus.

In Santa Fe the question “red or green?” refers to the chile salsa that tops many New Mexican dishes. Green is usually hotter. To try red and green, answer “Christmas.”

1. Geronimo

Santa Fe's superlative restaurant occupies a 1700s adobe that once housed the family of Geronimo Lopez. The mood is New Mexico elegance. A porch tempts in warm weather, and private dinners can be arranged.

Chef Eric DiStefano’s deluxe dishes marry Santa Fe flavors with refined technique. Whether you prefer foie gras enlivened with figs, chile and honey-grilled giant shrimp, or peppered elk tenderloin, the dish is at its most wonderful at Geronimo.

2. The Old House

The Old House, a plushly modern dining room within the Eldorado Hotel, is the only Santa Fe restaurant to have been awarded Four Diamonds by the AAA and Four Stars by Mobil.

What matters to the diner more than Executive Chef Martin Rios’ continual accolades is the way his inspired, innovative dishes taste. Two outstanding dishes are the moist, rosemary-dusted halibut and buttery lobster with goat cheese risotto. His desserts are too spectacular to share.

3. Fuego

Fuego means “fire,” and talked-about chef Rahm Fama, a Santa Fe native, creates sparks at this outstanding restaurant. He takes bold culinary risks with surprising combinations of flavors and ingredients and the house specialty is a chateaubriand for two.

Fuego offers lavish chef’s tasting menus, the best cheese selection in the Southwest, and a knowing sommelier. Art-filled and comfortable, Fuego is set in the Staab House mansion of La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa.

4. Baleen

A sense of humor pervades this top Santa Fe restaurant. Baleen’s motto is “serious food with a whimsical mood,” and its plush monkey mascot may be perched at your table. Baleen means “whale,” and chef David Wilson prepares seafood creatively and deliciously.

Herbed sea bass in a fennel-carrot broth is memorable. “Besitos Calientes,” a romantic appetizer of bacon-wrapped shrimp, translates to “hot little kisses.” Baleen restaurant is located inside the Inn at Loretto.

5. Coyote Cafe

Celebrity chef Mark Miller is credited with originating Southwestern cuisine at his landmark Santa Fe restaurant, open since 1987. Many chefs have since adopted Mark’s innovations like mesquite grilling and chile rubs. But the Coyote Cafe is still unique, and a must while in Sante Fe.

Its atmosphere is romantic Southwestern, its servers informed and warm. The wine list and food are excellent as ever. Carnivores: the West’s definitive steak is Coyote Cafe’s “cowboy cut” ribeye.

6. Rio Chama Steakhouse

Rio Chama is one of Santa Fe’s favorite places to “meat.” It is centrally located in an 1800s adobe compound. Inviting dining environments include quiet rooms with soft jazz piped in, seductive courtyards, a smoker-friendly bar and the separate “Party House,” popular for wedding dinners and receptions.

Rio Chama’s meaty chili nachos exemplify this oft-abused dish. The “tenderloin filet,” a filet mignon, is a fantasy steak: deftly grilled, bacon-wrapped and drizzled with truffled béarnaise.

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