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This New Mexico city oozes with Southwestern flavor — both historically and culturally. As far as food goes, we think the best Southwestern restaurant in Santa Fe is the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Geronimo. The restaurant's Southwestern-spiked global fusion fare and its restored 250-year-old adobe setting make for a harmonious pairing. Anasazi Restaurant at the Four-Star Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi is also excellent. It exudes a Southwestern vibe with details such as petroglyph art, but you can taste it in the food as well, with chile- and mustard-braised rabbit plated with spring pea fettuccine. Another great choice is Old House Restaurant, where international fare receives a Southwestern makeover inside the Eldorado Hotel. Traditional chicken gets some regional flavor with wild mushrooms, green chile and corn flan. And right near Santa Fe’s historic plaza, Santacafé also experiments with regional food; spring rolls are stuffed with shiitake and cactus and served with a ponzu sauce.
One of the best things you can do during a trip to Santa Fe is to indulge in the chile-laden Southwestern cuisine. For a fine-dining experience, reserve a table at Geronimo. The Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star restaurant reflects its destination both in the elegant décor (kiva fireplaces and adobe walls) and the Southwestern-influenced cuisine (mesquite grilled Maine lobster tails with angel hair pasta and a creamy garlic-chile sauce).
Inside the adobe walls of Cafe Pasqual’s, the atmosphere is much more casual and festive, with colorful papel picado (cut paper) banners and white Christmas lights hanging all over the small dining room. This restaurant, which won the James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classics award, is the place to visit for breakfast. Get a hearty and fiery start to your day with fried polenta and green chiles topped with chorizo, roasted corn, two eggs and red chile sauce. Another America’s Classics winner and popular spot is The Shed. Red chile is a specialty here; try the blue corn enchiladas smothered with the red sauce. (To try both the green and red chile varieties, request “Christmas” for your dish.)
You’ll also taste Southwestern cuisine in the most unexpected places. Head over to the historic Santa Fe Plaza to the nondescript Five & Dime General Store. In the back of the convenience store, you’ll find a rather unappealing-looking snack bar with hot dogs under heat lamps (avoid those). But come lunchtime, it becomes a hot spot with locals lining up for Frito pie, which is Southwestern comfort food. A snack-sized Fritos bag is slit on the side and then corn chips, housemade chili and shredded cheddar are layered inside of it. While Frito pie can be found outside of New Mexico, the store says it was the first to do the bagged incarnation in 1962. It can be hard to gracefully hold the hot bag, but the filling, cheesy mess inside is worth it.