Preparing for a tourist's itinerary or heading off to the daily grind, you're going to need some nourishment. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day after all. Luckily for locals and travelers alike, this town is chock full of morning nosh choices.
New Mexican green chile sauce is the number one most iconic food in the U.S.A. It is true that this popular food is mostly a condiment, but in New Mexico it's a staple of all regional dishes. From breakfast to dinner, we put chile sauce on everything. Although the green steals the scene, red chile is just as popular and delicious in my opinion.
To start your day off with a spicy chile fix and it's accompanying adrenaline rush, head over to the corner of Don Gaspar and Water Street and wait in line at Cafe Pasquals. The line to get in for breakfast generally moves pretty fast and is easier to wait through if you grabbed a copy of The Reporter on your way over. My favorite breakfast at Pasquals is definitely the grilled polenta with chorizo and red chile. It is always worth the wait. Even if your dish of choice doesn't come with any chile sauce, I recommend getting a side of green to at least taste it.
Traveler's Tips: Pick up a copy of the free city paper called The Reporter as soon as you see one. This publication is full of all the happenings and cool events going on during the week. You can find out about everything from gallery openings to what kind of music to expect at El Farol on Friday night.
Want to sound like a local? You can order both red and green chile sauce on a dish by asking for it "Christmas".
One of the delicious repercussions of living in a mecca of cultural tourism is the disproportionate amount of quality dining establishments that are available. Also, the variety of cuisine found here is usually only sighted in larger, more international cities. Not to mention the scope of the local farmer's market, farm to table programs, and overall responsible eating vision of the city. Sustainable, local, and organic are commonly used words on the menus of many Santa Fe restaurants.
When you have had your fill of chile smothered Huevos Rancheros and breakfast burritos, it is time to explore the sweeter side of Santa Fe breakfasts. In a city that has long been popular for being "different", Whoo's Donuts on Cerrillos Rd. has the perfect morning treats for Santa Feans and visitors alike.
What makes Whoo's Donuts so special? Well, they follow all the mantras important to the locals. They use locally sourced ingredients baked homemade every single day until they sell out. In addition to being super fresh and yummy, Whoo's Donuts are an analogy for the city and her inhabitants. Especially those topped with nuts! My favorite however, is the classic Boston Cream. It tastes beyond gourmet and leaves you with the warm fuzzies that can only come from really good home baked food.
My next choice for breakfast or brunch in Santa Fe is Clafoutis. This authentic French bakery and restaurant has something to please everyone. For a long time I believed that a chef I worked with here in Santa Fe made up the word clafoutis. You know how chefs are all eccentric and creative? Imagine my surprise when Clafoutis opened and it turned out to be an actual French dessert.
Traveler's Tips: Robert Redford, Brian Cranston, Ali MacGraw, and Jeff Bridges are just a few of the superstars living and working around Santa Fe. It is highly likely that there will be some celebrity spotting while you are here. Try your best not to become starstruck. Please be respectful of all Santa Fe's citizens and do not heckle or hound them.
Santa Fe is not just the political capital of New Mexico, it is the foodie's capital of the Southwest. That being said, many of the restaurants down town are closed between the lunch and dinner services. Be prepared and plan on finding a restaurant for lunch by 2pm so you don't get stuck being a hungry and cranky traveler.
Clafoutis is located at 402 N. Guadalupe Street and is another local favorite. Once again, be prepared to wait for a table. The waits are generally short, but there is almost definitely going to be a wait. Don't worry, the time you spend in queue will be well spent perusing the pastry cases. By the time you sit down, you will have certainly picked out all of the treats and desserts you will be bringing home with you.
Clafoutis is run by a husband and wife dynamic duo. Yes, they are in fact French. The proprietor greets every customer with her cheery and demanding, "Bon Jour!" French bread pizza, croissants, baguettes, macaroons, and ohh the macaroons. It will be hard to save room for the confections but you absolutely must. Short of being in France these are the most delicious and authentic pastries around.
Besides the desserts, the menu is classic French with delectable crepes, perfectly prepared quiche, croque monsieur, and of course French onion soup. I have never made a trip to Clafoutis and not had at least a spoonful of the French onion soup. It does have an extra touch of sage that gives it a Santa Fe quality.
There is also something distinguishably Santa Fe about the atmosphere in this French restaurant. You are basically sitting on top of the other guests with no privacy for spicy conversation, but once you are nestled in at your table time seems to stand still. The bustle fades to the background and you barely notice the buzzing of the wait staff around you. The cappuccino foam forms mountainous frothy peaks of sheer joy in your mug. It becomes much more intimate than you would expect.
Traveler's Tips: Baking at high elevations can be tricky indeed. You need an extra touch of flour, experience, and an overflow of talent in the kitchen.
If you are heading out for Sunday brunch, don't forget, the sale of alcohol is prohibited before 11am on Sundays. Does it sound unreasonable to make you wait for that mimosa? The law was recently pushed back an hour from noon.
Clafoutis, Pasquals, and Whoos Donuts all offer a deliciously unique taste of Santa Fe. While I featured these favorites here, there are so many great places to try!
Honorable Mentions: Joe's Diner in the Rodeo Plaza for their commitment to local produce and the homemade mozzarella.
Duel Brewery for some extraordinary Belgian Waffles and beer of course!
Blue Corn Cafe and Brewery for the best Huevos Rancheros in Santa Fe.
The New York Deli for their Eggs Benedict sampler. Three varieties of Eggs Benedict including the Chesapeake with crab meat!