We recently visited Santa Fe for the first time with the Piedmont Opera. Not only was the opera phenomenal, but we were able to try out some great restaurants. I love South-Western food,maybe because we just don’t have any restaurants that serve this style of food in our area. I was ready to tackle some spicy and flavorful dishes. Some of our stops were just ok, but a couple really stood out. I will start with the Coyote Cafe which was so good we went back a second time.
We had lunch at the Rooftop Cantina with a group, so I was able to sample several unique dishes. I loved the snarky sign going in and the wait staff was fun and helpful in their recommendations. Some of the lunch items were very large which our waitress pointed out so we were able to share, while others were normal lunch portions. The weather was perfect to eat outdoors under a canopy overlooking the rooftops of Santa Fe. The motto on their t-shirts, is “food so good you will howl”. The rooftop cantina is completely separate form the more formal downstairs restaurant, so make sure you are clear when making reservations.
We decided to share the jalapeño shooters, which were cheese stuffed peppers deep fried and then served in a cool cucumber sauce in a shot glass. The presentation was fun and the peppers were delicious. We were warned that they never know whether they will be hot or mild, ours were somewhat mild, with a little kick as you got closer to the stem of the jalapeño. I could easily have eaten just these for lunch, but everything in moderation. Instead, I tried tacos al pastor which were served on home made corn tortillas, filled with pineapple and pork. My fellow dinners shared an extremely large portion of nacho’s which they hardly dented. It was topped with pulled pork, a wonderful sauce, cheese and guacomole. Another in the group had the caesar salad with grilled shrimp and was warned that this was not your typical caesar. It looked like sushi, as it was wrapped in a pink soy wrapper. The presentation was unique along with the flavors. A fun and upbeat place that is worth a trip back.
Since we had such a great experience, we decided to return for dinner one night to the more formal restaurant on the first floor. We tried this at the end of our week and were ready for something a little different. The choices here were perfect for what we were looking for. The ambiance was quite but not stuffy. Our waiter was attentive but not hovering over us and he was very helpful with his descriptions of the dishes and recommendations. Mike went with sushi and maybe the largest steak I have seen for a while. It was falling off the bone and served with a savory sauce.
I tried the squash blossoms stuffed with marscapone and lobster, I could have just ordered more of these for dinner, I love anything stuffed in a squash blossom, maybe because I can’t find squash blossoms in the market so it’s always a treat when I see them on a menu. These were fabulous.
Next I went with the prawns. The waiter warned me that the sauce was pretty spicy and asked if I wanted it on the side. Just to be safe I got it on the side, but it wasn’t overly spicy, just right. Other than being spicy, it was slightly sweet and amazing. I was hoping to ask the chef what he used but the kitchen was pretty busy when we left. Everything we had was perfectly cooked, savory and unique without being strange. We decided we would split a chocolate and cherry dessert which was the perfect ending to a wonderful dining experience.
I loved that this restaurant gave you the option of a casual, less expensive option or a quieter upscale experience and they pulled off both. So whatever you may be looking for, I would recommend you give this place a try.