New Mexico is justly famous for its distinctive cuisine, which utilizes ingredients and recipes common to Mexico, the Rockies, the Southwest, and the West's Native American communities. Most longtime residents like their chile sauces and salsas with some fire—in the Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces areas, chile is sometimes celebrated for its ability to set off smoke alarms. Most restaurants offer a choice of red or green chile with one type typically being milder than the other. If you want both kinds with your meal, when your server asks you if you'd like red or green, reply "Christmas." If you're not used to spicy foods, you may find even the average chile served with chips to be quite a lot hotter than back home—so proceed with caution (you can always request it be served on the side). Excellent barbecue and steaks also can be found throughout New Mexico, with other specialties being local game (especially elk and bison) and trout. The restaurants we list are the cream of the crop in each price category.
Meals and Mealtimes
Statewide, many kitchens stop serving around 8 pm, so don't arrive too late if you're looking forward to a leisurely dinner.
Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed here are open daily for lunch and dinner.
Credit cards are widely accepted at restaurants in major towns and cities and even most smaller communities, but in the latter places, you may occasionally encounter smaller, independent restaurants that are cash only.
Reservations and Dress
Regardless of where you are, it's a good idea to make a reservation if you can. In some places (the top restaurants in Santa Fe, for example), it's expected. We only mention them specifically when reservations are essential (there's no other way you'll ever get a table) or when they are not accepted. For popular restaurants in Santa Fe, book as far ahead as you can, and reconfirm as soon as you arrive. (Large parties should always call ahead to check the reservations policy.) We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie—which is a rarity, indeed.
Online reservation services make it easy to book a table before you even leave home. OpenTable covers most states, including 20 major cities, and has limited listings in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. For American Express Card members, DinnerBroker offers 15% to 30% discounts on restaurants throughout the United States as well.
Wines, Beer and Spirits
Like many other states, New Mexico has some fine microbreweries; Sierra Blanca Brewing Co. and Santa Fe Brewing Co. are two of the best known. New Mexico also has a growing number of wineries, some of them producing first-rate vintages. Franciscan monks first planted their vines here before moving more successfully to northern California, and the state's winemaking industry has really taken off since the late '90s. The New Mexico Wine Growers Association (www.nmwine.com) provides extensive information on the many fine wineries around the state as well as details on several prominent wine festivals.
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