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—throughout north-central New Mexico 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 (ask your server, as this can vary considerably). 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 or ask for chile sauces on the side. Excellent barbecue and steaks also thrive throughout northern New Mexico, with other specialties being local game (especially elk and bison) and trout. Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Taos also abound with sophisticated restaurants specializing in farm-to-table contemporary fare, often with Mediterranean, Asian, and other global influences. It's also fairly easy to find extensive lists of interesting domestic and foreign wines, craft beers, and artisan cocktails in this part of the state. The restaurants we list are the cream of the crop in each price category.
Meals and Mealtimes
In cities like Santa Fe and Albuquerque, you'll find at least a few restaurants that serve food (sometimes from a bar menu) late, until 10 or 11, and sometimes a bit later on weekends. In smaller communities, including Taos, many kitchens stop serving around 8 pm. It's prudent to call first and confirm closing hours if you're looking forward to a leisurely or late dinner.
Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed 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. Many smaller establishments take MasterCard and Visa but not Discover and American Express.
Reservations and Dress
In Santa Fe and Taos, it's a good idea to make a reservation if you can, especially at top restaurants during busy times. We only mention policies specifically when reservations are essential (there's no other way you'll ever get a table) or when they are not accepted. For the hottest restaurants in Santa Fe, especially in summer, book as far ahead as you can, and reconfirm as soon as you arrive. It's exceedingly unlikely you'll find a restaurant anywhere in New Mexico where men are expected to wear jackets or ties, but at upscale restaurants in Santa Fe, and to a lesser extent in Taos and Albuquerque, you may notice that the majority of diners dress in smartly casual attire—slacks, closed-toe shoes, dress shirts.
Online reservation services make it easy to book a table before you even leave home. You can use Open Table to reserve meals at many restaurants in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Taos.