Compound is a longtime local foodie favourite
Recognised by the James Beard Foundation as the "Best Chef of the Southwest", Mark Kiffen, owner of Compound restaurant, on Santa Fe's famed Canyon Road, is a longtime local foodie favourite. Compound does an acclaimed contemporary seasonal menu that draws on the flavours of both the south-west and the Mediterranean. Come when there's reason to celebrate – the wine list includes a few excellent champagnes.
• 635 Canyon Road, +1 505 982 4353, compoundrestaurant.com. Open Mon-Sat noon-2pm (lunch), daily 6pm-to close (dinner), bar opens at 5pm
El Molero fajita truck on the Plaza
If you're on a budget downtown, one of the cheapest and tastiest places to eat lunch is from the licensed stalls on the lawn of the central plaza. The beef fajitas with fresh guacamole is a personal favourite. Tacos and burritos are also offered. Everything costs less than $10.
• Corner of East San Francisco Street and Lincoln Avenue
Maria's New Mexican Kitchen
One of Robert Redford's favourite spots when visiting Santa Fe, this is also where the locals come for authentic New Mexican cooking and tequila – there are some 300 varieties on offer. The blue corn enchiladas are a house specialty, as are super-strong house margaritas made with 100% blue agave tequila and freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice. Decor is traditional, with white adobe walls and vigas (beams). Reservations are recommended. It's a good spot to bring the kids. Note Maria's is not downtown, but off St Francis Boulevard, about five minutes' drive from the plaza.
• 555 West Cordova Road, +1 505 983 7929, marias-santafe.com. Open daily Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, Sat-Sun noon-10pm
Come for breakfast, when this Santa Fe institution is usually jammed, and it isn't unusual to see a local artist or visiting celebrity waiting in the crowd. Breakfast burritos and other south-western morning favourites such as huevos rancheros (black beans, eggs, cheese and chilli over a tortilla) are the things to order, though if you show up closer to noon, lunch is pretty dang tasty as well – the perfectly prepared chiles rellenos(stuffed chilli peppers) are a personal favourite. The restaurant is a good place to bring the kids – there is a whole shelf of children's books to delve into and it is noisy enough for them to run around without being noticed.
• 210 West San Francisco Street, +1 505 983 9880, no website. Open Mon-Sat 7am-2pm, Sun 8am-1pm
Locals hate to admit it, but they love the New Mexican cooking at this Santa Fe institution as much as the tourists reading about it in the guidebooks do. It serves top-notch green chilli, legendary blue corn enchiladas and daily blue-plate specials at lunch. Save room for dessert – the sopapillas (fried pastries) with honey butter are included with the mains. It's a rowdy joint that's perfect for families with exuberant kids. Prepare to wait as the restaurant is nearly always packed.
• 500 South Guadalupe Street, +1 505 983 5721, no website. Open Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, closed Sun
In the hipster Guadalupe district, the Cowgirl, a New Mexico-meets-Texas BBQ joint, has been a Santa Fe standby for a long time with good reason, known for its excellent food and strong tasty margaritas. It is a fun place for all ages thanks to the great playground, wacky western-style feminist flair, huge patio and live music on the inside stage after 9pm. Cowgirl is most famous for its BBQ brisket – order it in a build-your own quesadilla with green chilli and avocados. The margarita list is long and potent.
• 319 South Guadalupe Street, +1 505 982 2565, cowgirlsantafe.com. Open (for lunch) Mon-Fri 11.30am-4.30pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4.30pm; (for dinner) Mon-Wed 4.30pm-10.30pm, Fri-Sat 4.30pm-11pm, Sun 4.30pm-10.30pm
Second Street Brewery
The second outpost of Santa Fe's second most famous craft brewery does some of the town's best pub grub in a happening Railyard district with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. When it comes to eating, the chilli Philly and the crispy buffalo chicken are sandwich winners for carnivores, while the portobello mushroom panini will woo the vegetarians. The food lineup is combined with a good selection of English-style beers, from the excellent hoppy IPA to a denser porter brewed at the original 2nd Street location (also a great pub) on Santa Fe's outskirts.
• 607 Paseo de Peralta 10, +1 505 989 3278, secondstreetbrewery.com. Open Mon-Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun noon-9pm
It's worth the 12-mile drive north of Santa Fe to chow on made-at-your-table fresh guacamole at Gabriel's. The scenic patio is perfect for soaking up high-desert mountain views in warmer months, while the beautiful interior is hung with art by Miguel Martinez that looks as good as the food tastes. The ribs here are fabulous, and so are the New Mexican offerings: the homemade corn tortillas and margaritas with freshly squeezed lime juice and gold tequila. It makes a good lunch or dinner choice if you're headed north to Taos, the hot springs at Ojo Caliente or just the popular flea market down the road in Tesuque.
• 4 Banana Lane/Highway 285, +1 505 455 7000,restauranteur.com/gabriels. Open Sun-Thurs 11.30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11.30-10pm
Most famous for its red and green chilli-covered chicken enchiladas, it also does grilled fish tacos equally well – these are also a lighter meal calorie-wise too, making it easier to justify another round of freshly squeezed margaritas. The James Beard Award-winning restaurant is run by the same family that started the casual but atmospheric joint in 1953, in a courtyard just off the main square in an adobe building built in about 1692 . In summer, sit outside on the patio. Reservations are highly recommended.
• 113½ East Palace Avenue, +1 505 982 9030, sfshed.com. Open daily for lunch 11am-2.30pm, and dinner 5.30pm-9pm
La Cantina at Coyote Cafe
The restaurant downstairs, the Coyote Cafe, is one of the best in Santa Fe, but the secret most people don't know is that if you head to the roof, you can order the same creations by chef Mark Miller at cut prices. And you get a lively alfresco rooftop cantina ambiance with fantastic sunset views. The place is only open during the warmer months, and sometimes you have to wait, but it's well worth the effort. Try the Oaxacan chickenmole, spit-roasted pork tacos with pineapple and the signature mango margarita.
• 132 Water Street, +1 505 983 1615, coyotecafe.com. Restaurant open daily 5.30pm-to close; rooftop cantina open daily 11.30am-to close