So many restaurants, so little time.
Whether you have a hankering for a new breakfast, lunch or dinner spot, two Albuquerque chefs and four Santa Fe chefs share their favorite go-to restaurants and the dishes they lean on time and again.
From upscale to dives, pastries to pizza and everything in between, chefs know good food and these talented culinary wizards offer a wide assortment of restaurant recommendations for everyday eating and special occasions.
We let them make the case in their own words.
Chef de cuisine
The Grove Café and Market
600 Central SE, Suite A, Albuquerque
As the first chef de cuisine at The Grove Café and Market, Yolanda Torres is primed and ready for what she calls her “ideal job.” After spending eight years working in restaurants in New Orleans, she is thrilled to be back in the Duke City cooking at one of her favorite dining establishments.
“I have several favorites. Farina Pizzeria on Central is where I get my pizza fix. I order the Bianca pizza (mozzarella, ricotta, truffle oil, sage, artichoke hearts and grana padano) and the gorgonzola dipping sauce for the crust. Stinky gorgonzola cheese is whipped with honey and you dip your crust in that. It’s killer. I also get the verde salad — mixed greens, candied walnuts, blue cheese and apples with a lemon-honey vinaigrette.
“A friend of mine introduced me to Pho Linh and this is my Thursday evening dinner spot and the only place I eat Vietnamese. I usually have the 37B combo — a steamed jasmine rice dish with grilled pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, a sunny up egg and a side of chicken broth. Their Báhn mì is one of the best I’ve had since leaving New Orleans. My third favorite choice is the Singapore noodles with beef, but no matter which dish I choose, I always start with the grilled beef rolls wrapped in grape leaves as my appetizer and end with the coconut mango rice dessert.
“For the best tacos in the city, I head straight to the South Valley for El Paisa where I usually order carne asada tacos and an agua fresca. Their salsa is so hot and it’s just like you would get in Mexico. Served in a plastic bag, you bite the corner off and drizzle the salsa all over your tacos. Delicioso!”
Executive chef and co-owner
Taste of Love food truck
Kayla Vallejos launched her food truck in May 2021. With the help of her wife, the Taste of Love food truck makes handmade pasta with a New Mexican influence — fried ravioli — stuffed with carne adovada, green chile and cheese, as well as seasonal specials such as fried pumpkin pie ravioli with pumpkin seed brittle. In addition to pasta, you will find green chile alfredo fries and a trio of meatball sliders, which are popular dishes. Look for the Taste of Love food truck at different breweries around town.
“Howie’s Sports Page is a nice little dive bar that has these amazing wings! The best way to go is tossed in Cajun with a side of Buffalo sauce.
“Last year for our anniversary, we went to Savoy Bar & Grill and had an incredible meal and service. I had a delicious steak dish over creamy mashed potatoes and my wife had the sesame-seared ahi tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes and these delicious little soy pearls on top.
“We frequent Sushi Hana, which I think has the best sushi in town and a great staff. I always get the miso soup, a fire roll, kamikaze roll and a green chile roll with sake. They also have an excellent section of sake.”
Executive chef and partner
401 S. Guadalupe St., Santa Fe
Nathan Mayes is the executive chef and partner at Paloma, an authentic Mexican restaurant. Though he works in Santa Fe, he moved to Albuquerque in 2020 which has broadened his perspective on the restaurant scene in both cities. His move also gave him the role of stepfather to a 6-year-old, so many of his go-to spots are family-friendly, though he has provided a few restaurants he and his wife enjoy when dining out alone.
In Santa Fe:
“Dolina’s is up there as one of my favorite places. Obviously, the pastries are the best in town. I eat the whole menu there, savory or sweet, but it depends on the time of day and if I am lucky enough to get a table.
“Paper Dosa is no surprise to anyone. In the winter, I love their rasam, a spicy soup of pureed lentils, cilantro, tomatoes and spices. I also love all the dosas — both the traditional and green chile and cheese. The restaurant as a whole is great.”
“The Flying Star has a really good green chile cheeseburger and a really consistent and fun, easy menu. Each location also features a large patio and we all enjoy that.
“Food halls are gaining traction as well with lots of options. We frequent both Sawmill Market and the 505 Food Hall. We love HAWT Pizza at Sawmill Market. I like the Day Drinker and the Margarita pizza. We also enjoy the beer from Ex Novo Brewing Company.”
Executive chef and co-owner
TerraCotta Wine Bistro
304 Johnson St.,
Catherine O’Brien has a colorful culinary past and is a colorful character who loves what she does and it shows. With her business partner, she started a catering company, Peas ‘N’ Pod, in 1996 and its success led them to open TerraCotta Wine Bistro in 2013.
The menu is diverse and is one of the city’s few restaurants that is a “chile free zone.”
Though you won’t find any red or green chile on the menu, you will find plenty of delicious dishes that will have you returning for more.
“We don’t eat out a lot because I cook at home, and I am always ‘long on food.’ But when we do go out, we have two restaurants that we frequent.
“I love Los Potrillos. It’s simple, satisfying comfort food. We know the manager and the staff and they always take good care of us. I like the dishes served in molcajetes, as well as the fajitas and shrimp cocktail.
“We also enjoy going to Sassella, which is just down the street from our restaurant. Chef Christian is a swell guy. He has great taste in his cuisine and keeps it simple. I eat a little of everything and have a lot of respect for Christian and his menu.”
Chef and owner
95 W. Marcy St., Santa Fe
After a 10-year absence from the local food scene, David Sellers opened Horno on June 28 where they offer dinner six nights a week. The concept is an Italian leaning gastro pub heavily concentrated on high-quality food for value prices with reasonably priced wines as well. They created a restaurant that is about “fine food not fine dining” in a casual, fun and light atmosphere.
“When people ask, we recommend a variety of restaurants in town owned by friends, including Paloma, Joseph’s Culinary Pub, Market Steer and Santacafé.
“We live in Eldorado, so when we dine out, we often eat at Arable and I love their homemade Reuben pastrami sandwich. We also enjoy going to brunch on Sundays, which is the only day we are closed.
Atrisco Café and Horseman’s Haven are typically where we go for New Mexican food and I always get a smothered burrito with Christmas, of course. We venture to Midtown Bistro for a more elevated experience as they make great red chile eggs Benedict.”
Executive chef and owner
Joseph’s Culinary Pub
428 Agua Fria St., Santa Fe
Joseph Wrede relocated his famous restaurant from Taos to Santa Fe where he continues to cook foods everyone loves. Featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” Wrede hasn’t let his stardom go to his head and remains a humble chef dedicated to both his craft and elevating the Santa Fe food scene one delicious dish at a time.
“There are three meals in a day and I’m going to share my favorite restaurants for each meal with you.
“For breakfast, I really like Dolina. The chef and owner, Annamaria Brezna and I have been friends for 20 years and I like to support friends. I like how clean her food is and I love her baked goods, which are traditional European style. While you are waiting, treat yourself to her bakery items. I enjoy the salmon tartine and One for David, which is a tilapia fish sandwich. She has this particular pastry that is made with fresh cheese called a tvaroh pocket that’s sweet but with a savory element. And the turmeric drink burns your throat, but you feel ready to conquer the day after you drink it.
“For lunch, I head to Modern General. They have a well-curated space with interesting cookbooks you can look through. The food is clean, flavorful and clear. Nothing is over-indulged and I like that. I have to say I am a sucker for a good avocado toast. Theirs is served with a poached egg and I also get a smoothie for a healthy lunch.
“There is a crowded field of good options for dinner. When my daughter and son are in town, we head straight to Market Steer. I like restaurants where the chef and owner are present and you can feel the sincerity. It’s hard to always be perfect, but it’s easy to always be sincere and when that effort is there, the outcome is almost always excellent. Their meat is the highlight but they have a plethora of sauces.
They also have kicked up versions of macaroni and cheese, shrimp cocktail and creamed spinach. The restaurant has huge windows along Water Street so you can relax and dine while you watch the world go by.”