Best of Santa Fe—Living

Best New Book by a New Mexico Author

1. The Manhattan Project Trinity Test: Witnessing the Bomb in New Mexico by Elva K. Österreich

On July 16, 1945, the US government tested a powerful weapon that had been crafted at Northern New Mexico’s secret Los Alamos laboratory, unleashing a nuclear bomb in Southern New Mexico’s desert. Österreich, a former reporter and editor with the Alamogordo Daily News, explores how the event and the events to which it led influenced the lives of area residents.

Arcadia Publishing

2. Head Wounds by Michael McGarrity

McGarrity worked as a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputy and youth substance abuse counselor before he authored the acclaimed series of Kevin Kerney detective novels. The latest plot centers around gambling, corruption and, of course, murder on the borderlands.

Penguin Random House Publishing

3. At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate by Laura Paskus

Paskus has been working as a journalist covering environmental issues for two decades. Although science has pointed toward climate threats, public policy has been slow to respond. In her first book, she unpacks the state’s challenges, including the drying Rio Grande, super fires and rising temperatures.

University of New Mexico Press

Best Business: Cerrillos Road

1. Jambo Café

Chef Ahmed Obo is the year-after-year king of the Best Chef category for another year running, along with snagging this award for the best along the city’s busiest corridor. Jambo Café's “African homestyle cuisine” is also delivered via two Jambo Hapa food trucks, and indoor dining resumed in June. Find Swahili dishes and African-Caribbean fusion, plus flavorful choices for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, and Halal meats.

2010 Cerrillos Road, (505) 473-1269

2. Artisan

Come for paper and paints, pastels, pencils, ink, gesso, custom-stretched canvas and 50,000 other items. Stay for the workshops. And/or take advantage of local home delivery from the local business that has been beautifying the world for more than 45 years.

2601 Cerrillos Road, (505) 954-4179

3. Tortilla Flats

The Midtown favorite for homespun, no-frills New Mexican cuisine won’t leave your coffee cup empty, or any part of your party feeling less than full.

3139 Cerrillos Road, (505) 471-8685

Best Business: Downtown

1. Doodlet’s

Visitors to this downtown treasure trove have, since 1955, found gifts for everyone in their lives. But let’s get real, there are things here that you want for yourself too. Not just funny fridge magnets and trinkets to invoke fond memories, but also books, art and toys, kitschy kitchen tools, kinetic sculpture and all manner of whimsical objects that move the heart.

120 Don Gaspar Ave., (505) 983-3771

2. La Fonda on the Plaza

La Fonda’s primary mission is lodging. Yet that does not stop the grandmother of Santa Fe hotels from innovating in more directions. We love hearing the cathedral bells from a table on the terrace just as much as the view from the Bell Tower and the one of the stage at La Fiesta Lounge.

100 E San Francisco St., (505) 982-5511

3. Upper Crust Pizza

Find this joint in the heart of the heart of downtown and catch a table on its cozy patio that’s just above the sidewalk. Whether your jam is a by-the-slice lunch or a pie for dinner any day of the week, we recommend you don’t sleep on the calzone either.

329 Old Santa Fe Trail, (505) 982-0000

Best Business: Eldorado

1. Upper Crust Pizza

Voters all agree the Eldorado location of Upper Crust is the No. 1 favorite in Santa Fe’s bedroom community again. Find the same great gluten-free crust option as downtown, plus a neat, modern and accessible dining room. The original Upper Crust opened downtown in 1979, but the expansion to Eldorado seems like it’s going to stick. Please send us one of the heart-shaped pizzas on Valentine’s Day.

5 Colina Drive, Eldorado, (505) 471-1111

2. Arable

Chef Renee Fox and Dave Readyhough are keeping it fancy and delicious in the Agora Center. Arable’s staples and seasonal menu choices are stellar from the first to the last bite. Nashville hot chicken tacos on special! Reuben day! Patio! We need more exclamation marks.

7 Avenida Vista Grande, Eldorado, (505) 303-3816

3. Eldorado Country Pet

Even if your dog really acts like a city dog, everyone can be a country pet. Shop local and choose nutritional food for Fido, Fluffy, Tweety and the gang and for the wild ones you hope to meet soon.

7 Avenida Vista Grande, Ste. B5, Eldorado, (505) 466-1270

Best Business: Railyard/Guadalupe District

1. Santa Fe Farmers Market

There’s no question the Santa Fe Farmers Market is the place to be on Saturday mornings, where local vegetables, fruit, baked goods, meat and other local food products create a rainbow of nutritious and ethical choices—even in the winter months. But don’t overlook the additional Tuesday morning option, the new curbside CSA or the Southside market that pops up across town from the same great farmers.

1607 Paseo de Peralta, 983-4098

2. Violet Crown Cinema

After a year of missing the movie-theater experience, Santa Feans didn’t have to work hard to remember their favorite and rave about the lobby restaurant and bar or celebrate the plush theater seats and their individual tables. We love heading to a lower-level show and completely losing cell service. Heaven!

1606 Alcaldesa St., (505) 216-5678

3. Tomasitas

Tomasita hasn’t been in the kitchen for a number of years, but the restaurant that’s housed in the historic Chili Line train depot is an icon in the city. Founder Georgia Maryol came from a family of restauranteurs and her sons followed in her footsteps, including George Gundry, who is at the helm today.

500 S Guadalupe St., (505) 983-5721

Best Business: Rufina/Siler Road Corridor

1. Meow Wolf

Remind those people in Vegas and Denver that it all started right here! The arts juggernaut’s House of Eternal Return has drawn millions through its immersive doors into 70 rooms of experiential creativity and fostered a killer venue space in a repurposed bowling alley. We’ve seen grandmas crawling on their knees so as to not miss the hidden spaces as well as kids in wide-eyed overdrive as they take in the multigenerational fun.

1352 Rufina Circle, (505) 395-6369

2. Big Jo True Value

Don’t expect to wander around in search of that hinge, fastener or gallon of goo, Big Jo’s friendly staff won’t let you. Big Jo is also the first-place winner in Best Hardware Store. Customer service that patrons can rely on has long been the guiding principle that keeps local shoppers here instead of in a big box down the road.

1311 Siler Road, (505) 473-2255

3. Second Street Brewery Rufina

The long picnic tables on the patio make this third Second Street location hard to beat, but it’s also roomy and lively inside, with a large performance space compared to some corner jam spots that pass for stages in other restaurants. We informally dub thee Best Second Street Fries Location, too.

2920 Rufina St., (505) 954-1068

Plaza Café Southside
Plaza Café Southside (Joy Godfrey/)

Best Business: Southside

1. Plaza Café Southside

Takeout and patio service helped our readers’ Southside favorite keep up its menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner during restricted pandemic operations. We suggest you order a taco salad and margarita with a couple slices of red velvet cake on the side to honor full reopening. The Razatos family café is serving up meals for great family meet-ups, dates y todo with a spacious indoor and outdoor setting.

3466 Zafarano Drive, (505) 424-0755

2. Santa Fe Public Library Southside Branch

Can you believe the newest public library in Santa Fe is already 14 years old? Find a great children’s area and spacious seating for quiet reads. Curbside pickup is still available for books and other materials reserved online, and library officials as of presstime were still asking patrons to limit indoor visits to one hour.

6599 Jaguar Drive, (505) 955-2810

3. The Cat

This thrift store operated by the Santa Fe Animal Shelter helps raise money to support its lifesaving care for animals. Find its new location in the Plaza Santa Fe shopping center between Target and Albertsons.

3546 Zafarano Drive, 780-8975

Best Business: St. Michael’s Drive/Triangle District

1. Payne’s Nursery

With 68 years under its belt, this garden supply staple is old enough to get the senior citizen discount. It’s still glowing and growing from the busy St. Mike’s location, which sports a vegetable and flower greenhouse, along with outdoor selections that range from rose bushes to shade trees. Plus, back in to a whole yard of organic soil amendments ready to head home with you.

715 St. Michael’s Drive, (505) 988-9626

2. The Candyman Strings & Things

Find all the music things that make it the city’s busy hub of musicality—not the least of which are classes for the large and small, plus instruments to buy and rent, recording and amplification gear, educational materials and more.

851 St. Michael’s Drive, (505) 983-5906

3. Century Bank

This centrally located branch of Century Bank has a six-lane drive-thru for your convenience, and like all its branches, offers not just checking and savings, but also loans, trust services and help with all other money matters.

1790 St. Michael’s Drive, (505) 995-1260

Best Business: Westside/Alameda/Agua Fria

1. Tune-Up Café

The recipe for achieving the kind of Santa Famous status to which Tune-Up Café has climbed is closely guarded, but it surely contains a few parts of word of mouth mixed with a portion of undeniable creativity and authenticity. Jesus and Charlotte Rivera know it by heart, so don’t skip a visit to their restaurant for breakfast, lunch or dinner. In 2009, SFR wrote that the restaurant’s simple pleasure was spreading like a pandemic. We get that.

1115 Hickox St., (505) 983-7060

2. Agua Fría Nursery

Shop for local perennials and more at the nursery run by the second and third generation in the Pennington family that’s also the Best Garden/Plant Store for the second year running.

1409 Agua Fria St., (505) 983-4831

3. La Montañita Co-op

It’s a grocery store, but so much more. Members of the co-op get a dividend every year, along with special deals throughout the seasons, though everyone is welcome to load up on supplies or hit the hot bar any day.

913 West Alameda St., (505) 984-2852

Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe
Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe (Kelli Johansen/)

Best Golf Course

1. Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe

The public course maintained by the City of Santa Fe at the Municipal Recreation Complex gets a hole in one with first-place accolades in this category that’s brand new to the Best of Santa Fe poll. The course is really two, the Great 28 nine-hole course and the full 18 holes—both of which use reclaimed water to keep the grass alive, all yours for views, companionship and exercise.

205 Caja del Rio Road, (505) 955-4400

2. Santa Fe Country Club

Membership at this semi-private course off Airport Road on Santa Fe’s Southside also allows for bag storage, locker rooms, preferred tee times, access to a members-only club lounge and the hot commodity of a swimming pool. The course itself stretches over 7,100 yards.

3950 Country Club Road, (505) 471-0601

3. Buffalo Thunder Towa Golf Club

New Mexico residents get a discounted rate to play any of Towa’s three independent nine-hole courses. The course boasts that it can “challenge the low handicappers, but offers an enjoyable experience for golfers of all levels.” Fore!

20 Buffalo Thunder Trail, (505) 455-9000

Best Hiking/Biking/Walking Trail

1. Dale Ball Trails

Dale Ball was a nature enthusiast who founded the Santa Fe Conservation Trust and helped connect the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County and private landowners for what became his namesake trail network. It’s close to downtown, but with a rugged feel when you need to head up. The nearly 25-mile network at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is accessed via Cerro Gordo Road and Upper Canyon Road as well as the Sierra del Norte trailhead off Hyde Park Road and other trailheads.

Managed by the Santa Fe Conservation Trust, (505) 989-7019

2. Santa Fe River Trail

The paved Santa Fe River Trail stretches across the equator of the city, from the east side near Patrick Smith Park, through downtown hideouts that offer respite from government buildings, past Alto Park and under Siler Road to the San Ysidro crossing.

Managed by the city and county, (505) 955-6664

3. Galisteo Basin Preserve

The preserve provides 28 miles of dirt track suitable for mountain bikes, equestrians and just plain walking for thousands of visitors. Find the access point a short 12-mile drive from the city limits to Highway 84/285 south of Eldorado.

Managed by Commonweal Conservancy, 690-3094

Best Nonprofit

1. The Food Depot

From the long lines receiving weekly help at the drive-through distribution point to deliberate outreach for kids and college students, it was easy to see how The Food Depot came through for Northern New Mexico during this last hard year and why it again tops the list for Best Nonprofit. Its return to in-person food drives with a May the 4th Star Wars campaign was up our alley.

1222 A Siler Road, 471-1633

2. Kitchen Angels

Feeding the hungry became even more critical and heavenly work as public health orders made it even harder for some people to get meals. These volunteers keep cooking and delivering meals to those who need them, and have been doing so since 1992.

1222 Siler Road, (505) 471-7780

3. El Rancho de las Golondrinas

Welcome back to the grounds of the living history museum that features original colonial buildings from the early 1700s, as well as re-creations of other historical buildings from around New Mexico. We especially love to see the flower and vegetable gardens each year.

334 Los Pinos Road, (505) 471-2261

Santa Fe Botanical Garden
Santa Fe Botanical Garden (Kelli Johansen/)

Best Nonprofit for the Environment

1. Santa Fe Botanical Garden

Not so very long ago, Museum Hill was bereft of the botanical garden and bordered instead by sandy arroyo. Now the readers’ choice for Best Nonprofit for the Environment is about to open its third developed phase, the Piñon-Juniper Woodland. Fruit trees are bearing, a larger gift shop and office has been installed, and the community is getting more education, more art and more plant-loving good times. The nonprofit also maintains the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve.

725 Camino Lejo, (505) 471-9103

2. Santa Fe Watershed Association

The health of the Santa Fe River is at the top of the beneficiaries for advocacy, education, stewardship and restoration by this longstanding nonprofit. River cleanup days, adopt-a-river and even adopt-an-arroyo programs help sustain the efforts.

1413 Second St., Ste. 3, (505) 820-1696

3. Santa Fe Conservation Trust

This group has influenced the development of miles and miles of public trails in some of the region’s outdoor jewels, including the Dale Ball Trails, Rail Trail, Sun Mountain and La Piedra Open Space. Santa Fe depends on the trust for environmental protections and other advocacy leadership.

400 Kiva Court, (505) 989-7019

Best Park

1. Santa Fe Railyard Park

Tunnels to run through, boulders to climb on and slides to, know. The 11-acre space managed by the Railyard Park Conservancy takes the top honor for Best Park again. The sloping grass lawn is a great spot for family outdoor movie night. We enjoy how flowerbeds and walking paths match the old railroad alignment and are laid out to recall the boxcars and loading docks of days gone by.

Railyard Park Conservancy, 805 Early St., 316-3596

2. Fort Marcy Park

Catch a Santa Fe Fuego game in the semi-pro Pecos Baseball League from the grandstand, see Old Man Gloom go up in flames, go on a health kick or just play for a while at this northside park that’s always a reader fave.

490 Bishops Lodge Road

3. Patrick Smith Park

The Santa Fe River trickling by beneath golden fall leaves, or rushing past for a few crisp green days in spring make the northern edge of this park a fave, but it’s also got great big shade trees and enough space for some discing and, lately, dancing.

1010-1098 E Alameda St.

Best Place to Work

1. The Candyman Strings & Things

Owners Rand and Cindy Cook must be doing something right, with this repeat appearance on the Best Place to Work winners list as well as this year’s top three for Best Business on St. Micheal’s Drive and Best Summer Program for kids. The city’s favorite music supply store has almost everything one needs, including a good job.

851 St. Michael’s Drive, (505) 983-5906

2. CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center

The nonprofit hospital in Santa Fe isn’t just a hospital. CHRISTUS’ expansive group of providers touches on many specialties, including dermatology, an orthopedics and sports division, physical therapy and rehab.

455 St. Michael’s Drive, 913-3361

3. Del Norte Credit Union

The workforce for this credit union is comprised of people who have the right personality for customer service. Find their helpful faces at one of three Santa Fe branches and in Los Alamos, White Rock, Española and Rio Rancho too.

3286 Cerrillos Road, (505) 988-3628; 510 N Guadalupe St., Ste. A/B, (505) 988-3628

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (Courtesy Office of The Governor/)

Best Public Servant

1. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

For the third year running, readers have named Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham the best in this category. Before she became governor, Lujan Grisham was county commissioner, state cabinet secretary and then US congresswoman, among other service jobs. She serves as the chair of the Democratic Governors Association for 2021 and is seeking re-election to the state’s top job next year.

2. US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

Sec. Deb Haaland made New Mexico and the nation proud when she became the first Native US cabinet head as President Joe Biden’s pick to run the Department of the Interior, a selection paved by her time representing the state’s 1st Congressional District and as state Democratic Party chair.

3. City Councilor Signe Lindell

She’s much more than her bowtie, so Santa Feans will recognize Councilor Signe Lindell both for her colorful approach to fashion and her serious approach to city government. She has represented north side residents in District 1 since 2014.

Best Senior Living

1. The Montecito Santa Fe

Chose among 122 independent living apartments, 26 assisted living apartment and 40 memory care studios on 15 acres in southeast Santa Fe. Onsite, residents find a spa and salon, Garbo’s Restaurant, the Starlight Lounge and a fitness center, plus a putting green and shuffle board court and all the senior living activities to keep you or your loved one entertained.

500 Rodeo Road, (505) 428-7777

2. El Castillo

Located in the heart of downtown Santa Fe and along the Santa Fe River, residents at El Castillo can hear the bells of the St. Francis Cathedral on the breeze. Four levels of care and a heated outdoor pool are just some of the good things going on.

250 E Alameda St., (505) 988-2877

3. Kingston Residence of Santa Fe

This Southside community is close to lots of amenities and the Santa Fe Place mall and offers independent living, assisted living, memory care and respite care.

2400 Legacy Court, (505) 501-7410

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