Hot enough for you? Exactly.
That’s one reason why so many Texans summer in Santa Fe — 7,000-foot altitude, and high desert on top of that, means cooler, drier days and nights so chilly you’ll need to put on your sweatshirt when you wake up in the morning.
It’s a pretty easy nine-hour drive from the Fort, and done in one day, if, like me, you wake up super early and hit the road with a Thermos of coffee, your phone loaded with music and your sights set on the Golden Light Cafe in Amarillo for lunch (for the best green-chile cheeseburgers probably anywhere).
Fill up the tank and off you go, past Cadillac Ranch and across the nearby state line, where the landscape and skies open up, the air becomes arid (pro tip: Pack moisturizing eye drops), and, before you know it, you’re at Clines Corners, then turning off to the two-lane highway to the north, with Santa Fe just down the road.
I was back for the first time in two years last month, and as much as Santa Fe is the same, there’s a whole bunch of new places to eat and shop and visit.
I will always make the seven-mile drive north of town for chicken and guacamole tacos at El Parasol for lunch after I’ve hiked the Rio en Medio Trail, and in the evenings, the Tesuque Village Market for pizzas as thin and delicious as the ones I’ve eaten in Rome. I also will stop into Double Take on Guadalupe for vintage boots.
Now I have even more places to explore.
Santa Fe Vintage Outpost
This new boutique just off the Plaza and a few doors down from landmark New Mexican restaurant The Shed is filled with all sorts of great old things. Like a perfect pair of faded vintage 501s, thunderbird necklaces and beaded coin purses, vintage Pendleton blankets and well-worn roughout boots.
Julienne Barth and her retail partner have been picking out vintage finds at flea markets and thrift stores for designer Ralph Lauren for years.
If that’s not enough, there’s also Barth’s gorgeous handmade jewelry. Turquoise is the star of the show, but the stones are from some of the oldest mines around, hand-polished and threaded with hand-forged silver loops that hang on chains she makes herself.
The only problem: Her pieces are popular with those in the know (a couple of movies were in production on my recent visit, and the crew had bought most of her stock), so she doesn’t always have a large selection, but she will custom-make pieces upon request. 202 E. Palace Ave., www.santafevintage.com.
Since Erin Wade opened her all-salad restaurant, Vinaigrette, eight years ago, Santa Feans (and visitors) have been eating more greens. Now she has opened a concept store next door and the parking situation just got that much worse.
Our advice? Go early to Modern General, grab a coffee made with beans roasted at Cuvée Coffee in Austin (where she’s just opened a third Vinaigrette) and order one of the spicy ginger cookies, chewy and fiery-hot.
The part-cafe, part-retail store feels more New York than New Mexico. Wade’s Brooklyn-based sister helped pick and style the merch, which ranges from Dutch DeWit garden tools to Coltellerie Berti handmade Italian knives. There are books on cooking scattered throughout, along with Lodge cast-iron skillets and handmade clay fruit bowls.
The vibe, although slightly precious, is most definitely modern, something not easily found in this old town. 637 Cerrillos Road, 505-930-5462, http://moderngeneralnm.com.
With linen throw pillows embroidered with feathers, Santa Rosa church candles from Mexico, charcoal drawings by local artist Jennifer Wynne, plus the best greeting card selection in town, Array has finally stretched out and expanded its carefully chosen collection of home goods and accessories in its new location (the old Casa Sena space).
I found a sweet teak scoop for salt, along with a package of elegant, cream-hued gift cards from Italy and handmade notes, each one different and painted with hearts.
Array is the sort of place you wander into not knowing that you needed anything, but leave with something that you realize you were missing. 322 S. Guadalupe St., 505-699-2760, arrayhome.com.
Sweet Lily Bakery
Two doors down from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is a new family-run bakery that makes all sorts of goodies, from wedding cakes to cookies as big as salad plates (that I thought I could never finish — until I did). There are tables and lots of comfy chairs, as well as Wi-Fi, because owner Melanie McPherson says she wants it to feel like you’re walking into her home.
It does — book clubs and Bible study groups meet here, as do smaller groups of two or three. Mornings mean sellouts of green chile-cheese scones as the foundation for breakfast sandwiches.
At lunch, fancified potpies made with puff pastry and filled with beef Burgundy, chicken and mushroom, and tomato and goat cheese are the clear winners. 229A Johnson St., 505-982-0455, sweetlilybakerysf.com.
In what may be the sweetest new addition to the downtown area, here you’ll find all sorts of honey-related products, from raw local honey to honey hand balm and tea light-sized, beehive-shaped candles made of beeswax.
There are geometric-shaped candles, made by a local sculptor who swapped out steel for beeswax, and handpainted tiles by a local artist/tile maker of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, which has nothing to do with bees but everything to do with the ethos of this place — keep it local and authentic, and let it be a place that locals love to shop and that tourists would like as well. 101 W. Marcy St., 505-780-5084, www.facebook.com/thehivemarketsantafe.
Chef John Sedlar went to Los Angeles and returned to his hometown to open the anchor restaurant for the new Drury hotel downtown, and it provides an interesting if odd contrast to the budget sleep inn.
Tucked away in one corner of the first floor, the restaurant’s aesthetic is industrial-chic, with whitewashed walls, an exposed ceiling and an open kitchen that takes up nearly half the space. Ask people what they think of Eloisa and they’re likely to say how much they love the interior — it’s as different from the clichéd, overdone Southwestern look as you can get.
The food here is also unlike anything else in the city. For lunch, I tried pastrami tacos in blue corn tortillas; an Asian-twisted Frito pie, served with chopsticks sticking out of the sack; handmade corn tortillas with flowers embedded in them; and a flat enchilada stuffed with a layer of duck confit.
Santa Fe contemporary? Maybe. Like all things new, Eloisa (pronounced El-LOIS-uh) feels like it’s trying to find its groove. 228 E. Palace Ave., 505-982-0883, eloisasantafe.com.
The Owings Gallery on Palace
If you want to buy a work by Tony Abeyta, Santa Fe’s best-loved Navajo contemporary painter, then you’ll need to swing by The Owings Gallery, or its new storefront on Palace.
Since 1985, Nathaniel Owings has specialized in 19th- and 20th-century American art, and his gallery is where you’d go if, say, you wanted a Georgia O’Keeffe. Or a Gustave Baumann. Or any of the Taos Ten. He has prints, drawings, paintings and a few pieces of art furniture — around 2,000 pieces at any one time.
The Palace Avenue location is a bite-size version of the big one, and right off the Plaza. 100 E. Palace Ave., 505-982-6244, owingsgallery.com.
The biggest buzz on the Santa Fe art scene is also the weirdest: People either love Meow Wolf or hate it.
When I visited the current, wildly successful first show, “House of Eternal Return,” on a recent Friday evening, there was nary a parking spot to be had. Undaunted, I found a place down the street and walked the short distance to the entrance, past the Louise Bourgeois-like spider and the giant steel sculpture of a wolf.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, since no one who’d been could describe the experience to me. “Just go,” everyone said. So I did. “Meow Wolf creates immersive, multimedia experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of storytelling … a combination of jungle gym, haunted house, children’s museum, and immersive art exhibit,” says the brochure, which is pretty spot-on.
When you enter the exhibit, a mailbox with a postcard instructs you to look for clues in all 70 rooms, plus secret passages to even more rooms in the refrigerator and the fireplace. I didn’t understand what the clues were for, other than a vague futuristic something that supposedly happened in the house, which made as little sense to me then as it does now. I overheard a guy say that he’d been wandering around the space for three hours, and from his excitement, he was in no hurry to leave. He’d found a major clue, he told me. He was about 25.
There were many families with small children in tow, so many, in fact, that I couldn’t make it up the stairs past them to see whatever clues might await. If you suffer from claustrophobia, this is not for you. I left in less than an hour, completely clueless. 1352 Rufina Circle, 505-780-4458, meowwolf.com.
The Santa Fe Margarita Trail
An official Margarita Trail was launched this year, along with an accompanying “passport” that you can tote to various bars and restaurants and present to the bartender for a stamp to prove that you were there, in case you forget later.
Three bucks apiece at Tourism Santa Fe Visitor Center (201 W. Marcy St.). Five stamps get you a T-shirt. There are 31 places in all, but you’re limited to just two per day.
Whatever you do, don’t miss a stop at the new tequila bar at Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, which boasts more than 70 types of tequila, including the one that George Clooney makes. http://santafe.org.
Santa Fe’s best-loved bakery and pastry shop is now also a cafe, with double the space for seating, and an oversized farm table in the middle of it all with fresh flowers stretching to the ceiling.
Until now, the few tables and chairs in the front of the retail space weren’t of the sort that encouraged chatter and lost hours. In today’s version, it’s possible to sit, have a scrambled egg tartine (a bestseller), then move on to an apple tart for dessert.
For me, it’s like walking into my favorite boulangerie in Paris, with crisp, buttery croissants (though far grander than the ones in Paris), pain au chocolat, and bread of all shapes and sizes — pane paisano, sourdough, pecan-raisin and Kalamata olive (my favorite for crouton-making). 535 Cerrillos Road, sagebakehouse.com.
Other new & notables
- Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi turns 25 this year, and to celebrate, the hotel has undergone a major face-lift, with a chic neutral palette throughout that emphasizes texture and calm with pops of color and interest via subtle pieces of locally sourced art. There’s a new chef, Edgar Beas, and a new menu in the restaurant that emphasizes fish, fresh products and simplicity on the plate. 113 Washington Ave., 505-988-3030, rosewoodhotels.com/anasazi.
- Verde juice bar offers a menu of eight cold-pressed juices each day, in sleek, easy-to-gulp-down glass bottles that are naturally recyclable. 105 E. Marcy St., verdefood.com.
- Local, farm-to-table cuisine is the mantra at Radish and Rye, a new restaurant that calls itself contemporary American. 548 Agua Fria St., 505-930-5325, radishandrye.com.
- What’s “artisanal American dim sum”? State Capital Kitchen will show you with food carts that roll by with whatever the kitchen fancies at that moment. 500 Sandoval St., 505-467-8237, statecapitalkitchen.com.