New Mexico Chef’s Favorite Day Off Eateries

In New Mexico, we’re spoiled for choice with everything from a quick bite from a food truck to fancy white-tablecloth dining. But what about the hidden gems where we might find the best burritos, carne adovada, flakiest pastries, or the must-have dinner? We asked four New Mexico chefs where they go on their day off, when they’re not behind the stove–and what their favorite dishes are.

Start the Day Right

Pantry Rio 

Chef Dakota Weiss of Santa Fe’s Catch Poke, Capital Coal Neighborhood Eatery, and Albuquerque’s Notorious Poke at Sawmill Market says, “I am a sucker for breakfast at downtown Santa Fe’s Pantry Rio. I usually stick with a Smothered Burrito Christmas without eggs, but full of protein, potatoes, and tons of cheese.” 

Photo courtesy of Mille

Ramblin’ Café 

A 35-year resident of Santa Fe, Chef James Campbell Caruso of La Boca, Taberna, and La Boca Bodega says his secret breakfast spot is Ramblin’ Café, a family business tucked away in a tiny strip mall on Second Street. “The carne adovada and eggs is my go-to order. And their red chile is happening.”

Clafoutis and Mille 

Caruso also frequents Clafoutis and Mille, both French hot-spots with stellar pastry selections. He admits, “When I am at Clafoutis, I want to eat all the pastries, so I buy some and share with my staff. I also love their quiche. At Mille, I love the crepes—every type—and the Croque Madame. Mille also has sensational pastries that pair beautifully with their great coffee.

Vic’s Daily Cafe 

When Executive Chef Marc Quinones of Hotel Chaco’s Level 5 goes out for breakfast, it’s always Vic’s Daily Cafe. “Chef and owner Victor Pandazis is the real deal and everything on his menu is mouthwateringly delicious! My go to is El Vaquero—a huge portion of hand-battered chicken-fried steak smothered with red chile and cheese.” 

Photo courtesy of Clafoutis

Burque Bakehouse 

Albuquerque’s Chef Jennifer James of frenchish isn’t much on breakfast, “But If I’m up early on the weekend, I’ll go to Burque Bakehouse and get a coffee. Their Kouign Amann are caramelized crunchy goodness or a canelé is a practice in precision and a deep, dark complement to my coffee.”

Midday Munching

Duran’s and Oni 

James segued quickly toward lunch. “If I am out and about on a Monday or Tuesday and need a tasty lunch, I go to Duran’s downtown or Duran’s Station or Oni. At Duran’s, I always get the Carne Adovada Burrito. Smothered. No onions. Oni is also chef owned and -driven, and I order anything on the menu. The ramens and the tartare are not to be missed.”

High Noon Restaurant & Saloon and Mr. Powdrell’s Barbeque 

Chef Quinones goes to Mr. Powdrell’s Barbeque for a lunchable Beef Brisket & Cheese Sandwich. He added, “I’m also a huge fan of the Red Chile Beef Bites at High Noon Restaurant & Saloon in Old Town.”

Photo courtesy of Horno

The Dinner Bell


Santa Fe chefs Caruso and Weiss called out Horno as their top dinner haunt. Caruso said, “Horno is across the street from my restaurant, but also what I believe to be the best restaurant in town. There aren’t many chefs who care as much as Dave does.” With a nod, Weiss added, “It doesn’t matter what mood you are in and what you want to eat, you will be satisfied. The dumplings with the coconut broth, that is a definite yes! Any version of his hanger steak is also a definite yes, as are the pork belly skewers.” 

Mesa Provisons
Photo courtesy of Gabriella Marks for Mesa Provisions

Mesa Provisions 

On the rare occasion that a chef gets to escape dinner service and enjoy a luxurious dinner out, the chefs in each city were in agreement about where they head. In Albuquerque, Mesa Provisions tops the list, where Steve Riley holds court with his seasonal menu. James said, “I’ll order almost the whole menu because you can’t go wrong.” Quinones concurred and said, “Steve is my favorite chef right now. His Smoked Half Chicken hits the spot for me every time!” 

Neko Neko 

A perfect food day is never complete without dessert and Weiss recommends Neko Neko at the Sawmill Market. She said, “The ice cream cone is warm and crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. Their flavors are crazy exciting—from the pandan to the yuzu, but the watermelon is my favorite. You can add toppings like Fruity Pebbles, condensed milk, mochi. It’s fun and it’s not something you see anywhere else in New Mexico.” 

Neko Neko
Photo courtesy of Neko Neko

Our Chef Experts

James Campbell Caruso
La Boca, Taberna, La Boca Bodega

Jennifer James

Marc Quinones
Hotel Chaco’s Level 5

Dakota Weiss
Capital Coal Neighborhood Eatery, Catch Santa Fe Poke, and Notorious P.O.K.E.

Story by Heather Hunter

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