Where Santa Fe foodies eat on a casual night,
Aqua Santa (451 W. Alameda St., 505/982-6297, noon–2 p.m. and 5:30–9 p.m. Wed.–Fri., 5:30–9 p.m. Tues. and Sat., $18) feels like dining at a friend’s house—the open kitchen occupies more than a third of the small building, leaving space for just a handful of tables in the whitewashed room with a fireplace. Dinner, served on old-fashioned flower-print plates, capitalizes on punchy combinations, such as hot baby artichokes with cool, creamy burratta cheese, and entrées are limited to five or so very strong choices—quail stuffed with chorizo, for instance. There’s a solid wine list as well.
Elegant but not flashy, regulars’ favorite Ristra (548 Agua Fria St., 505/982-8608, 5:30–9:30 p.m. daily, $27) applies a French treatment to Southwestern cuisine: Squash blossoms are fried up like ethereal beignets, while duck is spiced with a hint of pasilla chile. It’s in a white-walled bungalow with tables in the front yard in warm weather; the pretty bar area is a good place to sample a special selection of appetizers, many with a Spanish influence.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition