A small, brightly painted place on the north side of town, the family-run Orlando’s (1114 Don Juan Valdez La., 575/751-1450, 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–9 p.m. daily, $10) is invariably the first restaurant named by anyone, local or visitor, when the question of best chile comes up. That said, there have been occasional whisperings about inconsistency (the sort of talk that borders on heresy!), but Orlando’s still generally serves very satisfying, freshly made New Mexican standards, such as green-chile chicken enchiladas. The posole is quite good too—perfectly firm, earthy, and flecked with oregano. It’s always busy, but a fire pit outdoors makes the wait more pleasant. Cash only.
A drive-through never offered something so good: Mante’s Chow Cart (402 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, 575/758-3632, 7 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Thurs. and Sat., 7 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri., $4) specializes in breakfast burritos and genius inventions such as the Susie: a whole chile relleno wrapped in a flour tortilla with salsa and guacamole. Perfect road food.
If Orlando’s strikes you as a bit too fancy, El Taoseño (819 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, 575/758-4142, 6 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 6:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri. and Sat., 6:30 a.m.–2 p.m. Sun., $6.50) is a simple diner with everything from chiles rellenos to steak and eggs, all distinctly ungussied up; fittingly, it’s a favorite with Taos's old, old guard (the neighboring wood-floor lounge hosts a “senior dance” on Sunday afternoons).
It looks temporary, but the truck that houses Mary Jane’s (616 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, 575/770-1171, $5) has been sitting in the parking lot for years. One of the off-menu specialties is chicharrones (fried pork skins) with “everything” (guacamole, salsa, etc.)—imagine a superdeadly version of nachos.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition