Chef Joseph Wrede, of Joseph’s Table (108-A S. Plaza, 575/751-4512, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. daily, $32) in the La Fonda hotel on the plaza, runs the most lauded—and probably the most beautiful—restaurant in Taos . The moodily lit room glitters with gilt butterflies and pussy-willow chandeliers, the better to appreciate decadent treats such as trout with trout roe, pork liver from local pigs, and duck breast with French lentils. If you’re feeling romantic, reserve one of the curtain-enclosed booths. You can also enjoy a smaller menu of more casual items (such as duck-fat french fries) at the bar, or the diverse Sunday brunch. Wrede relies on the freshest ingredients from local farms, and he does a solid vegetarian special every night.
A worthwhile drive is to the Stakeout Grill & Bar (nine miles south of Taos on Hwy. 68, 575/758-2042, 5–9:30 p.m. daily, $29) for the view across the valley at sunset—the restaurant is halfway up the mountainside south of town. Unlike at many restaurants where the view is paramount, the food holds its own. Hearty steaks and rich seafood such as oysters Rockefeller are augmented with a few token vegetarian options such as ravioli with porcini mushrooms (Chef Mauro hails from Italy); there’s homemade gelato for dessert, and a tasty bourbon pecan pie. A roaring fireplace adds to the ambience in the winter. Coming from town, turn left at the sign just over four miles south of the last stoplight in Ranchos de Taos.
Open since 1988, Lambert’s (309 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, 575/758-1009, 5:30–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat., $27) is a Taos favorite, where everyone goes for prom, anniversaries, and other landmark events. Its New American menu is a bit staid, but everything is executed perfectly—trend-following foodies can’t quibble that the chile-dusted rock shrimp with house-made cocktail sauce doesn’t taste good. Get the caribou if you can; otherwise, the signature pepper-crusted lamb is fantastic. A full liquor license means good classic cocktails, which you can also enjoy in the snug, clubby couch-filled lounge.
Byzantium (La Placita and Ledoux St., 575/751-0805, 5–10 p.m. Thurs.–Mon., $30) is set in a groovy room with only a few tables and a mix of Taos fixtures and ultracool modern touches—mirror tiles trim a traditional spiral pine pillar, for instance. The menu puts inventive twists on familiar dishes: Standards such as Caesar salad are presented with flair, duck gets a dressy Asian plum sauce, and Toblerone inspires an amazing dessert. Great service directly from the owner and an interesting wine list round out this offbeat dining experience. It’s pricey, but portions are more than generous.