The first thing you must realize is that New Mexican food is not Mexican food, nor is it Tex-Mex (bleh: worst food ever), but is really it’s own form. In addition, Santa Fe has a ton of good food (for a town so small) which is not New Mexican. The second thing you must understand is that New Mexico has a state question! You will be asked this question at dinner. The question is “Red or Green?” an refers to what type of chile you would like. Green is sometimes hotter than red, but definitely not always. Also you answer “Christmas” which means both, but you might get a strange look. You can probably ask for them to cut back or put the chile on the side, but come one, your taste buds only live once!
For a good list of local Santa Fe restaurants, you can check out this list of Cris Moore’s, (though I’m not sure how up to date it is.) Note that Santa Fe does have some quite upscale places, and, to avoid faux pas, you might check to make sure you’re not going to a fancy pancy place in your normal scientists uniform.
I have my own set of food cravings which I will be attempting to fill at QIP:
Breakfast This is a gross and awesome one: Bagelmania has a version of Eggs Benedict served on top of hash browns instead of an English muffin with a hot chile sauce (and maybe melted cheese as well.) OMG your arteries harden, you sweat from the heat of the chiles, and you can’t move for hours afterwards. So if you see me at a morning talk looking like I’m about to fall asleep, you’ll know why!
Lunch A place not on the list above, but which some love is “The Shed.” Note that it gets pretty busy at lunch time, and also that if you’re tall you’ll need to duck to make sure not to hit your head.
Dinner Cris gives a pretty complete list. If you’re a foodie, check out the high end, though you might want to consider reservations…soon.
Bars: I’m sure you can judge a person by the bars he or she likes, so here are my recollections. El Farol has a problem named after itself in game theory (http://www.santafe.edu/~wbarthur/Papers/El_Farol.html) and I liked it for the sangria and the live music and decent tapas. The Cowgirl Hall of Fame tended to have a younger crowd, which is nice. Pretty cheap food, if I recall as well. I think they have a couple pool tables. El Paseo is a great bar also which attracts a younger crowd. Good music on weekends and some weekdays (though I would not recommend, on open mic night, when the singers says “anyone like Creed?” you shout out “Creed Sucks!” I mean, yes, Creed does suck, but yelling it out is kind of embarrassing.) I’ve heard that the Dragon Room is not what it used to be. This used to be a good place to get lucky and see a celebrity, I think. Me, I once saw a frozen two headed calf in the parking lot behind the Dragon Room. Seriously.
Take a stroll along Canyon road. Santa Fe is the second largest art market in the United States (or so they claim.) Look at the prices on the works of art, and realize that you should have been an artist and not a quantum computing theorist.
Cool Stuff, in and around Santa Fe
If you have a car, take a trip to Los Alamos and don’t miss The Black Hole (locals: is this still around?)
The Loretto Chapel Staircase is funky.
Ten Thousand Waves Spa, in the hills above town. Note the communal bath is clothing optional before eight pm.
Science Toy Magic. Yeah, this will satisfy your inner child and inner scientist at the same time.
The Palace of the Governors gives a good history lesson and claims to be the oldest continuously-occupied building in America.