by Meredith Kay
New Mexico is known as “The Land of Enchantment”. From the Rio Grande in the south, to the Rocky Mountains in the north, New Mexico offers one of the most diverse landscapes in the country. There are many different cultural influences shaping the state of New Mexico. You will find the flavors of Mexico, ingredients used by the many Native American Indian tribes that inhabited the state, as well as traditional Western foods and flavors. With the many diverse culinary influences, New Mexico can claim its own unique cuisine, that is unlike any other found in the world.
I recently had the incredible pleasure to spend a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and although my mouth was on fire at nearly every meal, I can honestly say that I absolutely fell in love with the food of New Mexico. At the core of New Mexico cooking is the Hatch green chile. Much hotter than the jalapeño pepper, Hatch green chiles have an intense flavor, and they can be found on every menu, throughout the state. I’ve found myself craving that iconic New Mexican food since my trip, and now I am ecstatic to report that San Antonio has its very own, truly authentic New Mexican restaurant just off Highway 281. Santa Fe Trail restaurant opened a few months ago, and the owners have created a place that embodies the culture of our neighbor to the west, while absolutely nailing the flavors of the state.
A family owned restaurant, Jesus Mendez and Claudia Marquez blend their Mexican and New Mexican heritages beautifully at Santa Fe Trail. The menu blurs the lines between Mexican and American dishes, while adding that quintessential flavor that is uniquely New Mexican. Here in Texas, we are accustomed to our enchiladas rolled up, while in New Mexico, enchiladas are often served flat and stacked. One of my favorite Santa Fe Trail dishes is the Mesa Verde Enchiladas. The stack of corn tortillas hides freshly roasted chicken and melted cheese, and they are topped with lettuce and tomatoes, and smothered with a creamy green chile sauce. The plate is served with a side of homemade whole beans and New Mexico rice, or potatoes. You can also order the enchiladas with the spicier red chile sauce, or their signature Hatch green chile sauce, but I’ve found that the cream in the Mesa Verde sauce takes the edge off just enough for me to tolerate it, and it is delicious.
If you are inclined to stick with the All-American fare, then expect your burgers and your ribs to come with a New Mexican attitude. The Plaza Burger comes with grilled onions, bacon and red chile BBQ sauce, and The Kokopelli Ribs are marinated overnight in red chiles, and served with a Piloncillo Crema Slaw. Also, not to be missed, is their New Mexico inspired Navajo Taco. Served open faced on a generous slab of Indian Fry Bread, it is loaded with spiced ground beef, whole beans, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and your choice of red or green chile sauce. When I first ordered this dish, I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle it, but the helpful waiter instructed that the best way to eat a Navajo Taco is to cut it into slices, like a pizza, and to lift each section with your fork. It was great advice, and although there was no way that I could finish it, I have ordered it several times on subsequent visits.
Santa Fe Trail also has a large bar area, serving some of the best sangria in town, along with other creative cocktails, beer and wine. They have an impressive Happy Hour too, and you can also take over one half of the restaurant for a private event or meeting.
The service is very attentive, and the servers are always incredibly friendly and helpful with explanations of the food. Breakfast is served every day until 11:00, and you’ll find everything from your favorite Texas breakfast tacos, to the standard New Mexico breakfast burrito, as well as their delicious Huevos Rancheros. Luckily, they serve the Huevos Rancheros all day long, in case you miss breakfast, and you just have to have some for lunch. One of the most inspiring breakfast dishes is their take on New Mexican Eggs Benedict, which is served on a sopapilla square with green chile sausage, and red chile Hollandaise.
In a town where you can’t turn around without hitting a Tex-Mex restaurant, Santa Fe Trail New Mexican Cuisine is a welcome addition to the culinary scene here in San Antonio. It’s refreshing to have something so authentic and unique. Everything is made fresh, and the restaurant even roasts their own Hatch green chiles in a traditional chile tumbler, over open flames. This gives the peppers an even, slow-roasted flavor and texture. Santa Fe Trail is the real deal, and until I can get myself, and my foodie heart, back to Santa Fe, I will frequent this enchanting restaurant as often as I can talk my friends into going with me.
Santa Fe Trail
16080 San Pedro
between Brookhollow & Thousand Oaks