If you relish the idea of scoring a great deal, here are five Santa Fe restaurants that consistently offer excellent value for money.
505 Cerrillos Road, Suite B-101, Santa Fe
Talin Market is a grocery store that specializes in international products. To the right of the entrance, behind a bright orange bar, a chef produces noodle bowls at fast food speeds, and prices are only marginally higher. Bowls of curly ramen (rather than whole wheat ramen or rice noodles) start at $4.95. Much like create-your-own pizzas, you can choose your broth, then add as many or as few ingredients as you desire for between $0.75-$2.00 each. The selection includes bok choy, duck eggs, fish cakes, various types of mushrooms, and even meatballs! The steaming noodles bowls are both warming and hearty, and offer a good bang for your buck.
Tip: The store’s website is fairly confusing, and it’s easy to mistake the TBar’s hours for those of the store. Before going, call to check the hours and menu — the latter varies slightly according to the day of the week.
631 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe
Craving a burger? Skip the drive-thru and head for Shake Foundation, where you can score hormone- and antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef for reasonable prices. Burgers, be they beef or turkey, are on the thin side and you do have to order fries separately, but a classic burger starts at only $3.95. Even a fried oyster sandwich clocks in at less than $6! Shake Foundation serves up juicy meat on mildly sweet buns, with customizable toppings. Be warned: the shoestring fries are as crunchy as they are addictive.
Tip: Shake Foundation quickly established a cult following after it opened in 2014. At lunch, parking jobs become increasingly creative as herds of devoted locals squeeze into the undersized lot. The restaurant is open until 7p.m. most days (8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 6 p.m. on Sundays). To avoid the worst crowds, consider going for dinner rather than lunch.
3530 Zafarano Drive C-3, Santa Fe
It’s unusual to find a hot dog joint that is as appealing to vegetarians as it is to carnivores, but Wow Dawgs is the exception. You can substitute veggie dogs into most of the dishes and the “sausage” manages to be flavorful and smoky without tasting like a salt bomb. Its proportions are actually more generous than those of the regular hot dogs (big eaters should order two of the latter or else an accompanying side dish). There is a wide selection of buns, including wheat rolls, pretzel rolls, and ciabatta. The traditional dog costs $3.50 while the baked bean dog, which has a slightly sweet, maple flavor, sells for $4.25. On each visit, the number of available offerings seem to expand; Frito Pie Dawgs were recently added to the menu. As a side note, the restaurant has a particular fondness for fried desserts, such as Oreos, Twinkies, and cheesecake.
2621 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe
Baja Tacos has been running a “four tacos for $5” deal for years. This bargain applies to both the shredded chicken and the ground beef tacos, and yes, it’s fine to order some of each. In contrast to most restaurants in Santa Fe which serve up soft tacos, Baja’s are hard shell. The beef is well-seasoned, while the chicken maintains its moisture thanks to a tangy marinade. You have control over heat levels because the kick comes from a salsa that is included in separate containers. This is mostly a to-go place, although limited outdoor seating is available.
418 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe (near the Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14).
Visit Cleopatra Café with someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing food. The restaurant’s “plates” (think platters) are huge and you get the best value by splitting one. The Cleopatra plate comes with lamb gyro meat and chicken sheesh tewook that are doused in thin, paprika-seasoned yogurt. The meal also includes rice, a Greek side salad, and fluffy pita triangles to dip in baba ghanauge or hummus. Prices may be low, but quality remains high.