In Santa Fe there are many fine restaurants with lovely outdoor patios. Each of the ones listed below has something special to offer, and each is a delight in its own way. What could be better? Bring together those you love. A culinary experience to cherish forever could be right around the corner.
Everything about the Compound, starting with it’s shady tree-lined driveway, says this establishment is all about understated elegance. The ambiance soothes; table settings are works of art in their own right, with linens, flatware and glassware arranged just so. The arden patio is a secluded courtyard featuring sculpture by Allan Houser and a central classical fountain. The bar-side patio is a casual setting with comfy sofas, a great place to have drinks with friends, while the main patio, suitable for larger groups, opens to views of the beautifully kept grounds.
Cool margaritas and hot barbecue are the main events on the Cowgirl’s patio—and it’s a popular one, with the evening crowd of revelers often spilling onto the sidewalk. Tucked into a courtyard between the restaurant and busy Guadalupe Street, the patio boasts funky décor, red check tablecloths and a kaleidoscope of colorful umbrellas. Friendly Cowgirl waitstaff are decked out in Western attire with a twist of naughty. No cowgirl goes a-ropin’ doggies in short shorts like these, but, mind you, this ol’ boy ain’t complainin’… Now, where was I? This is a perfect spot to kick back, real casual-like, and have some fun. And take in the scenery.
Situated between the Inn at Loretto and the Loretto Chapel—and elevated a bit from the Old Santa Fe Trail—is the patio at Luminaria. Elegant drapery swagged around the perimeter and a wood plank floor add an exotic tent-like feel to the spacious ramada. If T.E. Lawrence were to saunter in, he’d no doubt be right at home here. This is a place for romance; this is a place to be swept off one’s feet—or do to the sweeping! Tables around the patio’s edge provide views of the chapel and surrounding gardens, and all are set to carefully blend the formal with the casual. A large kiva fireplace situated near the inn is there for some extra coziness if the air takes a chill.
Fuego’s patio forms the center point of La Posada’s six-acre property, with the dining room and bar on two sides, the spa on the third and lovely, manicured grounds opening up toward guest casitas on the fourth. Brightly upholstered lawn chairs and rows of brilliant red umbrellas contrast with lush greenery and create a festive atmosphere. And at La Posada, the staff have polish; this kind of service is always a pleasure.
Midtown Bistro is a newcomer to the Santa Fe restaurant scene, and thanks to an ancient Russian olive tree, its patio is shady and cool—a welcome respite from summer heat. The tree’s three sensuously curving trunks define the space, while dappled sunlight dances through the canopy above.
A collection of lava rock fountains add sound and movement to this oasis. This is a place to relax, cool off and enjoy a meal.
Set on the side of Milner Plaza, the Museum Hill Cafe’s patio is breezy and open, and from its hilltop perch, expansive views toward the Jemez Mountains and Mount Atalaya are unbeatable. Museumgoing can be demanding on one’s mind and feet. Taking a break here for lunch or a cool drink is just the ticket if you need to relax and reflect upon a longer view. A ramada protects the entire patio from the sun but still affords views of the sky.
Rio Chama has two patios, both with a casual steakhouse atmosphere. The courtyard is an intimate space (without being cramped), tucked in between old and new buildings with lots of adobe charm. The larger main patio, toward the back, features its own bar, a fireplace for cool evenings and tables under umbrellas––all under a lovely Santa Fe–style portal.
Santacafé has been making the culinary scene for thirty years, and its patio is both elegant and quaintly charming. A wrought-iron gate opens into a central Territorial-style courtyard, architectural details abound, and giant cottonwoods provide welcome shade. Clumps of hollyhocks pop up between tables. The light pink blossoms are a delight, floating and fluttering in the breeze. I am reminded of the block prints of Gustave Baumann; these flowers represent quintessential summertime in Northern New Mexico.
Santa Fe’s plaza is central to the life of the town; perhaps it is no longer the physical center, but certainly it is the hub of social and cultural goingson. There’s no better place for people watching, and there’s only one full-service restaurant overlooking the plaza, and Thunderbird is it. The tone is set with chic, contemporary furnishings that provide an intriguing contrast to the building’s Territorial architecture. This is a great place to hang out with friends and listen to the evening’s performance on the bandstand. Go here to see and be seen.
The patio at Vinaigrette is a cool and intimate little nook tucked behind the restaurant and furnished with an eclectic garden mix of classic teak and brightly painted pressed steel tables and chairs. It is at once charmingly sentimental and hip. Salads are the specialty of the house here, and, fittingly, the groundskeeper at Vinaigrette has a green thumb. To spend some time here is to enjoy a well-loved and happy garden.
Story by Gordon Bunker