La Choza, Santa Fe
A further-flung sister restaurant to the pricier, more touristy Shed cantina, La Choza inspires cultish devotion among many Santa Feans. The reasons include heaping platters of shredded-pork and red-chile tamales, ground-beef-stuffed sopaipillas, blue-corn chicken burritos, and soul-satisfying green chile—all packing plenty of fire and flavor. Though the restaurant’s been housed in the same ancient adobe ranch building (near the city’s railroad tracks) since 1944, it's still a secret to many visitors who mistakenly endure long lines at lesser competitors. Alas, La Choza is licensed—for now—to serve only beer and wine (and there's a reason wine-based margaritas have never quite caught on).
Tip: Don’t be afraid of the weirdest-sounding dish on the menu—green-chile clam chowder. It’s utterly delicious.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.