Santa Fe, NM, is definitely a town on the radar of foodies everywhere for fine dining and unique regional cuisine. But sometimes, a street snack is just what the tummy ordered. Given the significantly smaller size of the City Different, it hasn’t graduated to the status of another state capitol, Austin, TX with its impressive food cart scene, but you can definitely get a good feed on the fly.
The grand-daddy of them all – and we know for a fact that he is indeed a well-loved abuelo – has to be Roque’s Carnitas, grilling on the Santa Fe Plaza for over twenty years. Roque Garcia and partner Mona Cavalli continue to cater to locals and visitors alike with beef and chicken carnitas packed with grilled onions, peppers and spicy secret sauce. You can get tasty tamales, pork or vegetarian green chile, and a refreshing homemade “Jamaica,” a Mexican sweet iced tea, which Roque brews himself with hibiscus flowers. A recent visit found me enjoying fresh grilled corn on the cob, one of the summery joys of street eats. Roque’s Carnitas parks on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and East San Francisco Street, Wednesday through Monday.
A short hop to the opposite end of the Plaza, on West Santa Francisco Street and Lincoln Avenue, you’ll find the competing grill of El Molero Fajitas, similar to the carnitas, but sluiced with sour cream, guacamole, lettuce and salsa instead of onions and peppers. Tamales are available here, too, along with fresh lemonade. While Mona and Roque head south to their Mexican home to feed the ex-pats over the winter, the El Molero grill crew reliably toughs it out on the Plaza most of the year.
French food sound good? It did to me, and I could have eaten that delicious buckwheat crepe even without the juicy filling. Le Pod, another rehabilitated Airstream, is parked in the parking lot at the southwest corner of Paseo de Peralta and the Old Santa Fe Trail. A selection of hot andwiches, filled crepes, frog dogs (hot dogs with a French twist), and a daily soup selection ensure a variety of choices. And the natural Rieme sodas from France are a refreshing change of pace in a Coca-Cola society.
If you find yourself out of the Plaza area looking for a quick feed, head for the Nile Cafe cart @NileCafe on Rachel’s Corner at the northeast intersection of West Alameda and St. Francis Drive. I had hoped to try the waffle fries with chipotle hummus that I have heard so much about, but alas, out of waffler fries! I settled instead on a classic gyro and was duly satisfied. Juicy and thick with plenty pf sauce, this was a lunch. Gigi mentioned that she is opening up an Egyptian breakfast and lunch cafe in the spot on the Old Santa Fe Trail where the Dish and Spoon was located, and that is something worth anticipating! News is sure to follow on their Facebook page.
And if you simply want dessert and a seat on the Plaza, let your nose lead you to the sweet smell emanating from the Kernel’s Kettle Korn Kart…just be sure all your dental work is current.