The competition in this category is so fierce that I can’t bear to rank these restaurants. I also use the term “tapa” loosely because one of my picks below is a Japanese pub that serves its food on small plates, but has no chorizo or Mediterranean-inspired items on its menu. In the more traditional tapas (and pinxtos) category, all four are tied for first place in my mind. It all depends on my mood. If it’s music I’m after, I love to listen to Joaquin Gallegos’ Spanish Flamenco guitar at El Meson. If I’m looking for an intimate, romantic, European aesthetic, I make a reservation at La Boca. For an only-in-Santa Fe experience with out of town guests (which once ended when the fire department came in to close down the bar), I head to El Farol. And for a night out with local friends I prefer the relaxed atmosphere and Basque-inspired pinxtos at Taberna.
Stop in for half-price tapas every day from three to five and order everything on the menu, which includes Pincho de Puerco and a fried egg with chorizo rioja and potatoes. Depend on your waiter to pick an accompanying Spanish sherry. On Monday night, stay for dinner and Flamenco guitarist Chuscales, who starts playing at 6 p.m.
This Canyon Road institution is at its best at the height of summer when you can grab a small table outside and watch half the city walk by. El Farol makes ordering tapas easy by offering any three for $25, any six for $50, and any 12 for $100. Go heavy on the cheese selections, which include manchego, queso de cabra, idiazabel, and cabrales.
This recently opened Japanese restaurant with beautiful New Mexican woodwork a few steps from Ten Thousand Waves spa, prides itself on being a true izakaya, a Japanese gastro pub, that features seasonally appropriate, locally sourced meat and produce. Don’t ask about sushi. Santa Fe is a high-alpine desert. But do ask for sake—there are more than 50 from which to choose. I prefer the rich flavor of soma no tengu or “forest spirit.”
The sister restaurant of La Boca, Taberna has a cozy, friendly, local’s vibe and serves pinxtos, which are the Basque version of tapas. I always order the calamares a la plantxa, the Taberna truffle fries, and alcachofas—grilled Serrano ham wrapped with artichoke hearts, basil pesto, and goat cheese.
Spanish chef David Huerta learned most of his recipes from his grandmother. Combine his Andalusian-style tapas with the new bar, where live music, including tango dancing and Joaquin Gallegos’ flamenco guitar, plays five nights a week, and El Meson feels more like a visit to Spain than Santa Fe.