Santa Fe certainly doesn’t lack for ambience. There’s a secluded patio, a crackling fireplace, a rustic, 18th-century adobe, or a sunset view in almost every corner of this city. But there are a few intangibles that elevate a place from being simply beautiful to being romantic. In many cases, the difference is subjective; one person’s notion of romance is another person’s nightmare. But there are a few restaurants in town that consistently provide a sense of intimacy for couples, whether they’re on a first date or celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. What sets these places apart are the details—like the way a table can seem private even in the midst of a crowded dining room, or the just-right lighting, or the warmth from an experienced server who’s adept at recognizing special occasions. Then there’s the quality of the food and the depth and breadth of the wine list. The restaurant on this list have all these elements, in abundance.
La Casa Sena
In the height of summer this restaurant’s outdoor patio, with its twinkling lights and towering trees, feels like the location for a blockbuster Hollywood romance film. La Casa Sena’s wine cellar has more than 15,000 bottles from around the world, including a 2002 bottle of René Geoffroy Extra Brut-Millésime, which will properly commemorate any special occasion.
This restaurant’s high-backed leather chairs, white linen tablecloths, and crackling fire add extra elegance and import to anniversaries and other celebratory events. Show up at least an hour before your reservation to sip a Hatch green chile-infused Silver Tequila margarita, then order the peppery elk tenderloin—a staple on the menu for many years.
One of the best weddings I’ve been to in Santa Fe was held on this property’s Garden Patio, an intimate space filled with a multitude of flowers with an Italian marble fountain as the centerpiece. It’s the perfect oasis for escaping the high, dry desert and celebrating a special occasion. Chef-owner Mark Kiffin has perfected his summer menu, from the first course of San Danielle prosciutto and green-strawberry salad to the main course of roasted rack of lamb.
Tight, cozy, informal, and always bustling, Café Pasquals is the kind of place where you’ll want to take a first date, especially if you think you’ll want to follow it up with a second. A fusion of New Mexico, Old Mexico, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisine fills the menu, and the ingredients used are always fresh and as local as possible. For dinner, the Plato Supremo combines an Anaheim chile relleno with an organic chicken mole enchilada.
With a breezy courtyard patio and four interior dining rooms with fireplaces and low-slung ceilings, this 19th-century adobe is an ideal spot in both the height of summer and the dark of winter. For romance, though it’s best to avoid the power lunch crowd and opt for a dinner reservation. Preface your entrée with the crispy calamari with four-chile lime dipping sauce.