Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Santa Fe Café - Seattle

I don’t know why I was expecting to see something more along the lines of a typical Mexican restaurant, but I have to say that I was “enchanted” with the unique and authentic New Mexican preparations that the Santa Fe Café offers. Friend Sherryl, a native to New Mexico, would be proud.

There are seven appetizers to choose from. This does not include chips and salsa, which isn’t complimentary. I love cheese dip, so choosing the Chili con Queso was an easy choice for me. Chili con Queso is a traditional New Mexican-style warm cheese dip spiced with green chilies, tomato, and green onion. It was served with red salsa, and we were warned of its spiciness. While it was indeed hot, it lacked flavor. I wonder if anyone in the kitchen tasted it before serving? The chips come straight from the Santitas bag – I could see in the kitchen from my seat. I prefer warm, homemade chips, especially from a restaurant that boasts that their “flour tortillas are made fresh, here, daily.” Nevertheless, it was just a method to get the queso in mouth. It reminded me of an upscale version of Momma’s ROTEL Cheese Dip (recipe available upon request).

Chili con Queso

If you are a regular reader of “Notes from the Napkin,” you can probably guess what I ordered. Enchiladas. These, my friends, are not what you might be imagining. The Santa Fe Café stacks blue corn tortillas with Colby Cheddar Cheese and onion. It is served with either a red or green chili sauce. They even have an option for those, like me, that want to taste both sauces, “Christmas-style.” The red sauce was much better though, and that’s the only one I’ll get in the future. The green sauce has chunks of tomatillos and tomatoes, and I don’t want that in my enchilada.

The meal is served with whole pinto beans, posole, and a flour tortilla. Posole is a hominy stew flavored with garlic, lime, and a bit of red chili. If you haven’t ever had hominy, go get you a can. It’s in the canned vegetable aisle. It’s similar to corn and shaped like a corn nut.

Enchilada Plate - "Christmas Style"

Dear Ben ordered the Red Chili and Pork Tamales. You get three tamales in addition to pinto beans and a decent sized green salad. Dear Ben is a good sharer and let me have one of the three tamales. They were spicy and tasty, but I got a large hunk of fat in a few of my bites. Can you imagine the surprise when I felt that glob of fat in my mouth? My face wrinkles up just thinking about it! I tell you this just so you’ll be on the lookout for these fatty nuisances, not to steer you away from them.

I also think that The Santa Fe Café should serve the beans in a separate bowl. The beans and tamales were crammed into the same dish. I’d rather have more room for the tamales and get a smaller salad instead. Speaking of the salad, the greens were beautiful, but the dressing did not please my palate – too sour. I want to see how the Green Chili and Cheese Tamales compare.

Red Chili and Pork Tamales

MIL Janice ordered the Santa Fe Crepes. Blue corn crepes wrapped around a creamy mixture of chicken, mushrooms, thinly sliced almonds, and mild green chilies in a white Spanish sherry sauce. This dish was very mild compared to the other two dishes. The flavors came together perfectly, and you could really taste the sherry. My only complaint is there were too many sliced almonds. I enjoyed the nutty quality it brought to the dish, but I didn’t like so much crunch. I guess some people do though.

Santa Fe Crepes

We ate so much that dessert was out of the question. MIL Janice and FIL Dave were already appalled at how much Dear Ben and I eat. Hey, a girl’s gotta get her kicks somehow, right? Despite a few little bumps, I liked The Santa Fe Café. Since 1981, it’s a “Seattle Institution.”

The Santa Fe Café
910 Phinney Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103

Santa Fe Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. the pictures are beautiful..... now i want to go to seattle and taste all the yummy looking food there....thank goodness i know what homony if and i love it right from the can.....

  2. Next time leave room for dessert and get the capirotada. Traditional NM bread pudding with whisky hard sauce. Fantastic!

  3. Good review!

    FYI: The blue chips served with the garlic custard are home made, and you can request them with other dishes.

    I second the vote for the capriotada!