Inflation has made dining out pricier, especially in a town like Santa Fe, where $20 enchilada plates are the norm. Lucky for Santa Feans and visitors, in a city that is home to an extraordinary number of great restaurants, you can still chow down on the cheap if you know where to look. To point you in the budget-friendly direction, we’ve rounded up 10 eateries—from fajita stands to hot dog shacks—where a meal comes in at under $15 (excluding drink). Bon appétit!
1. Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill
Ya’ gotta love a place billing itself as “fast casual” Mexican while also operating the self-proclaimed “World’s Slowest Drive-Thru.” It may take awhile for an order of the signature mahi-mahi tacos to hit your table, but the no-frills, budget-friendly fare warrants the wait. You’ll also find charbroiled burgers, vegetarian items, and a $5 children’s menu (grilled cheese, hot dogs, quesadillas) served in a colorful dining room hung with bumblebee piñatas.
Must order: The Burrito Grande, crammed with tender hunks of pork, grilled onions and peppers, rice, and pinto or black beans. It costs only $10 and can be split to easily feed 2 people.
2. Fusion Tacos
In late 2020, the Santa Fe Brewing Company opened a 2-story mothership facility just south of town off Interstate 25. While downing a pint from your choice of 27 beer taps (best is the Happy Camper IPA), you’ll need grub to soak up those suds. Enter Fusion Tacos, a wildly popular Santa Fe food truck that’s set up permanent shop in the hall’s expansive beer garden. A plate of 4 tacos (the al pastor is tops) runs $11. The all-day Taco Tuesday special nets 10 tacos for $20. On Thursdays, groove to live music from 6 to 8 p.m. (Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.)
Must order: Grease-bomb bliss, the Costa Rican chorreadas (fried corn tortillas filled with melted cheese and meat of your choice) aren’t exactly a steal at $12 per order, but they’re not to be missed.
3. Tune-Up Café
This funky neighborhood haunt helmed by Jesus and Charlotte Rivera, a husband-and-wife team who hail from El Salvador and Louisiana, respectively, turns out creative New Mexican, American, and Salvadoran dishes that pack in the locals. The breakfast burrito (with either bacon, sausage, ham, chorizo, or avocado) is a hefty flavor bomb that’s a bargain at $7.25. Any time of day, you can’t go wrong with the superb chile relleno, juicy ground-in-house burgers (including lamb), Cubano sandwich, or wood-oven pizzas.
Must order: Pupusas, the national snack of El Salvador, are thick, hand-made corn tortillas stuffed with a savory filling and are reminiscent of Mexican gorditas. Tune-Up’s version—loaded with tender flank steak, chile pasado, and queso fresco—is a winner, priced at $9.95 for 2 pupusas and a cool side of tangy curtido (cabbage relish).
4. Tia Sophia’s
Sure, go ahead and laugh as fellow diners swallow eye-bulging forkfuls of breakfast burritos smothered in hot red and/or green chile sauce. The tables will turn when your food arrives. The legendary downtown diner (since 1975) claims to have invented the breakfast burrito, and though the chile won’t incinerate your tongue, it’s hot enough and has good roasted-pepper flavor. Mid-morning and lunchtime table waits can be epic in high tourist season. Arrive early.
Must order: What else but a breakfast burrito, gorged with thick bacon, egg, potatoes, and gobs of gooey cheese for $9.75?
5. Chicago Dog Express
The Windy City meets The City Different at this tiny hot dog shack just south of downtown. Keeping it Chi-town real, these Vienna Beef beauties come cradled in a soft poppy-seed bun topped with mustard, relish, onions, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. Seating is at concrete tables on a tree-shaded patio where you’ll wolf down your dog alongside construction and office workers on their lunch breaks.
Must order: Chicagoans may scoff, but Santa Feans love the Santa Fe Dog (pictured) loaded with cheese, onions, and spicy red and/or green chile sauce, which rings up at $6.72 for the regular-size dog or $8.67 for a jumbo.
6. Bruno’s Pizzeria
Next door to Chicago Dog Express, feast on a big ole’ slice of NYC-style pie courtesy of Bruno. Who’s he? Only a master pizzaiolo from Milan, Italy, who came to Santa Fe by way of the Big Apple and determined that, sans the crucial pizza-crust ingredient of genuine New York water, an IPA beer–infused crust is precisely what it takes to replicate an authentic New York slice. You want ambience? Forget about it. Order a slice and a soda, sit your rear at one of the gravel parking lot’s picnic benches, and chew.
Must order: A giant slice glistening with heavenly puddles of pepperoni grease is $5.50. A small 12-inch pie with 1 topping runs $12.75.
7. El Molero Fajitas
The mouthwatering aroma of sizzling beef and chicken fajitas wafting from the southwest corner of the Santa Fe Plaza is a smoky tractor beam, pulling you by the nose to this friendly family-run food stand that’s been filling bellies on the cheap for 31 years. Wrangle an armful of fajita tacos or house-made tamales, grab a seat on a Plaza park bench, and stuff your face like no one’s watching.
Must order: The pork tamales with red chile are a tasty steal for $3 each (you’ll want to order 2 per person) and often sell out by 1 p.m. Arrive early.
8. El Parasol
Launched in 1958 by 2 brothers using their mother’s recipes to cook and sell tacos and tamales under a roadside umbrella-shaded table (hence the name), El Parasol is Santa Fe’s OG Mexican fast-food joint. Now the company has 6 locations ranging from Española to Los Alamos. The always-busy spot on Cerrillos Road is best. But don’t overlook the Santa Fe South outpost off I-25. Chill in an air-conditioned dining room and choose from a reliable menu of tacos, burritos, and burgers.
Must order: The shredded-beef taco combo plate with beans and posole satisfies for $10.75.
9. Palacio Café
This small, family-run eatery near Saint Francis Cathedral gets your morning motor running with some of downtown’s best and fattest breakfast burritos, luscious eggs Benedict, fluffy pancakes, breakfast tacos, and more. The lunch menu lists solid renditions of the usual New Mexican food suspects (enchiladas, chiles relleno, tamales), but the real stars are the panini sandwiches, including a roast beef and blue cheese beauty on focaccia bread. Dining room seating is tight; request a table on the shady back patio.
Must order: The heavy hitter of the panini lineup is the signature T.K.Y.—turkey, caramelized onions, and provolone pressed between crunchy slices of sourdough for $8.50.
10. The Burger Stand
No luck finding a restaurant-quality burger in the Plaza area for under $16? Check this counter-service brewpub next to downtown’s famed Burro Alley statue. A juicy ground-Angus burger registers a fair $12.50. Bonus points for the laid-back outdoor patio and bar, shared with Door 38 Pizza next door. On Mondays and Tuesdays from 2 to 6 p.m., all burgers and draft beers are $2 off.
Must Order: If you have to try a burger other than the excellent green-chile version, opt for the Smoke Burger, with bacon, Gouda, and barbecue sauce.
Santa Fe-based travel writer Eli Ellison swears by Tia Sophia's breakfast burritos.
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