Love Mexican food, looks like a lot of choices, which one to choose from for one evening.
My favorites for true Mexican...Los Potrillos on Cerrillos Road and Gabriel's which has a nice combo of both NM and Mexican recipes. We go to both every chance we get. Gabriel's is award winning but is also about a 5 minute freeway drive north of the Santa Fe Opera house. Its just south of the Buffalo Thunder Resort. Take exit 176...it will be on your right.
Los Potrillos is typically Mexican-style decorated. Gabriel's is located in an adobe type compound in the countryside and has more NM style decor with kiva fireplaces in the small dining areas and art on the walls. It also has a neat patio in the center of the compound when the weather warms up.
Most of the other restaurants are actually New Mexican style which is unique from Mexican. Be aware that if you are not used to uber spicy, NM chiles, either red or green can be extremely hot. Its good to taste before having it put all over your burgers or other meals.
If you love spicy however, you will be in heaven. NM cuisine is not all that much like Mexican food elsewhere. It involves two chile sauces, red and green both with different/minimal seasonings from Mexican...for example, no cumin or Chili Powder Mix. NM cuisine seldom has refried beans but black beans and Posole instead. In spite of its considerable "heat", there is seldom sour cream or a lot of cheese toppings. However guacamole is also included at times.
If you love Mexican though, you will most likely end up enjoying NM cuisine quite quickly. Now that you are aware of the differences you won't be so disappointed when your meal comes out a little different from what you are used to. The list given by CasaAzul above is a good choice for locations in or near the Plaza. I would add in the historic Plaza Cafe which has a very varied menu.Edited: 12 April 2018, 00:58
I'd modify CA's list just slightly: Gabriel's, which is #1 on my recommendations list, advertises themselves as serving "Food of the Southwest and Old Mexico" (or vice versa, I forget), and it's the best place around for accommodating tastes for both specifically New Mexican cuisine and "other" Mexican fare. Mucho Gusto is another in that class, not quite as good as Gabriel's but close. I'd also add Sazon for Mexican-from-Mexico cuisine, if you have deep pockets -- they're expensive, but you get what you pay for. Incidentally, if you venture out of town toward regional attractions (e.g. Bandelier National Monument, Ghost Ranch), Steve's La Cocina in Espanola is also very good for New Mexican, and the neighborhood-diner-like Sopaipilla Factory in Pojoaque is too, if you don't mind a rather "family" atmosphere.
If unfamiliar with the differences between New Mexican and other varieties of "Mexican," suggest you read the sidebar to the New Mexico forum with the title "What is New Mexican food?" If people don't do their homework on that, they may come here expecting empanadas, mole' dishes, etc., at New Mexican restaurants, and wax indignant when they don't get them -- never mind that those things are not part of the New Mexican cuisine. It is fair to say that I am unsympathetic to such people.
(Edit: Great minds think alike, ME.)Edited: 12 April 2018, 01:05
Thanks for the info.
Thanks for this post, and we like the Thread -- Adding restaurant advice to our list for our October visit.
It looks like you are from Colorado so it shouldn't come as a great surprise that good Mexican food is hard to come by in New Mexico (It is the same way in Colorado and Texas). I am amazed at the poor quality of Mexican food in New Mexico especially. Almost everyone in the state makes semi-passable Mexican food and then drowns it in red or green chile. The only discernible flavor is the chile.
I have eaten at all of the places that everyone brags about in Sante Fe and they are all fine but I have never found one that was great. I prefer Mexican food in Atlanta, New York, Chicago and even Southern California to any that I have had in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado or Arizona....