Horseman's Haven Cafe ~ Santa Fe, New Mexico
Food: One aspect of New Mexican cuisine you will discover if spending much time in Santa Fe, is an almost apologetic approach to spicy chile heat. You cannot read more than one page of any local restaurant guide without running into the familiar words "it's not about the heat, it's about the flavor". And while the RJG wholeheartedly agrees with that sentiment, what if we really do want the heat and the flavor? Answer: Horseman's Haven. This unassuming diner on the way out of town was once a local secret. Today it's found its way onto one of the many food TV shows that proliferate. And yet you would never know that by walking in. It still seems a secret, even with the notoriety. The menu is a mix of breakfast and lunch/dinner entrees. The recipes have more of a Mexican slant than what is normally associated with del norte cuisine. And whatever you decide to get, you will want to smother it in green chile. If you do not have any heat tolerance, my recommendation would be to steer clear of this place. If you crave spice, this is your nirvana. The waitstaff will not warn you. They presume you know what you're doing. Even the basic green is very - very - hot. And honestly, its just about perfect, and the flavors do peak nicely. They also have what is called a "Level 2". That's it. No other explanation is offered. If you ask about it, you will learn it is their "very spicy" green chile - and at that point receive a warning about it. We did try it on our first visit. Whoa. I was defeated. According to our waiter that day, they actually go up as high as Level 5 (?!?!). Not sure how that is even possible. In any event, the green chile is Horseman's Haven Cafe's raison d'etre. Nothing else of distinction I can offer. Whether it's eggs, or a chicken burrito, everything is good here - and made better with the green chile smothering it.
Drink: No alcohol. Strictly diner offerings. They also state no free refills on sodas. But then again the glass they give you is huge, so hard to imagine needing another. We always get water. As a reminder, when eating hot food, don't try to quell the heat with water or soda. That only makes it worse. Get a milk instead. We just tough it out ourselves, and lightly sip on water.
Location: As mentioned above, Horseman's Haven is an unassuming spot far south of town on Cerrillos, and shares a parking lot with a gas station (Giant). You can expect a large crowd for a Sunday breakfast, but otherwise, the restaurant is usually semi-full and comfortable. It's a classic western diner, with dark woods and counter seating if preferred.
Notes: Here's a much better review than mine. Somehow I ran into it immediately after he published it, and added a comment as well (apparently Texans are wimpy now. I beg to differ...). Horseman's Haven opened in 1981 and is still run by the original owners.
Hours: Mon-Sat: 8a-8p; Sun: 8a-2p