Thursday, August 31, 2006

Maria's - Santa Fe

I had the good fortune of discovering one of the best resturants I have ever been to; and without any doubt, the best margaritas I have ever tasted. The place is called Maria's and is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Maria's is owned by Al Lucero, a former television executive who is the fifth owner. Started by Maria Lopez and her husband Gilbert in 1950, on the very spot, in the very same building Maria's exists today, it began as take-out kitchen. Maria's business boomed and the couple added two booths and a patio. Over the years, Maria's has had it ups and downs, and now that Al Lucero has retired, returned to Santa Fe, and with his careful attention to preserving the history and traditon of the Maria margarita, and his passion for this Santa Fe historic landmark, it looks like we can taste Maria's margaritas for years to come.

Maria's is a very, very special place; Robert Redford has written the introduction to their book "The Great Margarita Book", the Seattle Times has called Maria's "The Motherload of American Margaritas", the New York Times has called Maria's margaritas the "best in town", The Washington Post added they are "world class", Southern Arts described Maria's as "Margaritaville" and named their margaritas as one of the 101 reasons to visit Santa Fe. From Better Homes to Playboy, newspapers and magazines nationwide, as well as almost every state and local publication have given Maria's margaritas sensational reviews.

While in New Mexico on business to meet with the New Mexico Economic Development Partnership, I arrived at the Sunport (Albuquerque's name for their airport, which you gotta just love) at 7:30 pm on a long flight from New York's LaGuardia. Hot, tired and hungry, my host asked if I wanted to grab something to eat during the next two hour driving leg of my trip to Las Vegas, New Mexico. I have been to New Mexico enough to know you do two things while there: buy turquoise and have margaritas. My reply was "let's go somewhere and have a margarita".

Little did I know upon driving into the parking lot of a very small, crowded and unpretentious building that I would soon be in "Margarita Mecca". This place is special and you feel that as soon as you walk in the door. Take it from Robert Redford who writes in the foreword of Maria's book:

"When people have asked of a place to eat in Santa Fe, I find myself referring them to Maria's. Is it fancy? No. Is it chic? No. Is the good good? Yes. But the margaritas - they are the best. Like anything of quality, it takes love and care - a degree of passion to execute it, love to start it, commitment to that love to sustain it. Maria's is a history and a definition. I am glad it's there. I'm glad I've tasted their margaritas, and I hope not too many people find out about it".

Since much of Santa Fe presents upscale eclectic shops, gallaries and resturants, I was expecting this place might be the typical trendy place frequented by locals and tourists alike. What suprised me was the fact this place is what most of us would refer to as a "hole in the wall". I might add that is much of the charm as well. With over 100 margaritas to choose from, I have been asked "are they frozen? those kind like you buy on Bourbon Street in New Orleans from dispensers?" - my answer is no, no, not at all - each one is handcrafted behind a tiny bar by some of the absolute nicest people I have ever met in my life. This place is an absolute "must do" on anyone's travel list; good food, superb margaritas, outstanding wait staff and bartendars - how often do we find all of that? an unpretentous resturant with unpretntous staff, in an unpretentous building!

After two margarita's and a wonderful meal we proceeded to Las Vegas, New Mexico, checked into the Historic Plaza Hotel and had the best night's sleep with my belly full of Maria's sausa, chips, taco's and of course, those superb margarita's.


Maria's New Mexican Kitchen
555 West Cordova Road
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
b: 505.983.7929
f: 505.983.4700