I'll preface this post by telling you that I’m not New Mexican so I can only rate Casa Chimayo by what I know: food quality and hospitality. I will not attempt to compare it to other Santa Fe New Mexican institutions.
Last week my parents came up from Chihuahua, my uncle and aunt from El Paso, my wife and I from Denver and we all rendezvoused in Santa Fe for some family time. We stayed at the Inn of the Governors’ and asked for some recommendations for New Mexican in the neighborhood. I had been to The Shed and various restaurants in the Chimayo area in the past and was just OK with the food; since the concierge had heard good things about Casa Chimayo, we decided to walk over in the freezing weather and give this relatively new place a shot. (I believe it just opened in September, 2011)
The restaurant itself is very homey, as in not fancy or refined. It's as if you walked into a typical old New Mexican adobe. But the reception was as warm and inviting as the kiva in the corner of the room. They sat our group down right away and took good care of us.
Since I was in charge of food and accommodations for this outing, I was nervous as to how my family would relate to the food; I shouldn't have! They loved it! Very good "norteño" they said, "just like your abuelita makes"...high praise indeed. The calabacitas (zucchini squash with corn, onion, and a bit of cheese) were spot on. They were just like the ones my mom made when I was a kid; in fact, she reminded me that I hated to eat calabacitas as a child, yet now I couldn't get enough! The chile verde was perfect, from the salsa, to the chile on the tamales. My brother couldn’t get over the perfection of the masa in the tamales rojos.
On our way out, the owner invited us back to hear the trio that would be playing the next night. Sure enough, as we were making plans the next day, I asked my family if they wanted to try a different place...no way, they all wanted to go back for more!
The second night was amazing; again great food and hospitality. We tried, the Chile en Nogada (rated very highly by my tío); carne adobada, a deep red chile stew, definitely norteño style, not southern Mexico style that you find at taquerías; posole, tamales, taquitos, etc. We even ordered the fajitas if you can believe it! The beef was perfect, and the home made flour tortillas were beautiful. By the way, I had never had natillas in a restaurant before, they had just the right sweetness and texture.
The music was perfect too. The trio came over and mom and my tía started quizzing them with obscure requests. They got them all! When my family couldn't hold back any more, we pulled the tables back and made room for my tíos to start up an impromptu dance...unforgettable.
I'm was suprised not to find info on the boards about this place; and am curious to hear from others on their impressions. Perhaps the locals can put my experience and theirs into context for the New Mexican purist. I, however, will always recommend this place on it's own merits, and be thankful for the two wonderful evenings I was able to spend with my family and Casa Chimayo's family.