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The Hipper Side of the Street

by B.A. Nilsson on September 27, 2012


Santa Fe Restaurant, 52 Broadway, Tivoli, 845-757-4100, santafetivoli.com. Serving dinner 5-9:30 Sun, Tue-Thu, 5-10:30 Fri-Sat. AE, D, MC, V.

Cuisine: Southwestern

Entrée price range: $14 (Enchiladas tipicos) to $21 (grilled ribeye)

Ambiance: colorful, easygoing

When I last wrote about Tivoli’s Santa Fe Restaurant, back in September 1993, it had been open for seven years and, as I pointed out then, “was pretty much the only game in town.” In the ensuing 19 years, Tivoli has gone eatery crazy. Broadway, the town’s main commercial street, sports a rarefied array of shops influenced by nearby Bard College. Art galleries, a theater, coffeehouse, used books, even a laundromat. And, of course, the restaurants.

We’ve seen them come and go, but the current array seem to have settled in for a while. Your craving for Asian or Spanish, continental or vegetarian fare can be satisfied. You can grab a pizza. Or you can settle into one of Santa Fe’s colorful dining areas and enjoy chef Noelle Gushlaw’s well-crafted Southwestern menu.

Or I should say Southwestern-inspired. Many different influences are aswirl in the details of these dishes. The warm goat cheese and roasted beet salad ($14), for instance, boasts the addition of “grilled red onion, toasted pepitas and candied mango over mixed organic greens with a mango vinaigrette dressing.” Calamari salad ($16) features a chipotle-caper aioli.

Starters include a $6 soup of the day, twice-cooked plantains ($5.75), chipotle-ginger steak skewers with black bean and sesame sauce ($10), and field greens with toasted pepitas ($6.50)—a varied list perhaps even more suitable to accompany a frozen margarita ($6), of which I availed myself.

Photo by B.A. Nilsson

And if you’re a more seasoned fan of the beverage than I am, you’ll appreciate the list of 50 types of tequila, from blanco to extra añejo, sold by the shot or mixed into a margarita.

Falling between the appetizer and entrée category is the quesadilla, to my way of thinking. These cheese-rich compotes can include grilled beef and mushrooms, shrimp and spinach, goat cheese and cilantro or roasted poblano chile and pepitas for $7.50 apiece, chicken-only for $7, and an extra five bucks adds greens and rice and beans to make it into a complete dinner.

The dinners themselves are categorized by filling. Con carne includes your pulled pork or smoked sausage tacos ($15), grilled chicken enchiladas ($14), grilled angus ribeye with guajillo chile sauce ($21), steak tacos ($15), chicken burrito ($14), steak burrito ($15) and Yucatan pork tenderloin ($19).

Among the fish-filled items are tacos (shrimp or fish of the day, $15), a shrimp and spinach burrito ($15) and shrimp-stuffed poblano chiles ($16). Vegetarian fare includes blue corn enchiladas stacked with mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes ($14), sweet potato tacos with goat cheese ($14) and a seasonal vegetable burrito ($15). Gluten-free items are so noted (and there are many), and burritos can be wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.

It was to that veggie burrito that my companion daughter turned. The plate itself was as handsome as the food was tasty. There’s not much that’s pretty about a burrito—it’s a tortilla wrapped around a bunch of other stuff, making it (usually) easier to eat with the hands. But this one bulged with ingredients—mushrooms, caramelized onions, peppers, squash—that would have cascaded out the far end had she so hefted it. It responded nicely to fork and knife.

True, she eschewed the sour cream with which it was generously topped, and she’s gone all whole-grain on me and thus avoided the white rice as well. But she also doesn’t eat much these days, and the accompanying greens were all she desired.

I, on the other hand, made short work of the tortilla chips we were served, and our server was happy to add a container of very spicy salsa alongside the one that’s served by default.

Not surprisingly, there’s a very youthful vibe to the place. I suspect it’s where you ask your fairly hip parents to take you when they visit you at college. (The less hip hit Madalin’s Table, across the street.) During the warm months, there’s seating outside, but I’m happy to get near one of the front windows inside in order to watch both the indoor and outdoor parades.

And I was especially happy to discover that one of the evening’s specials, chicken mole poblano ($17), impressively imparted the deep complexity of this time-consuming sauce. It’s made with roasted peppers and seeds and finished with a touch of chocolate, this sauce, and complemented the peppery flavor of the anchiote-marinated chicken within. Finished with cheese and served alongside yellow rice and beans, it was an amazingly wonderful find.

I’m guessing it’ll be just as good when you sample it, because consistency is a key to the longevity of this place. This was confirmed in a conversation with bar manager Sarah Foglia, who says that, whatever else may change, “we’ve had the same atmosphere and menu style for all these years.” And it speaks well for the place that many of the staff have been working there for a long time.

Get there early enough to give yourself a stroll through town. You’ll find a nice view of the Hudson at the far end of the street, and terrific drinks and dinner when you get back.

(Note: As of the beginning of summer, Santa Fe Uptown is serving dinner Monday through Saturday at 11 Main St., Kingston, santafekingston.com.)