Eating Through Santa Fe's Food Carts

The GutterGourmet seeks out the best street food Santa Fe has to offer

If you find yourself in Santa Fe, you will naturally make your way to the central Plaza bordered by the Palace of the Governors built circa 1610 where the Native American Market vendors shade themselves while displaying their handmade turquoise and silver jewelry to the throngs of tourists. The Plaza is a melting pot of colonial Spanish, Mexican and Indian cultures. Far more interesting on the other side of the Plaza are two food carts that have each been there for more than 20 years.

El Molero Fajitas' cart first catches your ears with its sizzling meats and onions. Before your eyes can focus on the colorful green cart your mouth and eyes both start to water as your entire body becomes enveloped in the smoke coming off the cart's grill. Beef or chicken are the usual choices for the fajitas, which I can never decide between (both are fantastic).

A third special option spared me the tough decision: I went with the pork chop bone-in fajita. The green chile on the flour tortilla with the still sizzling onions was the hottest I encountered during my entire trip to Santa Fe. The pork chop was amazing and reminded me of the "bone on a bun" pork chop sandwiches I had at the Polish stands in the old Maxwell Street Market in Chicago. El Molero would easily be a top contender in the New York Vendy Awards.

Even better than El Molero on the opposite corner of the Plaza between May and September for the last 25 years is Roque's Carnitas food cart. Roque Garcia spends the rest of the year in Puerta Vallarta — paid for with the proceeds of his sirloin strip steak-filled flour tortillas deliciously drowned in Roque's secret sauce, green chile, and the brightest tasting pico de gallo ever. Roque has been touted by everyone from Gourmet, Bon Appétit, and The New York Times.

When asked why he doesn't have a restaurant he jokes that his first two ex-wives got his restaurant in the divorce settlements. After offering a prayer of thanks to the Aztec Gods for his juice-dripping carnitas, Roque rivals his signature culinary creation with pork and red chile tamales. These are the best tamales I've ever had and I can hardly contain my excitement while ripping off the corn husk wrapping paper concealing the Mexican masa pork-filled gift of the Gods. Wash it all down with a nectar-like drink called a "Jamaica," a Mexican sweet iced tea, which Roque brews himself with hibiscus flowers. The Plaza is a perfect spot to enjoy your culinary cart creations.