Air conditioning is far from standard in many Santa Fe restaurants, especially those close to the Plaza. After all, it’s tough to install AC in historic buildings with mud brick walls! Thankfully, ice cream provides a convenient solution to unrelenting, summer days. Here are the best places to beat the heat in Santa Fe.
Cloud 9 Creamery
Cloud 9 Creamery transcends its strip mall location, temporarily transporting visitors to the Middle East with flavors like honey lavender and Turkish rose. Despite the bright color of the Turkish rose, it actually yields an extremely light floral flavor. The cardamom ice cream is a delight, walking the tightrope between sweet and savory. Although cardamom is not part of the permanent selection, the owner explained that there is always at least one spice-based flavor. Offerings also incorporate local ingredients whenever possible, such as New Mexican piñon nuts.
Address: 3482 Zafarano Drive, Suite A, Santa Fe
Virtually next door to Cloud 9, El Milagro also combines traditional New Mexican cuisine with ice cream in its sopaipilla sundae. Sopaipillas are a type of fried bread that can be stuffed with meat or served (drizzled with honey) in place of bread. Some sopaipillas are a touch oily, while others have a flakier texture. El Milagro’s version supports a hefty cargo of vanilla ice cream, dusted with cinnamon and doused in caramel sauce. Bring your appetite or a hungry friend!
Address: 3482 Zafarano Drive, Unit C, Santa Fe
Plaza Café Southside
There are two Plaza Cafés in Santa Fe—both owned by the same family—but the branch furthest from the actual Plaza is less crowded (and air conditioned). This Greco-American diner infuses its ice cream with influences from both countries. The result? A baklava ice cream that takes diners on a textural journey from creamy to crunchy. Despite its size, don’t attempt to split this dessert unless you want to discover whether a spoon can double as a light saber!
Address: 3466 Zafarano Drive, Santa Fe
According to the Florentine chef who led my cooking class in Italy, the best way to ensure you’re buying good quality gelato is to check the color of the pistachio flavor. It should have a brownish undertone; definitely avoid anything with a garish, green hue. Ecco easily passes this test. In fact, a sign behind the gelato case lists all of the ingredients not found in their product, including corn syrup, preservatives, and other “fake junk.” The result is a smooth, slightly icy gelato, a texture that is due to the fact that gelato contains more milk and less cream than standard ice cream.
Ecco boasts a plethora of rotating flavors. Keep an eye out for the thin mint chocolate—a take on Girl Scout cookies that is available more frequently than actual Thin Mints. Or, if you’re craving something more classically Italian, try one of the stracciatella flavors. Stracciatella is created by drizzling melted chocolate into the gelato during the final stages of preparation!
Address: 105 East Marcy Avenue, Santa Fe