People in Santa Fe often call Arable, the farm-to-table restaurant tucked just inside the Eldorado neighborhood, a hidden gem.
But thanks to a national spotlight, that gem is getting a chance to shine.
Arable is soon to be featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, and filming brought celebrity host Guy Fieri to the restaurant in Eldorado’s Agora Shopping Center during the third week of May.
Details about the upcoming episode are hush-hush, but it’s easy to spot the signs of Fieri’s visit. Near the front door is a selfie-ready logo and signature, and the restaurant’s signed Fieri poster is cheekily displayed near the restrooms.
The episode will premiere Friday, Aug. 23 — and Arable’s co-owner and operator Renée Fox laughingly admitted she and partner Dave Readyhough, who don’t have cable, are still figuring out how they’ll tune in.
Fox is no stranger to TV appearances. In 2016, she represented the popular restaurant Loyal Hound, which she and Readyhough also created, in the reality competition Chopped, and in January, she competed in the second season of the Food Network’s Bite Club, vying against other Santa Fe chefs. Though the show was canceled and the episode never aired, it’s available to stream online.
Recently, they streamed the Bite Club episode on a loop for Arable diners while offering specials based on that show.
So in a restaurant-laden town like Santa Fe, what brought the Food Network calling in Eldorado? For that answer, look no further than the Bison Gravy “Poutine,” one of the dishes highlighted by Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.
Poutine is ultimate comfort food: a heady marriage of fries, meat, gravy and cheese. At Arable, though, the protein is tender local bison, the “gravy” is a braising liquid of red wine and green chile, the fries are house-cut and the cheese is organic melted gruyere. A half order? Ten bucks.
This is comfort food in every meaning of the word, Fox says — not just rich, hearty and delicious, but clean, responsible and carefully sourced.
“Comfort food is somewhat familiar and satiating and makes you feel good in that sense, but comfort food here is about feeling good in a different way, in the sense that this is super-clean food,” she said. “I think we’re so used to eating overprocessed food, not organic food, these feedlot meat sources — and they can taste really good, but they’re not good for you, and eventually that takes a toll on your health.”
Since it opened in 2017, Arable has had a commitment to local sourcing, but the past two years has seen its owners become even more focused on the connection between health and the food you consume.
“We’ve changed our own style of eating, to using food as medicine. We know we’re going to source local, we know we want to know our farmers — it’s real things made by real people — but now we’re taking on a whole new perspective,” she said. “In the country as a whole, obesity and disease have grown exponentially over the last 40 years. When you start to do that research, you realize the reason is our food.
“So we’ve made a conscious choice not to use food that’s been sprayed with chemicals, not to use feedlot meats of any kind, to not use farmed fish or seafood. It’s become more than ‘you are what you eat’ — it’s ‘you are what what you ate ate.’ ”
Arable means “plowable land,” Fox said, but that doesn’t just mean the restaurant is focused on healthy fruits and veggies. While they offer vegan and vegetarian options, they also focuses on pasture-raised meats — a chalkboard above the restaurant’s bar space lists local sourcing that recently included Beck & Bulow buffalo, Sweetgrass Co-op beef, Talus heritage pork and New Mexico lamb.
They’re also focusing on dishes with fewer grains, less dairy and more organic foods. They fry foods with a high-oleic, non-GMO sunflower oil and only use avocado, olive and coconut oil elsewhere in their cooking.
Arable is a smaller-scale venture than Loyal Hound, which gives Fox the opportunity to change the menu with the seasons. The shrimp and grits, for instance, is a mainstay — with its wild-caught shrimp and stone-ground grits from Santa Ana Pueblo — but the presentation shifts seasonally (most recently, it came served with summer squash and heirloom tomato).
“For me, it’s a much more intimate experience” than Loyal Hound, Fox said. “I can order smaller amounts of items from local farmers. Here, I can reprint the menu every day if I want. I can do those little, smaller, special things, and the menu is much more seasonally driven because I can do that.”
Small plates here include comfort-driven classics like housemade green chile cheese tots, chipotle honey wings and barbecue pork nachos. There’s a trio of large salads, and you can add hearty toppings such as avocado, bacon, grilled hanger steak, duck breast or sautéed shrimp to them or to any dish.
The “Big Plates” run the gamut from a grilled hanger steak with sautéed organic green beans and crispy tobacco onions ($25) to a vegan sautée of green beans and potatoes with sun-dried tomatoes, nicoise olives and marcona almonds ($15). The popular house burger ($14) tops a local ground beef patty on a housemade bun with pimiento cheese and smoked pork belly.
In addition to dinner service Tuesday through Saturday, there’s a quieter brunch service Saturday and Sunday, where the menu includes goodies such as fresh-baked pastries, waffle and eggs, a brunch burger, a smothered burrito and the B.E.C. Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich ($10) with bacon, egg, local cheese, green chile apple butter and tots. Diners can spend an easy weekend hour or two taking advantage of the charming (and dog-friendly) patio space just outside the restaurant doors.
Fox and Readyhough opened Arable in Eldorado to offer something different there: an elevated dining experience for a community just down the road from the city proper. In the past two years, though, they’ve seen a mix of local residents and diners from town.
“People find their niche,” Readyhough said. “People want something different, and they appreciate the quality that Renée is preparing and the ingredients she’s using. It’s the same at Loyal Hound. Every day is Groundhog Day because we’re making everything fresh.”
Turns out, Arable’s “something different” doesn’t just appeal in Eldorado: The cuisine and its approach to clean, nourishing comfort food is drawing people from near and far. Here, health and heart go hand in hand.
“How many people walk in the door of Arable because that message is important to them, and how many are here just to eat good food?” Fox said. “Let us give you both, whether it means something to you or not, because it means something to us.”
IF YOU GO
When: Open for dinner from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and for brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: 7 Avenida Vista Grande, in Eldorado’s Agora Shopping Center
More info: Call 505-303-3816, visit arablesantafe.com or find them on Facebook at ArableSantaFe
IF YOU WATCH
Arable will be featured as “a farm-to-table gem putting out hearty goodness like bison gravy fries and a lights-out lamb sandwich” in the 11th episode of Season 30 of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. It’ll premiere on the Food Network at 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23, and repeat at 1 a.m. Saturday, according to foodnetwork.com listings.
You can also catch Renée Fox’s episode of Bite Club, in which she competes against Cowgirl BBQ’s Patrick Lambert and L’Olivier’s Xavier Grenet, streaming at watch.foodnetwork.com/tv-shows/bite-club/full-episodes/southwestern-showdown