Summer’s here, and for the lucky (and young) among us, it promises to stretch into a delicious forever of blue skies and kite flying, baseball games, road trips, and Fourth of July picnics. For the rest of us, there’s always that quintessential summer fare to remind us of the best of the season: a hot dog and a cone.
— T. D. Mobley-Martinez
“Most times, it’s a knife-and-fork situation,” advised our server at Second Street Brewery’s Rufina Taproom (2920 Rufina St., 505-954-1068, secondstreetbrewery.com/rufina-taproom). Her comment was prompted by our slack-jawed expressions while regarding the Rufina “Dogo” ($10.50), a bacon-wrapped beef frank swaddled in a bun that becomes practically forearm-sized with the addition of black beans, caramelized onions, shredded lettuce, cheddar-Jack cheese, chopped tomato and red onion, green chile, and chipotle mayo, and then surrounded by a throng of tater tots that look like groupies mobbing a tour bus. Right there on the menu, chef Milton Villarrubia declares his confidence that you’ll enjoy his full-flavored version of a Sonoran dog — we certainly did — although he might also be referring to a post-meal spike in cholesterol levels: “This dog will change your life,” the chef says. That might be overstating it a tad. Also, unless you have the jaws of a reticulated python, you should probably heed the advice to use utensils. Side note: Second Street’s new-ish Toast the Dawn helles is a crisp, beautifully straw-colored low-alcohol summertime lager that’s perfect for washing down your Dogo.
— Laurel Gladden
What’s more American than a hot dog at a ballpark? The combination’s written right into one of the catchiest jingles in 20th-century advertising, alongside apple pie and Chevrolet. While Fort Marcy Ballpark (Fort Marcy Park, 490 Bishops Lodge Road) is about as far from a major league park as you can get, the community-unifying ambiance at Santa Fe Fuego games (visit santafefuego.com for the team schedule) is always cheerful and fun. The bright-red concession stand just inside the entrance — a narrow-ish gap between a concrete-block wall and chain-link fencing — sells chips and sodas and pizza by the slice, but a dog feels like patriotic due diligence in this setting. In the case of the Fuego Chile Cheese Dog ($8), a Nathan’s all-beef frank plays second banana to pinto beans, soupy red chile, and a sea of Creamsicle-colored queso. It also requires a fork at the very least — probably a knife as well, if not a spoon — so wait to tackle this dog when you don’t anticipate applauding a home run or a stolen base. An easier bet would be to top your third-pounder with shredded cheese and green chile. That’ll run you nine bucks, but no one eats at baseball games for the bargains. — L.G.
There are five hot dogs on the menu at El Chile Toreado (807 Early St., 505-500-0033, elchiletoreadosantafe.bistrobiz.website), the venerable food truck that recently moved from Cordova Road to a new slot on Early Street when its longtime parking space became a construction zone. The chili dog ($7.25) is the best I’ve had in Santa Fe. Spit lengthwise and filled with mahogany-red beef-and-bean chili topped with cheese and carnitas, it is the perfect combo of spicy-salty-crunchy goodness. Its plain cousin, the jumbo dog ($6.25) sits nakedly in its bun, waiting for you to dress it up according to your mood. At a recent stop, we went for simple condiments like all-American yellow mustard paired with a roughly chopped relish of onion, tomatoes, green pepper, and jalapenos — the colors of the Mexican flag. The do-it-yourself condiment bar offers many more choices, ranging from chopped lettuce and cabbage to a green sauce that will take your breath away and the fiery roasted jalapenos that give the truck its name.
— Patricia West-Barker
You won’t need to ask, “Where’s the beef?” when you order one of the two very substantial, all-beef hot dogs on offer at the Violet Crown Cinema Café, (1606 Alcaldesa St., 505-216-5678, santafe.violetcrown.com). The AVA “Just a Good Dog” ($10) comes dressed with your choice of mustard, ketchup, diced red onion, sweet relish, and/or shredded cheese. The Chicago Dog ($10) sports a hefty coat of relish, diced sport peppers, onion, pickles, tomatoes, mustard, and some strangely crunchy jalapenos, all sprinkled with the celery salt that makes it live up to its name. The toasted buns — sans poppy seeds — are a good match for the dogs, as are the fries (house-cut or sweet potato) that fill out the plate. If your dog would also like a dog (remember not to add onions!), there’s a large, shady, pup-friendly patio just outside the door. — P.W.B.
Mangiamo Pronto! (228 Old Santa Fe Trail, 505-989-1904, santafeitalianrestaurants.com/home) serves an excellent gelato that its website says is house-made but the menu says comes from Bindi, a more than 75-year-old Italian dessert company that ships its gelato and sorbetto to the Santa Fe café on dry ice. The gelato — made with milk rather than cream — contains no trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, colorings, or preservatives. The affogato ($5.50) — a scoop of vanilla-bean gelato drowned in espresso — is the perfect late-afternoon, sugar-and-caffeine-laden pick-me-up. The creamy mouth-feel, silky texture, and clear hit of the sea salt caramel flavor closely live up to the billing as “authentic Italian gelato” ($3.75 for one scoop; $5 two scoops; $6.25 three scoops). Flavors vary by the week, and sometimes sell out before the next batch arrives. You can enjoy your frozen treat under the arching branches of the two elderly Russian olive trees that shade the small, street-side patio, or take it across the street to one of the picnic tables that line the Santa Fe River, which sometimes runs these days. — Patricia West-Barker
Kakawa is an Olmec word meaning “cacao” or chocolate — and fine chocolate, in seemingly infinite varieties, is what Kakawa Chocolate House (flagship location 1050 Paseo de Peralta, 505-982-0388, kakawachocolates.com) is all about. There, tucked in among the barks, high-end truffles, and elixirs — or drinking chocolates based on pre-Columbian to 17th-century European recipes — you can find the best organic, house-made chocolate ice cream and sorbet in Santa Fe, perhaps in the whole Southwest. The classic chocolate ($6 for a 6-ounce serving) delivers the deep, dark, and delicious flavor once promised by a popular brownie mix. It is the essence of chocolate in an ultra-creamy cup. The chocolate sorbet (also $6) is almost shockingly delicious. Who would expect such rich flavor from a dairy-free ice? You can gild the lily if you like by adding organic whipped cream, hot fudge, or both to the bowl for an additional 50 cents each. Kakawa says its mission is to “reintroduce you to chocolate,” and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate summer than meeting up with a cool bowl of sustainably sourced chocolate ice cream. — P.W.B.
The Ultra Ice Cream truck (3354 Cerrillos Road, 505-629-2499, ultraicecream.com) is a cool and sweet oasis in an empty big-box-store wasteland. It’s also part of the growing trend of rolled or “stir-fried” ice cream, which has its origins in Thailand. Over the course of a couple of minutes, a creamy base is spread in a thin layer across a metal “ice pan” that chills it to subfreezing temperatures. Then, using a tool that looks like it’s straight off the shelves of Home Depot, crafters smooth, chop, scrape, and roll the mixture into cigar-shaped tubes served ends-up in a paper cup. Ultra’s flavor selection is practically dizzying, with roughly a dozen suggested flavors, from cinnamon toast (the last-minute drizzle of honey firms up delightfully like toffee) to New Mexico chile and chocolate (a vanilla base flecked with red chile in your preferred heat level and swirled with chocolate syrup) — along with a slew of à la carte ingredients for creating your own concoctions (all $6). On these hot and sunny summer afternoons, avail yourself of the red mesh chairs in the shade of the trees by the road rather than getting hot and looking suspicious in your parked car. — L.G.
When you’ve had your fill of sliding down the dryer chute in The House of Eternal Return at Meow Wolf (1352 Rufina Circle), venture across the sunbaked parking lot and look for a food truck in a cool blue hue. That’s Freezie Fresh (505-316-5643, freeziefresh.com), another member of the rolled or “stir-fried” ice cream contingent. The flavor roster here isn’t intimidatingly long, but with choices like Blueberry Bliss, salted caramel with red chile, and piñon coffee, the decision-making process is still tough. This ice cream comes across as less creamy than your traditional lickable scoop, at least at first. The base is chilled to such a super-cold temperature (owner Xzavian Cookbey calls the chilling surface an “anti-griddle”) that as you spoon up a bite, the rolls begin to break into flakes that melt when they meet the heat of your mouth, much like a Cadbury Flake or your grandma’s buttery pie crust. Especially if your cup is small (Freezie Fresh offers three sizes — $4.25, $6, and $8.50), the ice cream stays super-cold till nearly the very last bite — never a bad thing in the peak heat of summer. Remember: Freezie Fresh is a truck, which means it sometimes ventures elsewhere, so check social media for location announcements. — L.G.