Santo Brings New Mexican Fare to Boulder

Top Chef alum and restaurateur Hosea Rosenberg’s latest hit.

There is still a temporary sign above the door.

On powder days, I’ve stood at the top of ski run, waiting for the patrol to drop the rope so I could score some turns in fresh snow. For the first time, I felt that familiar anticipation as I waited for a new restaurant’s door to be unlocked. The restaurant is Santo, the newest venture for chef Hosea Rosenberg, who grew up in Taos, became a genuine celeb chef after winning Top Chef, Season 5 and operates the popular East Boulder Blackbelly Market, restaurant and butchery. He has tapped into his northern New Mexico roots for decorative statements but mostly for the food.

The line was building for an anticipated 4 p.m. opening of the new occupant of the space next to Ideal Market. A paper sign on the door indicated that due to “technical difficulties,”  Santo would open at 4:30. When it did, we first customers felt like celebs, greeted by cameras and cell phones. What a hoot!

Eager diners in line at dusk for chef Hosea Rosenberg’s Santo, which brings the distinctive cuisine of northern New Mexico to Colorado’s Front Range.

The Santo space  is both familiar and new. Once Radda Trattoria, then Ella’s from the Zoe Mama team then Scott’s on Alpine — I’ve eaten at them all. The look, the cuisine and the vibe may have changed with each transition, but I’ve always known where to find the restroom without asking.

Santo’s  commodious square bar remains on the west part of the large dining room. A wonderful wooden zia symbol  chandelier floating above the bar was made by a New Mexican carver, as were the santos along the walls. I intended to take a picture, but I was so eager to get seated and order that I didn’t — and by the time we left, the bar area was mobbed — and loud. Framed B&B photographs decorate the dining area, but in truth, the focus is on the food, as  it certainly should be. Here’s what my husband and I ate on Day One (plus wine for me, a beer for him):

Wood Oven Queso is a blend of local cheese melted in the wood oven in a small cast-iron pan. It is topped with red pepper jelly and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). The portion looks small but the taste is big. And what’s the New Mexican word for ‘umami”? White and blue corn tortilla chips come on the side.
A trio of wild boar empanadas with cilantro crema, salsa with a kick and a bit of crunchy salad.
The smoky aroma of this thick soup rises from the table as soon as the bowl is set down. Smoked corn, huitlacoche (corn smut (an unappealing name for a specialty) and thin flavor ribbons of Christmas salsas (red and green).
Generous portion of Kale and Quinoa Salad, with slices of apple, jicama, grilled cactus queso fresco, piñon nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Apple and green chile pie backed in a cheddar crust with a generous scoop or vanilla ice cream on top.

Price check: At dinner appetizers, $6-$12; soups and sides $6-$12; entrées $16-$32; chile, side add-ons $2-$5; desserts, $5-$7.

Santo is at 1265 Alpine Avenue, Boulder; 303-442-6100.

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