Santa Fe is high on our radar these days and for good reason – the artist-rich desert city is buzzing with energy while still maintaining the kind of calm, quiet aura we’re all craving. We love what’s popping up around this 400-year-old pueblo adobe city, including the incredibly cool new mezcal bar, La Reina, located in the recently renovated El Rey Court hotel—which was once known as the El Rey Inn, first built in 1936. This modern take on the traditional New Mexican cantina is a refreshing answer to the need for some truly chill evening stomping grounds, particularly where we can linger past 10pm (difficult to find in ultra-tranquil Santa Fe, apparently).
Photography: Bree Barela
“Where Fast Lives Slow Down”
Behind the beautifully inspired vision of La Reina is, naturally, a beautifully inspired couple—Alison and Jay Carroll, who have been making their home for several years in that other dreamlike desert landscape of Joshua Tree. The Carrolls have created a tiny, bright oasis of whitewashed adobe (unusual in Santa Fe), agave-heavy drinks and a cozy, sanctuary-like space for posting up at the bar. LA-based artist John Zabawa has adorned the walls with gorgeously simple line drawings and murals that invoke cave painting purity, along with providing impeccable branding to boot. We especially love the traditional corner kiva fireplace, above which the following impossibly appealing mantra is painted into a carved-out niche: “Where Fast Lives Slow Down.” The intimately sized space, with room for about 25 seated indoors and a handful of patio dwellers—under a web of wisteria vines, mind you—is precisely the kind of place we’d like to slow down ourselves.
Photography: Alison Carroll
A Queenly Cast
Literally meaning “the queen,” (to match El Rey’s meaning of “the king”), La Reina appropriately employs an all-female staff of bartenders. Along with a series of special house cocktails, the mezcal-forward menu also features a huge variety of tequilas, sotols, a Pét-Nat wine (aka natural sparkling wine) and a rotating saké in partnership with the local Japanese restaurant and spa, Izanami/Ten Thousand Waves. Though not currently offering a full menu, bar snacks are available along with the weekend offerings of the local food trucks that have been loitering out front. For every gang of girlfriends or desert-solitude-seeking couple visiting Santa Fe and in need of a very welcoming watering hole—La Reina is your perfect Americana haven.
Photography: Ashley Wilkins | Jay Carroll | Kelly Murphy
We briefly caught up with Alison to get a quick snapshot of her current Santa Fe favorites.
What’s your favorite thing on the menu at La Reina?
Alison: I love the piña picante – it’s a riff on a drink Jay and I served at our wedding 3 years ago – jalapeño infused tequila, vida mezcal, pineapple juice with a smoked local chile and salt rim.
Photography: Beth Wells
Can you give us any insider tips on Santa Fe? Any must-see’s or do’s while visiting town?
Alison: We are thrilled to be calling Santa Fe our second home this year.
Some of our favorites are:
- Ten Thousand Waves space & Izanami restaurant - a Japanese compound on the edge of town. The holy trinity of Japanese Izakaya, saké and sauna and soaks.
- Paper Dosa - the very best Indian food.
- Opuntia Café - for breakfast or lunch and the best matcha latte and Cuban sandwich on the planet.
- La Choza - a beloved spot for New Mexican food and margaritas.
- Dolina Café - bright, sunny eastern European cafe with the best breakfast soups.
- Santa Fe Vintage and Shiprock for shopping - can’t beat it.
- Meow Wolf
- Tent Rocks National Park
- Paloma Restaurant
Santa Fe bound? Check out 14 Hotspots Not to Be Missed While in Santa Fe →