The New New Mexican
Santa Fe distinguishes itself from the enchilada places with a fusion menu that takes a left at Albuquerque and makes a bold step in a much-needed direction.
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Quesadillas, fajitas and enchiladas: $11-$16
Tamal de elote, salmon with tomatillo-mango salsa, tacos al pastor
From the shimmering, celestial lighting elements that dangle beyond the stylized adobe entrance, it’s clear brothers Javier and Andres Acuna invested in refinement when they opened Santa Fe Wilmington, their Latin-fusion venture on Pennsylvania Avenue. But they were after an even more important distinction: It’s different.
Javier Acuna didn’t name names during an impromptu appraisal of Delaware’s sit-down Latino restaurants, but then again, he didn’t have to.
“People in Delaware, they’re used to seeing the same thing from Latin restaurants, the same types of entrées,” he says. “We wanted to incorporate a lot more ingredients and dishes beyond just enchilada and chimichangas.”
The implication: Our local fleet of reliable Tex-Mex chains has lulled us into a culinary torpor, where refried beans and carnitas are our standard.
There’s nothing wrong with order-by-numbers Mexican, but, to Acuna’s point, there’s not a lot of diversity, either. The Acunas opened Santa Fe Wilmington last winter with a mission: to alter Delaware’s Latin landscape. Fusion is their tool, and they use it well.
The Columbia-born brothers, along with chef Jeff Tagle, have created a menu that cherry-picks ingredients and recipes from an array of Spanish-speaking countries. There’s Cuban boniato, sweet Costa Rican empanadas and churrasco from Argentina. The menu is supplemented by Mexican restaurant standards (more in line with the Acunas’ flagship Santa Fe in Newark), yet most are marked by an uptown flair. A quesadilla, for instance, swells with flavorful smoked chorizo, manchego cheese, grilled peppers and onions.
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