Southwestern cuisine in the Lowcountry? YES! Taking a trip to Santa Fe Cafe on beautiful Hilton Head Island, SC will show you why it’s just that good. This upscale unique New Mexican restaurant has been shining for over twenty years serving locals and visitors alike incredible and succulent fare from tender, perfectly cooked fish to hearty juicy steaks to out-of-this-world chimichangas and unforgettable fajitas, among many other specialties.
We’ve had so many outstanding meals at Santa Fe Cafe that we just cannot count the number of times we’ve been repeatedly delighted by this establishment. This article would go on forever if we include all of the fabulous selections we’ve ordered in the past. But we’ll highlight a few of our favorites for you in this write-up. Santa Fe Cafe is different than most other island establishments. For one, it has to be the best Southwestern restaurant on the island and in the surrounding areas. Period! It’s just that good!
Below, photos of romantic candlelight (I HAVE to get some of these candle holders!), an impressive structural composition inside the establishment and live Ranchero Guitar music Wednesday through Saturday evenings on the open-air, climate controlled Rooftop Cantina upstairs with the mighty star-filled heavens above.
We love getting to a Rooftop Cantina seat at the restaurant about a half hour before the colors of the setting sun start to paint the evening horizon with unforgettable hues of pink and orange and mauve…ah, sunsets. And they’re even better at Santa Fe Cafe! If you’re more of the indoorsy type, the candle-lit ambiance continues there also. An open Chef’s Counter is displayed for your viewing enjoyment there. Either area, you’ll absolutely LOVE this place!
Colorful House Made Tortilla Chips, Savory Salsa and Cadillac Margaritas
The Cadillac margaritas are a classic tradition we enjoy each time we visit the establishment. Freshly made, chilled perfectly and an experience for your taste buds is what you’ll experience with one of these. Have a few with the complimentary colorful chips and house made salsa and you’ve scored a major win.
Guacamole El Molcajete
Love guacamole? If you haven’t tried Santa Fe Cafe’s Guacamole En Molcajete, then you just haven’t lived! This concoction possesses a secret recipe that will not be given out for anything by the chef or anyone working at the establishment for that matter. (Trust us, we tried!) Creamy, chunky, chilled and outright sensational, this rendition of guacamole is certainly one we cannot forget easily. We especially love the presentation in the mortar and pestle-style dish and the creative and elaborate presentation. Made with fresh avocados, chilies, onions and lime, this starter ($8) is large enough to share and perfect to indulge in all on your own. Just go ahead and own the guacamole here, because it’s well worth it!
Painted Desert Soup
This corn and red pepper soup with ancho chile cream is…well, it’s just picturesque! I had real trouble actually eating it when it was served to me because it was so beautiful. But beware, because after one bite, you’ll find yourself devouring the entire bowl. This tasty, perfectly-temperatured serving of stunning culinary artistry is perfect on a fall evening while sitting upstairs outside on the Rooftop Cantina dining area of the restaurant. I’m actually craving a bowl of it while I write this right now!
Santa Fe Cafe Grouper Entree
The Santa Fe Cafe Grouper Entree ($30) is one of those “favorites” adored by the locals of Hilton Head Island. I know my husband and I have enjoyed it on several occasions ourselves. It’s composed of an excellently presented filet of fresh delicate grouper with chipotle Parmesan au gratin atop Mexican rice and Southwestern vegetables. Simply amazing! And quite obviously, an enjoyable display of the talents of those behind the scenes in the Santa Fe Cafe kitchen.
Mesquite Grilled Lamb Chops
Like lamb chops? Well, then you’re going to LOVE them at Santa Fe Cafe! Look at the above picture. I mean, seriously?!? Creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes compliment this tasteful dish atop a colorful cranberry chipotle sauce with Southwestern vegetables. The meticulously hand-selected lamb chops are placed right on top of it all. This is what perfection looks like! For a fair $34, this entree really delivers. And it tastes even better than it looks, which is pretty fantastic.
Santa Fe Plato Combination
This is one of my personal favorites…the Santa Fe Plato Combination. A goat’s cheese (love my goat’s cheese) chile relleno served with a sweet corn tamale and a wild mushroom and red chile cheese enchilada. (I’m seriously thinking about booking a direct flight to Hilton Head Island right now to get one of these!) This is an all-encompassing flavor-packed experience. I’ve enjoyed it multiple times because it was so memorable. The goat’s cheese chile relleno? Come on! Are you kidding? Deliciousness to the twentieth power. And the delicate sweet corn tamale? Who wouldn’t love this? For an easy $21 at dinner, I was more than pleased with the presentation and crazy delicious flavor.
Named for the outrageously incredible flavor this dish packs, the Outrageous Chimichanga ($23) isn’t only sizable, but delivers a sensational performance in terms of taste and satisfaction. Outrageous it is. Outrageously incredible! Tender beef, savory chicken, fresh black beans, melty cheese, sour cream, onions…..(hold on, we’re still going)…and tomatoes wrapped in a sun-dried tomato tortilla and perfectly fried to a pastry exterior, this entree is served over a green and red chile sauce, which accentuates the savory meat and vegetables all joined together by gooey hot cheese. Yum!
Who doesn’t love churros? Originally enjoyed in Mexico and Argentina, these sweet bites eventually spread to America and were famously enjoyed by all. Santa Fe Cafe serves these with a beautiful presentation of whipped cream, fresh strawberries and a chocolate and strawberry sauce underneath it all. A simple, yet gratifying dessert to finish off an already amazing Southwestern meal.
- ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: From the conversation-piece statues outside as you walk toward the front entrance to the open Chef’s Counter indoors to the Rooftop Cantina where patrons can dine beneath the stars amidst candlelight and listen to live Ranchero Guitar music, Santa Fe Cafe delivers multiple enjoyments for everyone.
- FOOD / DRINK: Fresh ingredients presented with meticulous creativity by a skilled kitchen staff who really love what they do.
- LOCATION: Santa Fe Cafe is located at 807 William Hilton Parkway on Hilton Head Island, SC 29928.
- HOURS: The restaurant is available for Lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM – 2 PM. Dinner is served nightly from 5 PM – 11 PM. Reservations are strongly recommended.
- SERVICE / STAFF: From the knowledgeable bartenders crafting superb libations to excellent attitudes and care from the servers to a pleasant overall feel about the teamwork ethic incorporated throughout the establishment among the employees, there’s nothing unsatisfactory we can report here.
- PRICE / VALUE: The restaurant cuisine is upscale, the service is very satisfactory and the cuisine is outstanding. We’re always happy with the value we receive for the cost of dinner here.
- CONTACT INFO: Phone: (843) 785-3838, Website: www.santafecafeofhiltonhead.com
- CORKAGE FEE: $15 per 750ml bottle.
- PARKING: There is ample complimentary self parking in the lot at the restaurant.
- TOTAL BILL: Our dinner bills have never exceeded $80 for the two of us unless we has others in our party. No complaints here. We’re happy to pay a bit more for what we receive at this terrific island establishment.
* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.