Hits and Misses of Taos, NM
We’ve been to Taos, New Mexico a number of times and it seems we’re always finding new adventures around the area…some good and others not so good! Overall I would call the small town of Taos eclectic, odd, artsy, historic, and most of it with an eco-conscious style.
This year we visited Taos at the first of February and the town was pretty darn quiet. We were the only RV at the BLM campground (besides the camp host), some days it snowed and some days it was 80 degrees, when we would belly up to a bar we’d be amongst only a handful of locals…it felt like the entire town was our oyster waiting to be cracked! Since we were staying at the BLM with no internet connection we ended up going into town most every day to eat, drink and get a little work done. After paying for a few experiences that were not so great we decided to keep track and share our thoughts.
Station Café 3 one 6 – We just popped into this little place for a quick dinner with friends…and we were sad we didn’t arrive just 15 minutes earlier for happy hour! Affordable, yummy, New Mexican food with several seafood and vegetarian options. That pretty much sums it up; we would have come back if we didn’t discover this place on our last day! (We did not try the WiFi.)
Vivac Winery – Plenty of good wines, and unlike much of NM their wines are not overly sweet. Our favorite wine is by far the 2011 Fire Vineyard, if you can get your hands on a bottle you won’t be sorry. To top off the tasty wine the chocolates are made by the owner’s sister and are very tasty! The House made cheese is a little pricey compared to store bought cheese but it’s crafted by hand and extremely smooth. We purchased the cheddar which has a texture of cheesecake…who needs crackers?!?
Taos Cooking Studio – Chef Chris Maher never lets us down! Last year we handmade pizzas in his custom pizza hearth and stirred up some yummy Thai dishes that made us want to fly away to Thailand. This year we prepared a Shrimp and Lobster pasta that knocked our socks off accompanied with steamed mussels, blackened green chilies and a host of local wines. Where else in the world are you invited into the home of a movie star and a James Beard recognized chef to cook and dine side-by-side? From the moment you walk in the door you’re like family, and once the first bottle of wine is uncorked the fun begins! This is the best food experience to be had in Taos and maybe in all of the southwest.
Taos Mesa Brewery – The Big Brown Beer is a limited release and EXTREMELY tasty (and high in alcohol)…I forgot what Nikki ordered but it was tasty too and we were happy. The menu was very interesting with tons of vegetarian options; we ordered the Tofu Larb Gai and the special Veggie Melt. The food was tasty and the service was great. Sad we weren’t there during the warmer months as the outdoor patio looks like the place to be for a day of hanging out and watching the sunset!
Wired? Café – Best WiFi in town, hands down. Skip the drip coffee and go for an Americano, a latte, or have them brew up some loose leaf tea. The people that work here are crazy friendly, even after they close the doors for business they most always let us stay on the internet while they cleaned up giving us an extra hour of online time. They also serve sandwiches and salads that are pretty darn tasty. They do ask you to purchase something every hour or to donate cash for the WiFi use, but they’re not too crazy about the policy, they just don’t want you to take up space for paying customers. Tip: If you’re clumsy don’t sit by the little stream that runs through the covered deck area, and if you need peace and quiet there is a “quiet” room.
Cid’s Food Market – a small town version of Whole Foods, maybe the best small town natural grocery store we’ve visited over the past few years of travel. Prices are on par with what one would expect from any natural grocer. Nice staff and a good selection of local food and beverages.
Manby Hot Spring – A beautiful hike down the gorge leads to a tiny natural hot spring along the Rio Grande River. The trail is well maintained and is a moderately strenuous 400ft elevation change, which can be tricky if you’re not used to the ‘high’ altitude. Bring a swimsuit, or don’t, and relax in the ‘healing’ waters. If you have kids make sure you prepare them for the potential nudity, we saw 2 old dudes bathing in their birthday suits but fortunately there’s a second pool. Best part is: the entire experience is free. (the springs are also called “Stagecoach Hot Springs”)
Pilar BLM Campground – This is the first campground inside the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (from highway NM68). $15 per night, 50 amp power, freshwater connection, pay showers nearby, flush toilets and beautiful views…what more can you ask for (well…maybe a dump station nearby since we have unlimited water!). Cell phone service and internet is almost non-existent, but with our Wilson Booster we were able to get 3 bars for calls but not enough for data. The nearby Rio Bravo campground is directly on the River and has RV hook-ups as well, but there are only a handful of sites with hook-ups, and every other primitive campground was closed for the winter season. As with most public land there is a 14 day stay limit.
Taos Ski Valley – We didn’t hit the mountain this year but we have many times in past years. It’s a great local mountain with a TON of advanced runs. Typically the powder on this mountain rivals famed locations from both Colorado and Utah. A couple years back we did a scavenger hunt on the mountain with New Belgium Brewing if you want to check it out: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/taos-new-belgium
Gruet – Possibly one of the best drinks to come from NM is the Gruet bubbly. Sure it’s made near Albuquerque but it’s cheaper in NM than other states so pick up a bottle in Taos and celebrate anything! Yum.
Friday Morning Weather Man
We don’t watch much television but with no wifi at our campground and crazy weather day to day, we found ourselves tuning in each morning and Fridays are a real treat. So, if you are in NM on a Friday morning, tune into channel 4 for the weather man and his tiny dog.
Check out our where the wynn’s blow map for locations and links to all of the above locations.
It’s not exactly fair to judge a place based on one experience, so please, by all means, if you’re interested in visiting these places please do and let us know we’re crazy for putting it in the ‘misses’ side of Taos. These are the places we walked away from thinking “it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be”, doesn’t mean they are bad places, that’s why we’re calling it a ‘miss’:
Byzantium – We were told this is the “best restaurant in Toas” by several locals. We pulled up and were instantly in love with the building inside and out! The owner was our server and he brought out some of the yummiest bread and house made jam along with a complimentary cocktail in a beautiful ceramic cup (they only sell wine and beer, so the cocktail was on the house). What a great start…but the appetizers and entrées we ordered weren’t nearly as spectacular. We dined with 4 other friends and the general consensus was “Good Quality of Food, nice presentation but the flavors were lacking so we didn’t get that ‘wow’ factor”. Nikki and I dropped a little over $100 for a meal that in our opinion should have cost more like $50.
El Gamal – Ranked highly online we expected to taste some very yummy ethnic food. We were underwhelmed with the food and felt the prices were high for what seemed like side dishes and not entrées. We came for lunch around 1pm so we could miss the crowds and use their WiFi, but their internet was so slow we couldn’t get the backend of our website to load. Oh well.
Eske’s Brew Pub – This place has loads of vegetarian options. The pretzel was great, amazing even, probably the best pretzel we’ve ever had! We also ordered a green chili soup that was decent, but not even close to as good as the pretzel. We tasted 3 different beers and all were fine, but none really hit the sweet spot on our palate. WiFi was pretty slow, but at least it worked unlike many other locations.
Taos Ale House – Internet was supposed to be good, but according to the bartender it only works some of the time (it did not work for us). The atmosphere was cool the beer was pretty good, but most were heavy on the hops for our tastes…granted the bartender said their brew master is a total ‘hop-head’. This is a great spot to sit to and have a beer in winter thanks to the fancy fireplace and cozy setting.
Wired? Café – I mentioned it as a hit above, but there was also a miss: We were told the Glutien Free cakes were made locally and were better than normal cakes, “so good you’ll never know the difference”…a bold statement to tell a bonafide cake lover…we were disappointed. Also the drip coffee they use from Santa Fe wasn’t our taste; on the other hand the espresso is spot on.
Taos Public Library – Free WiFi is great but there’s a ton of distractions in this library. It seemed there was always a character walking around, or a kid playing video games while chatting online. The WiFi is free but it’s intermittently fast, so we found ourselves wasting time with loading pages depending on the number of people logged in.
RV Campgrounds – Many RV parks are closed during the colder months and the few we drove by that were open are basically parking lots…and for 40+ bucks per night they can go you-know-what! We’re so happy to pay a fraction of the price to be out in the “wild” of the BLM; even if it means we’re 18 miles from downtown Taos.
Visitors Center and CVB – We try to call or stop by the visitors center to get help in figuring out where to spend our time in a town. This is always a hit or miss. Our first call seemed promising and they were supposed to help us plan our 10 days but they failed in a MAJOR way, and ended up being a total waste of our time. So Nikki and I regrouped and figured it all out our own, which is ok because I think our visit came out even better!