Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen is a Santa Fe institution. A favorite of generations of locals and visitors alike, we’ve been serving the distinctive cuisine of New Mexico and unparalleled margaritas since 1950. Maria and Gilbert Lopez started Maria’s as a small take-out space serving traditional New Mexican foods during the Santa Fe Fiestas. The Lopez family sold Maria’s to Don Hammond, then chief of the New Mexico State Police, who in turn sold to his bartender, Charlie Lopez, who then sold to Peter Gould and Pricilla Hoback. Al and Laurie Lucero purchased the restaurant from Gould and Hoback in 1985 and owned it for 27 years.
Born and raised in Santa Fe, Al Lucero grew up on New Mexican home cooking and his restaurant continued serving the authentic food for which Maria’s was known. In 2013, the Luceros turned over the reins to the Peters family and Santa Fe Dining restaurant group, and we have remained true to the culinary tradition. In 2019, after several years of increasing demand, Maria’s expanded into the historical art supply building next door. The expansion was an opportunity to marry the past with the present and give families more space to come together over shared meals.
The annex in its early years belonged to members of the Peters family. The new dining room and patio bar are fondly named Maria Bernadette, after Kathleen Kenney Peters’ grandmother, Maria Bernadette ”May” Kenney. The first owners were Nina Otero and May Kenney. May’s half-sister, Nina Otero Warren, was born and raised in New Mexico and was an activist and a women’s suffragist who created a legacy of civil services through her work in education, politics, and public health. Nina was the first woman to be nominated to the U.S. House of Representatives and she became one of New Mexico’s first female government officials when she served as Santa Fe Superintendent of Public Schools. She was a remarkable woman who, in addition to her civic work, owned a real estate company, wrote the book Old Spain in Our Southwest, and homesteaded Las Dos, a section of land northwest of Santa Fe. Nina passed away in 1965 and left the property to her younger half-sister May Kenney.
Maria Bernadette “May” Bergere married John J. (Jack) Kenney, a lawyer and one-time district attorney, in Santa Fe. Upon her husband’s untimely death, she took a job in the army, recruiting and enlisting men and women for World War II and the Korean War. She raised four children and had seventeen grandchildren. In 1977 her four children inherited the building, and through the years the building has been a musical instrument and music supply business, an art supply and art handling business, and now is part of Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, where you can enjoy great New Mexican food and margaritas in a gorgeous art exhibit space.
In 1950, Maria’s featured only one margarita; now we hand-pour and shake over 150 different margaritas and stock over 170 tequilas. Tequila was first imported from Mexico to the U.S. through New Mexico in the 1800s, making its American debut in Santa Fe. Maria’s was one of the first establishments in the U.S. to feature super-premium margaritas, and we make everyone on our list with 100% agave tequila. But May Kenney was a bourbon drinker, and in her honor, we’ve named the new space and a special bourbon margarita “Maria Bernadette.”
Several elements of design and the art in Maria’s are inspired and rooted in Santa Fe. Tour the building: the beer cooler in our cantina is a circa 1881 icebox that was converted to electric when installed in the fifties; the bricks are from the old New Mexico state prison, which was catty-corner to us; most of the furniture comes from the pre-World War II La Fonda Hotel; and the beams in the east room are from the old Public Service Co. building in downtown Santa Fe. In the mid-1950s, Santa Fe artist Alfred Morang (1901-1958) painted the five wall frescoes in the Cantina. The art in the new space is by Fritz Scholder, Don Coen, Dan Namingha, Maurice Burns, and Elias Rivera. Other art throughout Maria’s is by Tim Jones, Gene Cluster, Roger Williams, Gary Fagin, Pat Porter, Marshall & Jimmy Romero, and Victoria de Almeida.
Maria’s is truly a dining experience that reflects the heritage of past and present. We invite you to sit back and let our family take care of you as you enjoy the warm hospitality and unique cuisine of Northern New Mexico