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NYC hidden dining gems: Santa Fe BK brings New Mexico to New York

Green chile cheeseburger at Santa Fe BK. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)
Green chile cheeseburger at Santa Fe BK. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)
Kaitlyn Rosati

In 2021, I took a cross-country road trip with my dog, Bowie. One of my favorite stops was Alamogordo, N.M., largely because of the food. My New Mexican diet consisted solely of green chile breakfast burritos, fry bread and enchiladas. By the time I left the state, I started to wonder if New Mexico is secretly the best food state in the U.S. When my friend told me about Santa Fe BK, a Williamsburg, Brooklyn, restaurant dedicated to all things New Mexico, I went that week to relive some of my favorite meals from my road trip.

Run by Melissa Klein and John Watterberg, Santa Fe BK originally started strictly as a takeout window for three varieties of green chile breakfast burritos (sausage, bacon or potato) and green chile cheeseburgers. John tells me the plan was always to open a full-service sitdown restaurant, but they wanted to wait until they got their liquor license. When that day came in April 2022, Santa Fe BK began its dinner program. (They still run their takeout window until 3 p.m. daily.)

John, an Albuquerque, N.M., native, moved to New York in 2001 and found himself in the service industry, primarily as a bartender. While working at a now-closed New Mexican restaurant, he met Melissa, and their love story began.

Taco salad and tequila at Santa Fe BK. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)
Taco salad and tequila at Santa Fe BK. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)

Tequila is the reason we fell in love,” he tells me. My friend and I took that as a sign to order a round of tequila shots served in caballitos, which translates to “tiny horses.”

John’s experience as a bartender shows in their thoughtful cocktail menu. The drink names are all “Game of Thrones”-themed, a nod to longtime Santa Fe, N.M., resident George R. R. Martin. The Reigns of Gold Cocktail is made with añejo tequila, black pepper, cinnamon and a blood orange puree ice cube, which slowly melts, giving each sip a different flavor profile. The Fallen Ranger cocktail has a nod to Albuquerque-set “Breaking Bad,” with rosemary, coconut, pomegranate and a blue crystal rim (if you know, you know).

The menu is fairly straightforward, with green chiles making an appearance in most dishes. My friend and I ordered the Watterburger (a green chile cheeseburger) with a side of queso for the fries, enchiladas and, because health is wealth, the taco salad. All tortillas, including the one used as a vessel for the taco salad, are pressed inhouse every morning at 5 a.m. from a machine that was custom-built in San Antonio.

Santa Fe BK. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)
Santa Fe BK. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)

Shortly after ordering, plates with massive portions began to arrive. Unsure of where to begin, I dipped some fries into the queso while coming up with my game plan. I could’ve just eaten those and been beyond satisfied. The queso is thick, creamy, and rich, and has nice chunks of chopped green chile throughout, giving it a subtle spice and tang. My friend cut the burger in half so we could split it. As soon as I grabbed my half and felt how pillowy soft the bun was, I knew it was going to be good. Confirming, my friend took a bite before I did, and immediately blurted out, “Damn, that’s good.”

The meat was cooked to a perfect temperature, and the green chiles hiding underneath the blanket of cheese were anything but overpowering. John tells me the inspiration for the Santa Fe BK burger comes from Blake’s Lotaburger, a chain in New Mexico that touts itself as the originator of the green chile burger.

The enchilada platter was exactly what anyone would want and expect. The plate was filled from edge to edge, the portion was huge, the green chile chicken inside was tender, and it was messy, cheesy, slightly smoky and bursting with layers of flavor.

Meals at Santa Fe BK. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)
Meals at Santa Fe BK. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)

John advised me to smash the taco salad, tortilla shell and all, and mix it around, so I went for it. The taco salad consists of little gem lettuce, tomato, red onion avocado and green chile ranch, and you have the option to add green chile chicken, pork adovada, picadillo or pinto beans. John recommended picadillo, so doctor’s orders. The picadillo had a nice kick of heat, and crumbled ground beef throughout the salad meant little bits in every bite.

As for the restaurant interior, the spot is cozy, and resembles standard New Mexican decor. The walls are lined with original photographs of New Mexico by Corey Walker, John’s best friend from high school, naturally.

Whether it’s for a date night, tequila shots and taco salads, or for a quick on-the-go burrito or burger, you’ll want to add Santa Fe BK to your radar for a little Southwest flair right here in NYC.

  • Address: 178 N Eighth St, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11211
  • Phone: (347) 304-1759
  • Hours: Takeout window Monday-Sunday 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; Dinner service: Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m.-11 p.m., closed Monday nights
  • Prices: Takeout menu — Green Chile Breakfast Burritos $11; “Sack O’ Six” Breakfast Burritos $60; Green Chile Cheeseburger $9; “Sack O’ Six” Green Chile Cheeseburgers $50; fries $4. Dinner menu — Chips and dips $12; snacks $14; plates $16 to $28 
  • Takeout and delivery available; reservations accepted

Have a suggestion for a great hidden dining gem in your neighborhood? Reach out to Kaitlyn with your recommendations at