Photography © Douglas Merriam

It’s a Labor of Love at Paloma Restaurant

Mexican-Inspired Cuisine

by Douglas Merriam

Seamless collaboration makes Paloma magical.

Marja Martin, who spent twenty years in the catering business, had no intention of owning a brick-and-mortar establishment before she opened Paloma in July 2017 at the corner of Guadalupe and Montezuma in Santa Fe’s Railyard District.

“I never even considered opening a restaurant until I met Chef Nathan Mayes,” she says. “I wasn’t sure if a restaurant would succeed, but I was sure that I wanted Nathan as a business partner if I was going to try it.”

Martin and Mayes got to know each other after they were hired as consultants to help a local company launch a new restaurant. Finding that they worked well together in a very stressful situation, they began talking about what they would do with a restaurant if they had an ideal situation of their own. After a year of searching for a space, they found the perfect one in the Railyard.

“I already had a clientele from being in catering for so many years,” explains Martin. “A lot of my customers said they would support a restaurant if I opened one, but at the same time you’re just not sure. It’s such a big leap. They have supported Paloma. I love them so much for that, for all of the support we’ve received during the last four years.”

At Paloma, the business partners collaborate seamlessly, with both Martin and Mayes creating menu items, testing new dishes and deciding what represents their philosophical vision of a good restaurant. “Paloma has evolved to be more and more of a representation of ourselves,” says Mayes. “I’m able to be playful and creative with the ingredients, and the community has been very receptive to it.”

The inspiration for Paloma came out of Martin’s frequent trips to Mexico and her desire to create food similar to what she ate there. “There’s a lot of fresh, beautiful food there, especially plant-based options,” says Martin. “I want to present dishes that are lighter than what is perceived of as Mexican food.”

Mayes, who grew up in Santa Fe and Austin and is a Culinary Institute of America graduate, is in total harmony with Martin. He prepares food from scratch every day, cooking with fresh, raw ingredients — much of it local and organic when the season allows. Both he and Martin take pride in the fact that no food item at Paloma has been previously frozen. Mayes believes that delicious food can be healthy and fresh.

 

Paloma’s menu has an excellent selection of meat, fish and plant-based dishes, including vegan options. Try the Wild Mushroom Tlayuda, made with a large crispy blue corn tostada, refritos, quesillo and salsa macha. Smoked Chicken Sopecitos is a combination of blue corn masa cakes, refritos, pickled onion and avocado salsa. Other customer favorites are crispy fish tacos and fajitas.

Complementing Paloma’s food are drinks created by head bartender Andrea Duran, a Santa Fe native who has lived and worked in other parts of the country but is now happily part of the Paloma team. “I’ve been given a lot of creative freedom in developing new signature cocktails,” says Duran. Six of Duran’s creations are on the current drink menu, including one of her favorite cocktails, Puesta De Sol, which is made with Cimarron Reposado, passion fruit, Ancho Verde and Campari.

Duran describes Paloma’s atmosphere as “so much fun and lively and very supportive.” Part of the atmosphere is created by music that’s on the restaurant’s playlist, including Paloma, a Mexican folk song. The Spanish word paloma means “dove” in English. “It’s just a beautiful word, and we play the song Paloma a lot here,” says Martin.

While Martin runs the front of the house, she trusts Mayes implicitly to run the kitchen. It’s because of her great team, Martin says, that the restaurant has been so successful.

Paloma seats sixty diners inside the restaurant (including the bar) and forty-five in the restaurant’s beautiful outdoor patio and bar.

For more information about Paloma or to make a reservation, visit www.palomasantafe.com or call (505) 467-8624. The restaurant,  at 401 South Guadalupe Street, is closed on Monday and open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Paloma also serves brunch on Sunday. 

All photographs by Douglas Merriam.

“When we opened Paloma, we didn’t know if it would last a year,” she says. “We’ve made it so far. We’ve had so much fun doing it, and we’re still having fun. I want Paloma to be around for decades. I hope it can become a Santa Fe institution, something I can pass along.” 

Douglas Merriam
Contributor

Douglas Merriam is a Santa Fe-based travel, food and lifestylephotographer. “Growing food, cooking food and traveling to wheregood food is found” are his passions. He is the author of “Farm FreshJourney,” a cookbook inspired by the Santa Fe Farmers Market.

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