Memorable | One of the Best
Chope’s | New Mexico Spells Chile With an “E” | Las Cruces
Review by: Michael Stern
Chili or Chile?
Chope’s is in the Mesilla Valley, which is where some of New Mexico’s finest chilies grow. No doubt about it: chile gets star billing on the menu. No, I’m not talking about chili with an “I” at the end. Texans use that spelling to refer to chili con carne — a dish of meat and peppers. New Mexico likes to spell chile with an “e”, because the word does not refer to a dish. It’s a beloved crop and the state’s official vegetable.
Savoring the Pod
Chope’s provides a great version of a classic way to taste chile: chile relleno. They serve three lightly breaded and fried pods per order. Or have one singly alongside any of the combination plates. Red enchiladas also make a great showcase for the chile pepper. Red tends to give a good pepper kick. Depending on the season and the crop, green enchiladas can put the dish beyond most people’s red line. I recommend enchiladas by the stack, topped with a fried egg.
NEW Mexico Food
Meat-heavy tamales come by threes or as part of combination plate. Also on the plate you will find an enchilada, a soft taco, rice, and beans. The menu typifies the New Mexican (not plain Mexican) restaurants in this part of the country. Rare for the Land of Enchantment, you actually can get chili (a meal unto itself). It comes with or without beans or con queso (with cheese). Nearly every restaurant that purports to serve New Mexican food includes sopaipillas with the meal. At Chope’s, like so much else that comes from the kitchen, they’re exemplary.
A word of warning: Although Chope’s is in the middle of nowhere, it gets crowded at lunch. Chowhounds from Las Cruces, local chili planters chatting on their cell phones, and hot food pilgrims who want to savor chile with an E make it a favorite destination. By 11:45 in the morning, a line of customers waits at the door waiting for the dining room to open. The turnover is fast, but expect to put your name on a waiting list if you arrive after noon.
|Credit Cards Accepted