Chope’s is in the Mesilla Valley, which is where some of New Mexico’s finest chilies are grown; and chile is the star of the menu. Not chili with an “I” at the end, which is the Texas meal of meat and peppers, but chile with an “e”, which is the way New Mexicans refer to their beloved crop. At Chope’s, one good way to taste them is as chilies rellenos: lightly breaded and fried pods served three to an order, or singly alongside any of the combination plates. Also terrific, and milder than the rellenos, are Chope’s red enchiladas. Green enchiladas are available, too, and they tend to be hotter. We recommend a stack, with a fried egg on top.
Meaty tamales are available by threes or as part of combination plate that also includes an enchilada, a soft taco, rice, and beans. The menu is a typical one for this part of the country, featuring bowls of chili with or without beans or con queso (with cheese), as well as airweight sopaipillas. Nothing we have sampled is less than exemplary.
A word of warning: although Chope’s is in the middle of nowhere, it gets crowded at lunch with chowhounds from Las Cruces, local chili planters chatting on their cell phones, and hot food pilgrims from throughout the state. By 11:45 in the morning, customers are lined up outside the house waiting for the dining room to open. The turnover is fast, but it is likely you will have to put your name on the waiting list if you arrive much after noon.