A passing police officer was suspicious when he spotted us loitering outside of Nellie’s one morning before the cafe’s 8am opening.
“We’re waiting to eat,” we responded to his inquiry about our intentions.
Good answer. He broke into a big grin and said, “Best chile in town!”
In Las Cruces, the heart of chile country, such an avowal is no casual observation.
Inside the cozy cinderblock and glass brick restaurant, a sign on the wall confirms the kitchen’s priorities: “A day without chile is like a day without sunshine.”
Danny Ray Hernandez, Nellie’s son, makes vivid salsas using five to seven different types of chile and specializes in such eye-opening breakfasts as huevos a la Mexicana (scrambled with jalapenos) and eggs with chile and meat. For the latter you can get red or green or a side-by-side duet of both, known as Christmas. The red tastes of pure pod; the green is hot enough to require tongue-tamping with the kitchen’s pulchritudinous sopaipillas. Mr. Hernandez speculated that dry growing conditions over recent years have produced chiles in which the heat is more concentrated.
Years ago, Nellie’s and its offspring, Little Nellie’s Chile factory, served dinner. Today it is strictly a breakfast-and-lunch eatery.