Review by: Michael Stern

Not that chili can’t be elegant, refined, or subtle; but it also has a way of inspiring vulgarity. Think of the braggadocio typical of chili cook-offs and the bombastic tirades by self-righteous aficionados who denounce a chili if it doesn’t fit their notion of the correct, one-and-only way to cook it. Or, visit Sparky’s in Hatch, New Mexico, which has declared itself to be the Chile Capital of the World. Sparky’s is as loud and as indecorous as a restaurant can be.

Ironically, the chili stew about which devotees make such a fuss is not even on the menu at Sparky’s, for in New Mexico, chile (with an e at the end rather than an i) is an ingredient, not a dish. It is a star ingredient, to be sure, for Sparky’s offers it not only atop hamburgers and steaks and inside tacos and burritos, but even as a featured ingredient in milk shakes and lemonade. The cheeseburger is a grand, juicy one — the must-eat dish here — but you also can get good, slow-smoked BBQ pork or beef, plus a full roster of expertly crafted espresso drinks.

In other words, Sparky’s does not fit any restaurant mold. It isn’t quite a chili house or a BBQ parlor or a coffee bar, although it offers all of the above. What it is: a wacky destination restaurant crowded inside and out with wild, pop-culture signage and with an attitude as mighty as the Rio Grande. It also happens to be a popular music venue, with bands performing weekly in — where else? — the Green Chile Room.

Note that Sparky’s is closed Monday through Wednesday.

What To Eat

Green Chile Cheeseburger

Sweet Corn

Caramel Milk Shake


Sparky’s Recipes


What do you think of Sparky’s?

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