hatch green chiles

Heat Seekers

Chope's enchiladas.

Chope's enchiladas.

Savor a taste of Chile Country at these delicious hot spots.

By Carolyn Graham
Photography by Sergio Salvador

Love for hatch green chiles is growing  across the United States. The regional pepper, grown in the southern New Mexico town of Hatch (population: 1,680), is found in grocery stores as far away as New Jersey. Chile harvest season, usually mid- to late-August, fills the air with the aroma of roasting chiles across the country, but chowing down on this popular chile is a year-round affair in New Mexico. They are especially tasty at the source: the Mesilla Valley, where the Rio Grande saturates the fertile chile fields around the town of Hatch and the metropolis of Las Cruces. 

For a fresh-from-the-field experience, start in Hatch, at Sparky's Burgers, Barbecue, and Espresso, home of one of best green chile cheeseburgers in the state. The property is decorated with kitschy fiberglass statues, but the burger is simplicity at its best: a well-seasoned patty topped with cheese and diced green chile, served between fresh buttered buns. A green chile–infused milkshake chaser dowses the burn with creamy vanilla ice cream.

La Posta de Mesilla, a former stagecoach stop in the village of Mesilla near Las Cruces, serves chiles rellenos (green chile pods stuffed, battered, and deep fried) made from a recipe that's been loved by diners for decades. The fluffy egg batter is key to bringing out the chile flavor.

Double Eagle's green chile cheeseburger.

Double Eagle's green chile cheeseburger.

Just across the historic Mesilla Plaza is the Double Eagle, an upscale steakhouse that also houses the casual Peppers restaurant. Here, the world's biggest green chile cheeseburger measures a whopping 12 inches in diameter and is topped with a half-pound of queso fresco. (The regular-sized version for us mortals is just as satisfying.)

South of Mesilla on Highway 28 in La Mesa, stands Chope's Town Café and Bar, a landmark since 1915. The tamales and enchiladas from this old-school restaurant (attached to a friendly biker bar), exude flavors from recipes lovingly handed down for generations. 

In Las Cruces, the low-key La Nueva Casita Café has been serving classic New Mexican dishes topped with some of the city's tastiest red and green chile for more than five decades. Morning regulars favor the huevos rancheros here; for lunch or dinner, the enchiladas (red, green, or both) are the often the top pick. Locals order them with an egg on top.

Chala's Wood Fire Grill is relatively new to the Las Cruces food scene and is mixing it up by incorporating smoked meats into classic New Mexican dishes. The standout is the A-Mountain burger (named for a local landmark) that features a thick, juicy patty oozing with cheese, green chile, and two hefty pieces of house-made bacon, all captured in a toasty brioche bun.