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Restaurants & Bars

Chope's near Las Cruces (long)

desert rat | Sep 10, 200501:12 PM     10

Ok...this was my "pilgrimage" to a place I heard makes great chile rellenos. I took 3 colleagues. We were all in town (Las Cruces) on a business trip. We almost got lost finding it. For those of you who will venture there, it is on NM 28 right across from the post office in La Mesa, NM. The Google map I used had us turn where we shouldn't have. The drive was interesting anyway...we drove through pecan orchards and past corn fields and cotton fields.

When we got there, we had to wait outside with the mosquitoes (read "west nile virus")which was uncomfortable (lots of irrigation ditches in the vicinity.) There was a table of 17 college kids just ahead of us, and a table of 25 college kids had just left.

Luckily, we only had to wait 15 minutes. We ordered beer and then had to wait a while for the waitress to take our order. But she did. I ordered a plate of 3 chile rellenos and some beans. The colleagues ordered a number of different combination plates that included stuffed sopaipillas, tacos, gorditas and enchiladas. Some ordered red and some ordered green chile.

The rellenos came dry (unusual), so I ordered some green on the side. I was very impressed with the rellenos - they were really very good. They were as close to home made as I've had in a restaurant. Very simple batter (like what fish might be batter-dipped and fried in.) Not too bready, not too eggy and not too greasy. The batter let the flavor of the green chiles come through. The chiles were fresh...one was hot, the other two were mild. The cheese inside was mild. I worried for a moment it was Velveeta, but it wasn't. Just very mild orange cheese. (I like to use a combination of mild cheddar and asadero cheese, a Mexican cheese similar to Monterrey jack, in my rellenos.)

The green chile sauce was delicious!! Flavorful with good heat but not real hot. My colleagues (one of whom was a longtime New Mexican like me, one of whom is a chile wimp and one of whom is new to New Mexico but loves New Mexican food) all enjoyed their food. I tried the red chile and it was very smooth and flavorful (tasted like it was made from pods, not powder, which is always a good sign.) One colleague (the long time NM resident) wondered where the green chile was in his stuffed sopa and had to order some extra. One colleague liked the gordita, but another didn't. I didn't taste those but they looked very appetizing. One colleague just LOVED the rellenos. So, overall the food was very good, locally prepared New Mexican cuisine. What I liked about it was it tasted homemade. It was simple and flavorful New Mexican soul food.

My only negative about this restaurant is that it just didn't feel clean. It is small, in an old, dark, adobe building and it just seemed that they could do a better job making it feel clean and bright. Why a restaurant like this - with all of its terrific food - can't feel a little cleaner and look a little brighter, I don't know. It doesn't have to cost very much to add some new lighting, clean the window sills, add a coat of fresh paint. They could use a new floor, which is costly, I know.

Overall, if you're in the vicinity, don't miss it. I'll go back next time I'm in Las Cruces.

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