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Sep 10, 2005 01:12 PM

Chope's near Las Cruces (long)

  • d

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 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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  1. t
    Tha Groovin' Gourmet

    Thanks for the report. I'm with you...try to get to Chope's every time
    I'm in LC.

    As you discovered, the rellenos are non-crisp ones I know of. There's no chile served with them cuz they don't need it...perfectly moist and satisfying.

    I found your comment about cleanliness interesting...never felt that way myself. Chope's is a longstanding roadside dump and that is a big part of the charm.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Tha Groovin' Gourmet

      Why do "dumps" have to feel, or worse yet, be dirty? If the ownership can't be bothered to keep the public areas clean, it sure makes me wonder about the cleanliness of the kitchen and the handwashing habits of the cooks and servers. Whatever happened to pride of ownership, or just good sanitary habits? After all, we're putting the food and the utensils in our mouths. This doesn't mean that some clean-appearing places don't have dirty kitchens or poor sanitary habits, but I do make the assumption that the correlation between clean public areas and sanitary kitchen conditions is probably a pretty strong one.

      My son's pediatrician told me New Mexico has a higher than average incidence of acute hepatitis infections (I think its Hep A) than most states due to poor sanitary habits in restaurants and food stands.

      1. re: Tha Groovin' Gourmet
        Tha Groovin' Gourmet

        What are we talking about, inches of filth?

        A bit of peeling linoleum and some dust in the windowsill doesn't mean
        there's teeming bacteria in the kitchen.

        All my meals have been served on clean plates with clean silverware. My beers have arrived freshly opened with clean glasses in which to pour them.

        I eat in my kitchen and it is messier than Chope's.

      2. thanks for the review desert rat...chope's is on my must eat list on my way across the country. can't wait! pretty freaky about hepatitis occuring more frequently in NM tho...figures cuz i plan to do a lot of eating there. guess ill have to be a bit more conscious of my eating surroundings

        3 Replies
        1. re: erika

          Well, please keep in mind I've not heard of anyone picking up hepatitis at Chope's and I know a fair number of folks who've eaten there many times. I've not gotten hepatitis and I've eaten in lots of "dumps" but I do know a couple of folks who picked up hepatitis after chowing down at the NM State Fair. Kinda ruined things for me there, as it is a real Chowhound heaven. So, I've become a little more sensitive about the cleanliness of even the mostly highly esteemed dumps! However, even in the cleanest places, it just takes one food or utensil handler not washing his or her hands after a trip to the toilet and hepatitis could be yours. So, I suppose I was not being totally fair to Chope's, but if they don't take the time to keep the dining area clean, it makes a person wonder.

          1. re: erika

            You can be tested for hepatitis A susceptibility and be vaccinated if necessary- see your internist for details.

            1. re: Tom Hall

              That's great news! I can eat at all the best dumps in New Mexico without fear of illness (salmonella and ptomaine not withstanding...) :-)

              No really...thanks for the info.

          2. I don't know how the hell I found this message board but I have to tell ya that I've been working at chope's for several years and let me tell ya that the "cleanliness police" makes sure that everything is clean and passes strict government regulations at this place. We comply with everything they require. I can see how everything is prepared and handled in the kitchen, and it is as sanitary as can be, and the owners make sure it is done right at all times. You guys have nothing to worry about, everything is prepared right and believe me, sanitation levels in Chope's kitchen is high!! I'll make sure someone is told about the cleanliness in the dining room though...i'll check it out myself. Happy days ya'll!!

            1. It is ridiculous to claim that Chope's Restaurant is not very clean. Just because it is in a little old building and doesn't have a lot of windows to let in a lot of light doesn't make it unclean. I have personally inspected its kitchen and it is very clean. The place is well managed by some respectable older women who treat the place with loving care. I have also lived in many cities around the USA and have never seen an area where the "food inspectors" from the health dept are so vigilant as in this area. Enough said!!!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Fieldmarshall

                Simply put, Chope's may be the best Latin-style restaurant I've ever eaten in, and I've eaten in plenty. My chile verde con carne stuffed sopaipilla was flawless and my wife's tamales with red sauce may have been even better. God I wish I didn't live 6 hours drive from Chope's!

                And I didn't have sanitary concerns at Chope's that I don't have at most restaurants. Nothing to worry about, IMO.