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Nellie\'s Cafe Sign

Scoville-craving heat junkies flock to New Mexico for its capsicum bounty. Leaving Arizona on I-10, we had one Las Cruces destination in mind, Nellie’s Cafe.

Nellie\'s Menu

Nellie’s began as street food. Nellie Hernandez and her husband Danny sold burritos from a cart in 1962, but the quality of their burritos and the stellar chile sauces quickly had people clamoring for more—soon they were selling 200 chile-laden burritos a day. The cart became a mobile kitchen and by 1967 the brick-and-mortar Nellie’s Cafe was established.

We were welcomed by friendly waiters, some of whom are the Hernandez’s children who now run Nellie’s since Danny passed away in 1998. Agonizing over the inexpensive menu, we were advised to order combo platters “Christmas” style topped with both red and green chile to taste the widest breadth of the cafe’s offering.

I ordered the #1 Combination Plate with an enchilada and taco, along with refried beans and rice, smothered in meaty red and green chile sauce ($7). David ordered combo plate #2, which was combo plate #1, plus a chile relleño ($8).

Combo Platter at Nellie\'s

Nellie’s cooks very good New Mexican food and starts each table off with hot fresh tortilla chips and spicy green salsa, but the two meat chiles elevated the meal to something worth planning a road trip around. Tangy, citrus-y, sharp and imbued with cilantro, the green chile was the spicier of the two while the red chile offered a meaty, sweet balance to the green. The red chile, with its combination of capsicums and the rendered pork fat from the meat stewing in the sauce, was an elegant braise.

New Mexican Sopapillas

Following the lead of fellow diners, we ordered two Sopapillas with honey for dessert ($3) and reveled in their lightly fried exteriors and warm, doughy interiors.

After a week and a half on the road, this was a meal to delight in.

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Nellie’s Cafe

1226 West Hadley

Las Cruces, New Mexico

505-524-9982

Hours: 8am-2pm, Tuesday-Saturday

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