Ripe–El Paso, TX

Ripe Eatery
910 E. Redd Rd.
El Paso, TX
(915) 584-7473
Ripe

Ripe


The genre of “New American” restaurants has become very popular in El Paso, but Ripe was one of the original ones in the city and I think helped to create the market which many other restaurants are now filling. I have had a hard time defining exactly what “New American” means other than that it is different from restaurants which serve traditional American food. Having the “New” in the name allows the chefs to experiment and combine American food with other cuisine in some cases (in the case of Ripe I think there is a very large Italian influence). When Ripe first opened I read articles about the brother and sister team who opened the restaurant, and the one theme which dominated was their passion about good food and their desire to share it with the city.

One of the core principles at Ripe’s founding was to provide a la carte orders cooked in small batches made from the freshest ingredients. The “a la carte” portion of this directive has some flexibility, because there is a wide range of choices including full dinners, sandwiches, and small plates. The “freshest ingredients” aspect of the restaurant of course is a very good concept but it does create some difficulty in the sense that the menu changes all the time. They have seasonal menus, there are daily specials, and the regular items seem to change from time to time. When the restaurant first opened there was a large choice of panini sandwiches, but now there is only one that is offered. A waiter told me that if I wanted a certain type of panini I could request it (and if they could make it they would). It seems that in most instances, though, it is best to go with whatever is on the menu at the moment because these make use of their fresh and seasonal ingredients.

Some of the items I liked are listed as “Best Items,” although they may or may not ever again be listed on the menu. The menu is constantly changing, but the quality of food does not. Everything here has a high quality which I really appreciate, and so far they have flavored the food in a way that I appreciate as well. Combined with the top notch service, I always feel that it is worth the money even though it is sometimes in the upper range of the $$ price level or higher if you consider drinks, desserts, etc.

The international aspect of the menu is also a good feature. In the past some of my favorite items were the panini and the Moroccan vegetable tagine. I was told that on their fall seasonal menu Swedish meatballs are included. It seems that whenever they have international dishes they are as good as if you went to a restaurant owned by someone from that country. The only caveat is that they do not consistently serve any particular item, and I would say this particularly applies to the international dishes.

Drinks

Stout beer

Stout beer

It is not unusual for restaurants in El Paso to offer beer, but it is unusual for them to offer anything that would entice me to order it–especially ones that come in a can. This generally happens when they have craft beer, local brews, or some unusual labels I cannot find anywhere else. On a visit to Wisconsin I found a local brand that was good enough to make this my drink of choice at restaurants, but for me this is definitely not normally the case.

In El Paso, Ripe and Ardovino’s are the two restaurants that come to mind when I think I might want beer with the meal instead of my normal iced tea or other type of tea. This is because of the variety they serve and the quality of them. I want to emphasize, though, that this is not saying that Ripe and Ardovino’s are better than anyplace else, just that they had things that sounded interesting enough to make me want to try them.

Sandwiches

Black bean burger

Black bean burger with a Simple Salad

There are at least three advantages of ordering a sandwich at Ripe: (1) they are always on the menu, (2) it keeps you in the $$ price range, and (3) the ones I have tried have been better than at other restaurants. In the case of the Black Bean Burger I am not sure that this is the best I have had anywhere, but I do think it is one of the best in the city. The one I ordered here was a Tuesday special, but I think this meant it was at a lower price rather than that they only serve it on Tuesday. I liked the fact that it was slightly spicy but they were not using the spice to try to bump up the flavor (there was flavor enough from the fresh ingredients). The Simple Salad that came with it was fresh and had a good flavor.

BLTA

Bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado sandwich

I ordered the BLTA because it was on the summer seasonal menu, and it looked like it would be interesting. I will have to say that even adding the “A” (avocado) to the traditional BLT does not fully describe it–the menu lists toasted ciabatta, bacon, pepper jack, avocado, chipotle mayo, lettuce, and fried green tomatoes. In terms of flavor I think what I appreciated the most over the traditional BLT was the cheese. The chipotle mayo was something about which I was wary, but it turned out to be very good with just the right amount of kick. The avocado was fresh but not so soft that it oozed out of the sides to make a messy meal as well as a tasty one. On the bacon they did a good job of making it just a little bit crispy so that it still had most of its flavor but I did not feel as if I were eating something greasy and soggy (usually I prefer bacon that is crispy rather than soft).

Ripe is known for its burgers, which account for the majority of sandwiches they serve. Burgers are not usually high on my wish list, but what I have heard about the ones here must mean that they are very high quality.

In the past one of my favorite items here was the Panini. There is currently only one type of panini on the menu, but a waiter indicated that you might be able to make a special request if there was a certain type of sandwich you wanted. I wanted to try some different items before I went back to what used to be my usual order at Ripe (assuming I can still get the types of panini I used to order). I still think, though, that whatever they make here will be among the best sandwiches in El Paso.

Other Items
For other items that are served I have to go back to dishes I have ordered in the past, but which are not currently available. If you keep an open mind and think that whatever is fresh and seasonal would be good, then Ripe will be a very good experience (all the items I have tried here were fresh and seasonal when I ordered them). It is just frustrating that many of the items I ordered in the past were so good that I would really like to have them again.

Some of the highlights from the past include a delicious Stuffed Chicken and a Moroccan style Vegetable Tagine. I have already mentioned the panini, but it was mentioned to me that some types of panini may still be available by special order. I was very impressed in the past by the Asparagus and I think this is likely still available on some of the seasonal or special menus.

Other Comments
Originally this was an “Eatery and Market,” but the deli has been phased out and the glass cases of the market are no longer here. I believe it is still a very good place for takeout, though–either to get food to go or to get individual items or a meal that can be reheated later. I have not tried this approach but I know it was one of their original concepts.

When Ripe first opened it was very big on Italian food. I thought the cheese was especially good, and I liked dishes such as the pizza, lasagna, and panini. The veggie pizza, for instance, was piled high with vegetables instead of the typical sprinkling you get at many pizza restaurants–the one here was not very traditional but it was very good.

I have always considered Ripe to be the best place in town for vegetarian dishes after Kern Place Market closed, although the menu has now gotten smaller and I think there must now be better choices for vegetarian food (although I have not found them). Still, some items I have had here such as the vegetarian pizza were very memorable.

One item I would like to try here is the Swedish Meatballs, which will be on the fall seasonal menu.

Ripe has a breakfast restaurant next door called Ripe Sunrise Cafe, and between the two you can eat from 6:30 in the morning until 10:00 pm (it closes at 3:00 pm on Sunday).


Ripe Web Site


RATING: 25

Cuisine: New American
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily except Sun. Evening
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer and Wine

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 20, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: BLTA, Veggie Burger,

Special Ratings
star 5 Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Avocado
star 5 Black Bean Veggie Burger

Little Diner–Canutillo, TX

Little Diner
7209 7th St.
Canutillo, TX
(915) 877-2176
Little Diner in Canutillo

Canutillo Tortilla Factory & Little Diner


Finding this restaurant is half the adventure. Canutillo Tortilla Factory & Little Diner, otherwise known as “Little Diner” is located in Canutillo, just northwest of El Paso, off I-10 at the Trans-Mountain exit. Eastbound traffic on I-10 would want to take the Vinton Exit and follow the frontage road to Vinton Avenue.

Order at the counter

Orders are placed at the counter, or you can get them to go

There is good reason for the name “Little,” with a few booths and tables that at times can barely hold the crowd of customers that are here to enjoy the downscale, but very enjoyable Mexican cuisine. The crowd has become much larger in recent years due to word-of-mouth and magazine articles in publications such as Texas Monthly, extolling the delights of the “roadfood” served here. You will see much of this publicity exhibited on the walls, as well as the fact that George W. Bush has been a visitor.

Little Diner's awards

Some of Little Diner’s reviews and awards

I think many of the articles published about Little Diner are inaccurate, though. It has recently experienced a change in ownership, and the staff told me they have changed the concept of the restaurant somewhat. Recognizing that many of the customers are now tourists, they have downgraded the chile spice level from almost off the charts to a more tolerable (and I think more appropriate) level. Some of the food has changed, and I will get into details in the review. Overall I do not think it is any better or worse than before, but I think they are making a conscious attempt to make it more consistent (I think this is a good thing, but I will find out on subsequent visits).

The food at Little Diner is sort of a cross between “El Paso” and “New Mexico” style cooking, with the “New Mexico” part meaning the use of unadulterated chiles that can either be hot or extra hot, depending on the time of year and the particular crop of chiles used. El Paso style Mexican food comes through in the beans, rice, tamales, and I would say most of the items served. They also follow the El Paso tradition of cooking special tamales just before Christmas (these are the ones I like to order for myself when I get the chance).

Gorditas

Little Diner's gordita

Gordita with a hard corn masa shell

Little Diner is most famous for its Gorditas, a large shell of corn masa stuffed with ground beef or other fillings. The shell here is thicker than most places, and I would say is more flavorful. One good feature is that you can order several different fillings, but the most popular is ground beef.

Ground beef gordita

Ground beef gordita

The Ground Beef is flavored with a spice that reminds me a little bit of Durkee’s.  I have come to really appreciate the flavor, especially compared to the ground beef other restaurants have to offer. As much as I like avocado, I would say that version is the one that does not really bring out the best flavor of the gordita. Little Diner provides a small cup of red salsa that I also recommend to enhance the flavor.

The gordita went through a phase where I found the shell to be exceptionally hard and crispy, but on several recent visits I have found it to be back to the same quality it had with the old ownership, and at this point it is back to being my favorite item at the restaurant.

Green Enchiladas

Green enchiladas

Green enchiladas

Green Enchiladas are one of the items I have come to appreciate most over the years, not because they are the best I have ever eaten but because they are unique in El Paso. Based largely on the style of enchiladas served in New Mexico, they provide a “chile fix” that is conveniently located for El Paso residents. I would compare Little Diner’s enchiladas to many served in Las Cruces, although Little Diner does not have the extreme spice level found in some of the New Mexico restaurants. The enchiladas are served flat, with the chile sauce overflowing onto the plate and the large chunks of green chile mixed with cheese on top. The traditional yellow cheese is used, I think largely as the most effective means to help cool down your mouth from the spicy chiles (the refried beans do a good job also). Personally I like to order the enchiladas without onions– I think they are too strong. The green enchiladas are probably the spiciest item you can get at Little Diner but they are less so than people would have found if there were here under the old ownership. For flavor I prefer the green enchiladas here over the red.

If you get a green enchilada a la carte or on a combination plate it will be rolled instead of flat, but this is one of the few instances where I think the flavor is just as good either way.

Red Enchiladas

Combination dinner

Combination dinner with tamal, red enchilada, rice, gordita, taco, and beans

The Red Enchiladas are also good, but to me they have a very “earthy” taste almost as if they simply grind up the chile pods with no other ingredients to offset the flavor (my description is extreme, but I am trying to describe how it differs from many others). You do get local flavors with the red enchiladas, but for me the flavor is not quite as good as with the green enchiladas.

Chiles Rellenos

Chile relleno with a gordita

Chile relleno with a gordita, salad, beans, and rice

The Chiles Rellenos are served without sauce on top– you are left to discern the flavors of the chile, the Muenster cheese melted inside, and the egg batter. These are the closest you can get in El Paso to the style of rellenos served at Chope’s in La Mesa, a few miles north in New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley. This is an instance where the “new” food has not really changed from the old one, and the chile relleno continues to be excellent as it was before.

Refried Beans
The Refried Beans are made with lard, and they are very good as long as you do not allow them to get cold. I almost always prefer the Rice that seems to be flavored with a number of ingredients (but in the past was occasionally subject to being dry and overcooked).

Tamales
Tamales are one of the standout items (green chile with chicken and cheese is my favorite). These, along with the red chile and pork variety, can be ordered individually in the restaurant or by the dozen in to-go orders. At Christmas the popularity of Little Diner’s tamales becomes apparent when the kitchen goes into full gear, and you have to call for an order ahead of time in order to get a dozen or more to take home. The Christmas tamales are actually the same ones served throughout the year, except that two varieties are added: vegetarian with green chile and sweet tamales made with raisins (these are also vegetarian). I think there is a reason the tamales at Little Diner are so popular– they are just a lot better than I find at most other places.

Chips and Salsa
Chips cost extra, and come in a rather large order. These are not the best chips I have ever eaten, but the salsa is excellent and it is good to have something to eat with it.

Additional Comments
Like most Mexican restaurants, Little Diner has its specialties, and some items that are better than others. Overall, though, this is a very unique “diner” experience–serving that down-home style that lets you know the food is made to appeal to the local population (which is still the major clientele despite the tourists who visit).

The chile here is no longer so spicy that I think it would be hard for many people to eat (although if you are totally averse to high spice levels the green enchiladas should be avoided and possibly the red).

The restaurant is willing to make substitutions for at least one of the items on combination plates, so this is a very good way to try several items and probably get all of the ones you really want.

View outside from the window

View of the Franklin Mountains from the Little Diner

With GPS widely available I do not think I need to provide directions, although the restaurant is off the beaten path and located in the middle of a neighborhood (actually it is mostly desert with a few houses scattered about).

If you saw the segment about Little Diner on Texas Country Reporter, this was shot when it had its original owners and showed the process involved in making the gorditas. After the change in ownership I thought the gorditas were no longer like the ones shown in the video, but recent visits have convinced me that they are back to their former glory.

The green enchiladas and chiles rellenos are also items that I consider to be among the best in El Paso, and in the case of the chile relleno it is one of the best I have found anywhere. Tamales are also a very good choice here.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Wed.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 17, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Gorditas, Chile Relleno, Green Enchiladas Tamales, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile

Index:

chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable (but beans are cooked with lard)

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Gorditas
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Tamales
star 5 Chiles Rellenos
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 4 Beans
star 5 Rice
star 5 Salsa

Chope’s–La Mesa, NM

Chopes Bar & Cafe
16165 S. Hwy 28
La Mesa, NM
(575) 233-3420
Chope's in La Mesa, NM

Chope’s in La Mesa, NM south of Las Cruces

When you approach La Mesa, about 15 miles south of Mesilla on State Highway 28, you get more of a feeling that you are approaching a religious shrine than a small farming village in southern New Mexico. The “holy ground” you are entering is for possibly the best chile relleno anywhere (for once the reality lives up to the hype). It is much like going to Mamou, Louisiana to experience the very best Cajun music, except in La Mesa pilgrims are given a gustatory reward (unless by some very bad karma or extremely unkind trick of fate they end up in La Mesa on a Sunday or Monday when Chope’s is closed).

Chope's kitchen

The kitchen is adjacent to the main dining room

At Chope’s you enter the realm of world-class roadfood (not the gourmet kind of Mexican food found at Rick Bayless’ restaurants in Chicago). It is no longer a question at Chope’s of whether certain items are good, it becomes a matter of whether they are the best. I get discouraged sometimes because the salsa at Chope’s may not be as good as at some restaurants in Las Cruces, the green chile may not be as fresh some times of the year as at harvest season, or some of the dishes may not live up to what I consider the signature dishes: the chile relleno and the enchiladas (both made with locally grown chiles). At other restaurants, however, I would hope to find just one outstanding dish, while Chope’s in my opinion the chile relleno is uncontested, the sopapilla is one of the best anywhere, and the enchiladas are certainly noteworthy examples of New Mexico cuisine.

Around 2007 the daughters of Lupe and Chope took over management of the restaurant, and I initially thought they had made changes to the food because I found red chile that was less spicy than before (and I did not have enough samples of the green chile to really tell about the spiciness). On a recent visit, though, I was served red enchiladas that were reminiscent of the old ones in their spiciness. When I asked the employees about it they said that was just the way that particular harvest turned out. Thus this is one case where a change in management of a long-running restaurant did not result in an appreciable change in the food (and the more visits I made the more I found this to be true).

Chile Relleno

Chile relleno

Chope’s chile relleno without sauce on top

If Chope’s is known for anything it is the Chile Relleno that somehow seems different from those served anywhere else. Of course the freshness comes from its local source in the Mesilla Valley. While the Hatch chiles, grown north of Las Cruces, have become famous worldwide, there is actually quite a large variety of chiles grown in both the Hatch and Mesilla Valleys that include the milder Anaheims that are largely exported and the more spicy varieties that are popular locally.

Chope’s serves a somewhat flat shaped chile that is quite spicy compared to many of the long skinny ones that are more common throughout the country. While being more spicy does not necessarily make a chile better quality, I do think this is an important criterion for a New Mexico style restaurant. It is also important for the chile to be roasted and prepared properly, as are the ones served at Chope’s. I have always been impressed that Chope’s does not put a sauce on top. The relleno really does not need to have any type of sauce, since the chile, the cheese inside, and the perfectly cooked batter stand by themselves and provide all the flavor needed for an excellent chile relleno.

Green Enchiladas

Green enchiladas

Chope’s green enchiladas made with fresh green chiles

The Green Enchiladas are some of the best found anywhere. While many restaurants use a puréed green chile to pour on top of the tortillas, Chope’s uses large chunks of fresh chiles that demonstrate the texture and flavor of the green chiles that are used. A white cheese is used that is perfectly melted (and it looks as if some yellow cheese is also mixed in). Chiles come locally from the Mesilla Valley (from the Provencio Farm near Anthony), and are at their freshest around harvest season.

Around the beginning of August postings appear on the Internet asking about the availability of freshly harvested Hatch chiles in various cities around the United States. Over the years I have noticed a fresher flavor to the green enchiladas around harvest time, and other sources have confirmed this as well. I asked the owner when the exact dates would be for this, and she stated that around September and October would be when they would have the freshly harvested green chile. Thus this is the time I would especially recommend for people to try the green enchiladas at Chope’s if they can (for me this has been a very special experience that I have not found at any other restaurant).

Many other places seem to either use too many additives, purée the chile too much, or use chiles of lesser quality that do not yield the same results as at Chope’s. This is why I think both the green and red enchiladas are better than at most other restaurants.

I would also make a personal note that I have observed a difference in the way they prepare onions in northern and southern New Mexico. The ones here (at least at Chope’s) are sharper than in the north, and thus I prefer for the enchiladas to be made without onions. Those who feel as I do, though, have to ask Chope’s to omit the onions because otherwise they will come in the enchiladas by default.

Red Enchiladas

Red enchiladas and chile relleno

Red enchiladas served flat with an egg on top, and chile relleno to the side

For about ten months out of the year (November to August) the Red Enchiladas are my preference at Chope’s, and only lose this status during harvest season because the green ones are exceptionally good here. Generally the red chile is the only one I eat in New Mexico and El Paso, so this is in no way a knock on Chope’s green chile.

Over the years I had noted that the red and green enchiladas were both very spicy, but the red ones were a little milder (my Previous Review on Steve’s Gastronomic Home Page reflects this fact). My current understanding, though, is that it all depends on the chile harvest, and the only way to know which type of chile is spicier is to ask the people working at the restaurant.

Regardless of the spiciness, the red chile at Chope’s always has a very good flavor. I am especially happy, though, when it also comes from one of the spicier harvests.

I would suggest having the enchiladas served flat (for both the red and the green). They come this way on the enchilada plates, but are rolled on the combination plates unless you request otherwise. The reason I like them flat is that they have more of a red chile flavor this way (I think they pour more chile on top, and it soaks into the tortilla better than when they are rolled).

I like the enchiladas without onions but if you want them this way you have to request it (onions are served in the enchiladas by default).

Stuffed Sopaipilla

Stuffed sopaipilla

Stuffed sopaipilla with a chile relleno on the side

Although my favorite dishes are the chile relleno and the enchilada, I discovered that I was missing out by not trying the Stuffed Sopaipilla until 2019. This is definitely one of the best ones I have tried, although in my opinion Nellie’s in Las Cruces remains as the champion in this category. One area where I think Chope’s excels, though, is in the quality of the chile con carne stuffed inside the sopaipilla. It was not so much the chile as it was the meat itself that made Chope’s stand out for me.

Customers choose between chile colorado con carne, chile verde con carne, ground beef, chicken, or bean as a stuffing choice for the sopaipilla. The one I tried was chile colorado, and I definitely thought this was a good choice.

For all the non-meat items (sopaipilla, lettuce, tomato, beans, etc.) I have always preferred Nellie’s over the other restaurants, and I believe this will remain my choice. When adding chile con carne into the mix, though, I believe Chope’s will be the first choice of many (and may become mine as well).

Combinations

Combination No. 3

Combination No. 3 with a taco, two enchiladas, and a chile relleno

Combinations come with rice and beans, and include three main items. In addition, they have a choice of adding a chile relleno for an extra price. Combinations are available for lunch or dinner, although they have a lower price Thursday for lunch (constituting the only true lunch special I have found at Chope’s).

Even at the regular price the combinations are a good value, and I definitely like being able to get enchiladas and a chile relleno in one meal. I would advise people, though, that enchiladas come rolled on the combination unless you ask for them to be flat (as they are in the above photo). On the enchilada plates, though, the enchiladas are served flat.

Rice and Beans
For some reason the New Mexican restaurants in the southern part of the state prefer Refried Beans, such as the ones served at Chope’s, to the whole beans that are normally found in the north. I do not usually pay much attention to beans that are not northern style, but the ones at Chope’s are cooked so perfectly that I think they are almost as good as the whole beans.

The Rice has not only been excellent on recent visits, but it has impressed me as being one of Chope’s signature items. I do not think it has been as consistent over the years as other items at the restaurant, but it now seems to be some of the best I have found anywhere in El Paso or southern New Mexico.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The Chips are nondescript in the sense that they do not seem outwardly to be much different from any others. I just know that all the factors are there to always make them a part of the meal that I really enjoy.

The Salsa seems to have undergone a transformation since about 2007 when the daughters took over, and I think very much for the better. It used to be memorable for being so spicy it almost numbed the taste buds before you even got a chance to try any of the delicious main dishes. Now, though, I think it retains the freshness it had before, but with a heightened flavor that I enjoy a lot more. The spiciness is variable, and sometimes it almost gets to the point of numbing the mouth, but the excellent flavor is more noticeable than the heat. I do not know, though, if there was a conscious decision to tone the salsa down a little or if it is just my perception.

Sopaipillas

Sopapillas

A basket of freshly cooked sopaipillas going to a table of anxiously awaiting customers

Sopaipillas are light and fluffy, and are a recommended enhancement to the food, either during or after the meal (I prefer them with the meal). The red and green chiles are not always spicy enough that I think eating a sopaipilla with them would have much of an effect in ameliorating the heat, but it still would taste very good (you have to pay extra for the sopaipillas). Of course they are also good for dessert. In the past the sopaipillas have been rather greasy, but recently they have been perfect, and worth ordering even if you think your stomach cannot handle any more food. One item of note is that they give you a jar of honey with a squirt cap that does not make a mess all over your hands as would be the case at restaurants that provide the little packets that you have to open with your fingers.

The Bar

Chope's Bar

Chope’s Bar, located next door to Chope’s Cafe, serves the same food as the restaurant

What is now Chope’s Bar was the original restaurant, and is located next door to Chope’s Cafe (which was originally the Benavides family home). The bar serves the same food as the restaurant, and this can be a great help during the times that the restaurant is full and you have to get on a waiting list for a table. In fact, I think one of the major drawbacks of this place is having to drive for miles deep into the heart of the Mesilla Valley farm country and not knowing if you will face a long wait once you arrive (Chope’s does not take reservations, but at times the bar has had seating space when the restaurant did not).

The Restaurant

Part of the main dining room

Part of the main dining room

The restaurant itself is in an old house, and has what I would describe as a somewhat crowded dining arrangement. The main dining room is adjacent to the kitchen and is small, noisy, and busy, but also tends to be very friendly where it is easy to talk to the staff and other patrons. The larger dining room is quieter and provides slightly more space between tables, but they are still rather crowded.

A view inside to the waiting room

Patrons at Chope’s frequently spend time in the waiting room before a table opens up

The restaurant is open only until 1:30 p.m. for lunch, but the 8:30 p.m. closing time at dinner should give most diners enough time to reach La Mesa and wait for a table if necessary. I have discovered that they are pretty liberal on the closing time and lock the door about 1:35 to 1:40 at lunch time. They also keep the kitchen open past this time so that you can order items such as sopaipillas. I noticed that on Saturday they are open all day, but this seems to be the only day for which this is the case.

The combination plates are becoming my preference here because I can get the enchiladas and chile relleno together at a good price. The enchiladas on these plates, though, are rolled instead of flat. They will serve the enchiladas flat on request, though.

A great tip that I found by accident is to go Thursdays during lunch hours when all of the combination plates are on special (at what I thought was a very good price).

Coming from El Paso, La Mesa can be reached from IH-10 by taking the Vado exit (NM 227) and going west to Vado. You then turn left on NM 478 and go south less than a quarter mile, where NM 227 again goes to the west (the direction signs can sometimes be easy to miss). From Vado you should follow NM 227, and keep going straight after it turns into NM 28. Once you are on Hwy 28 La Mesa is the next town.

From Las Cruces or Mesilla it is easy to reach Chope’s– just take NM 28 south.

Chope's photo

A photo of “Chope,” for whom the restaurant was named

Lupe

Lupe managed the restaurant until her daughters took over

Lent Specials
Chope’s, like many other Mexican restaurants in the area, offers specials on Fridays during Lent that are appropriate for the season. Chope’s not only offers food that is not normally on the menu, but it comes at a very good price (and the special with a chile relleno offers the item I would most like to order anyway).

Lent special

Lent special with quesadillas, chile relleno, and lentils

The plate pictured includes Quesadillas that were made the traditional way I have experienced them in home style restaurants in the borderland. The Chile Relleno was as good as ever, but I do not know why it had a large amount of cheese sprinkled on top when this is normally not the case. The Lentils were excellent, with less salt and garlic than I usually find in the ones served in El Paso (and to me the ones at Chope’s are better).

Capirotada is also served with the Lent special but they were out when I went. Still, this was an excellent deal.

Things to Know

  • In chile harvest season the green enchiladas are especially good, and would be what I recommend (Chope’s serves freshly harvested chile from about the beginning of September to the end of October).
  • The chile relleno is the best I have found anywhere, and would always be a good choice here. The combination dinners have a choice of adding a chile relleno for two dollars extra, and I think it is well worth it to do so.
  • The bar is next door to the restaurant and serves the same food. It gives you faster service if the restaurant is full and there is a waiting line, but I am usually willing to wait for a table in the restaurant if necessary because it is quieter and I like the setting better.

 

Update May 2019:

I would like to point out a very interesting article on eater.com about Chope’s Restaurant. The article gives a detailed history of Chope’s, including the fact that it has been added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. It is one of the few restaurants in the United States to be so designated, largely because the qualifications for placement on the list are so rigorous. Chope’s has been run by the same family for over 100 years, and this is significant. One large factor for its designation, though, was Chope’s connection with the Braceros who worked on the nearby farms until the program ended in 1964. There are many reasons I recommend this article including the story of the Benavides family who owns Chope’s and insights about the food that they serve. Now the daughters of Jose (Chope) and Guadalupe (Lupe) Benavides operate the restaurant, and they have been faced with what is at times an onslaught of customers because of the publicity the restaurant has received on web sites and media. They also talk about the possible future direction of the restaurant.

Update Oct. 2019:

After visiting several New Mexican restaurants in 2018 and 2019 I just want to make a few comments about Chope’s. I consider this to be one of the best in the state, and definitely the best for the chile relleno as well as a very good choice for a relleno/ enchilada/ sopaipilla combination. There are very few cases where I think the green chile would be my first choice, but I make it a point to order it at Chope’s during harvest season (Sep. & Oct.).

Nellie’s in Las Cruces is my other Southern NM favorite, but here I usually order the stuffed sopapilla. People I know are divided about whether they like the red enchiladas better at Nellie’s or at Chope’s, but I think these are generally considered to be the two best places for them in the Las Cruces area.

The food in northern NM is very different in several ways. There my favorite item is usually the blue corn red enchiladas, which I think are better than the enchiladas I have had in the southern part of the state. Although I personally do not generally like the green enchiladas as much as the red, this is where I think the south is more competitive with the northern versions (even though southern NM serves regular corn tortillas instead of the blue one). During harvest season (September and October) I think Chope’s green enchiladas may even be better than the red ones, but the truth is that any time of the year the green enchiladas here are some of the best in the state.

I have tried several restaurants in the north recently, and these are the ones where I have found the best blue corn red enchiladas:

  • Mary & Tito’s in Albuquerque has one that is excellent, but I particularly like the one with meat (not a style of enchilada sauce that is generally found in the south).
  • El Bruno’s in Cuba, NM so far is tied for the best non-meat sauce I have found in the north, and I would say also in the state. I tried the meat sauce at El Bruno’s also, but I thought that for this Mary & Tito’s was superior.
  • Tomasita’s in Santa Fe was tied with El Bruno’s for my favorite red enchiladas (I was not able to try The Shed, La Choza, or restaurants in other cities such as Taos or Chimayo which are highly recommended, so this is not yet a scientific sample that will allow me to claim that I have found “the best”).

RATING: 26

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Lunch 11:30 to 1:30; Dinner 5:30 to 8:30; Closed Sun. & Mon. (Open all day on Sat.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, Wine, Mixed Drinks

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 14, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Chiles Rellenos, Red Enchiladas, Green Enchiladas, Stuffed Sopaipilla, Salsa, Sopaipillas

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Special Ratings
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Stuffed Sopaipilla
star 5 Beans
star 4 Rice
star 4 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 5 Sopaipillas

 

Menu (Jul. 2019):