Nellie’s Cafe–Las Cruces, NM

Nellie’s Cafe
1226 W. Hadley Ave.
Las Cruces, NM
(575) 524-9982

As far as I can remember Nellie’s has the distinction of being the first New Mexican restaurant I tried in Las Cruces (other than La Posta in Mesilla). Nellie’s was the favorite of my relatives and the one we headed to first when we were in the City of the Crosses. From this time in the mid 1970’s until after 2000 I never noticed a change in the quality of Nellie’s, and it has always been as good as I remember from the first time I ate here.

The only thing that has changed, though, has been the hours (and of course the prices have gone up over the years). The last few times I tried to eat at Nellie’s I kept finding it closed, at first because they were only open a few nights a week and I went on the wrong night (I think they were open Fri. and Sat. night). Then I tried going at lunch, but always getting there too late (for a while I think they were open until 3:00 p.m., but by the time I made it there they were closing at 2:00). My last attempt was early enough, but they were taking one of their periodic vacations (I think they do it every summer and around Christmas time). Finally it has ended up that I have not been able to go there at all for several years. I understand that the family wants to have some time together outside of the restaurant, so I am not upset about Nellie’s hours– only disappointed that I have not been able to go in a while.

Nellie’s has always been my idea of what southern New Mexican style food should be. Lately I have found some other restaurants that are equally good or better, but Nellie’s has always been a good standard by which to compare everyone else. Others have told me the green chile is best, but I like the red because this is usually my preference when both types of chile are very good. It is seldom that I get to make this type of comparison in a single restaurant since one type of chile is usually good while the other leaves something to be desired.

Stuffed Sopapilla
The Stuffed Sopapilla is my favorite dish– probably not because it is better at Nellie’s than their other dishes, but because this is usually my favorite New Mexican dish when all of them are prepared well. Nellie’s stuffs it with red or green chile, beans, lettuce, and meat (or you can order it vegetarian). I liked it equally well with and without the meat, and I think the sopapilla itself and the chile are what make it exceptional. Although the beans and lettuce were pretty plain, they were very good in contrast to some other places where the lettuce is not as fresh as the beans are not as flavorful.

Red Enchiladas
Red Enchiladas are also excellent, and I always like to order them stacked. Because they do not come with blue corn tortillas they do not rise to the level that would put them above the stuffed sopapilla. The chile, though, is probably as good as you will find anywhere (including northern New Mexico).

Another item for which Nellie’s is famous is the Salsa. It is spicy, flavorful, and fresh. I have bought some to take home several times, and this is something I would suggest if you have the opportunity.

Closing Comments
Anyone who remembers restaurants from the 1970’s will probably know that many places placed an emphasis on utility rather than decor (unless it was a fine dining restaurant). Nellie’s, as a local hangout, provided all the tables and booths that could fit into a small space, and the last time I saw it nothing has changed. Many of the newer restaurants might be considered nicer, but I am glad Nellie’s still allows me to relive the memories of what have really been my favorite New Mexican food experiences in Las Cruces.


Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Breakfast & lunch only
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Serves breakfast

Most Recent Visit: May 10, 2002
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Stuffed Sopapillas, Red Enchiladas, Salsa

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Stuffed Sopapillas
star 5 Salsa

2 thoughts on “Nellie’s Cafe–Las Cruces, NM

  1. Living in Las Cruces for 11 years, I love Las Cruces’ local cuisine. It’s underappreciated by national foodies, but that leaves more room for cool people to feast, drink good cerveza and be merry.

    Nellie’s is the biggest asspain of a local establishment. Understand that Mom & Pop establishments often prosper there just being open for breakfast and lunch. The menu often is simplified by that approach, the food quality higher.

    However, I have given up ever eating at Nellie’s again because they never operate in any consistent manner to the public. If they want to spend more time away from the business, they could do it because they’ve prospered. They are an institution of sorts in & around LC… but I say close for good or just keep some damn consistent hours. When I go home to visit friends and crave good New Mexican food, I don’t have much time. Rub a dubdub, grab me some grub.

    Meanwhile, other great local New Mexican joints in the City of the Crosses abide…. Miguel’s, Go Burger, El Sombrero, tiny El Patron Cafe, the funky Ranchway BBQ (that serves local cuisine as well) … as well as the excellent Andele in Mesilla – are all solid. Even the Santa Fe burrito stop in the Pic Quik convenience stores are a great breakfast grab. Miss them all badly here in Washington D.C. Pay $9 for a burrito? Get bent.

    • I have also been burned by Nellie’s schedule. They take vacations twice a year–at Christmas and also in the summer (either July or Aug. and I tried to go during this time). The schedule is consistent, though–it’s just hard to know if you are not there locally and plugged into the restaurant scene.

      I started going to Nellie’s in the 1970’s, and I am glad they have been able to keep this family business going for all that time without burning out. I am sure the twice yearly vacations are necessary to keep this going.

      I agree with you that there are lots of other good options in town, and that they are underappreciated.

      I added your suggestion for El Patron to my Las Cruces Restaurant Guide, and I will keep an eye on people’s comments to add or delete restaurant suggestions as things change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *