Las Cruces, NM
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.
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 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.
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
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