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Nellie's

1226 W. Hadley, Las Cruces, NM - (575) 524-9982
Posted By Michael Stern on 10/29/2010 5:40:00 PM
A passing police officer was suspicious when he spotted us loitering outside of Nellie's one morning before the cafe's 8am opening.

"We're waiting to eat," we responded to his inquiry about our intentions.

Good answer. He broke into a big grin and said, "Best chile in town!"

In Las Cruces, the heart of chile country, such a avowal is no casual observation.

Inside the cozy cinderblock and glass brick restaurant, a sign on the wall confirms the kitchen's priorities: "A day without chile is like a day without sunshine."

Danny Ray Hernandez, Nellie's son, makes vivid salsas using five to seven different types of chile and specializes in such eye-opening breakfasts as huevos a la Mexicana (scrambled with jalapenos) and eggs with chile and meat. For the latter you can get red or green or a combination of the two (known as Christmas). The red tastes of pure pod; the green is hot enough to require tongue-tamping with the kitchen's pulchritudinous sopaipillas. Mr. Hernandez speculated that dry growing conditions over recent years have produced chiles in which the heat is more concentrated.

Years ago, Nellie's and its offspring, Little Nellie's Chile factory, served dinner. Today it is strictly a breakfast-and-lunch eatery.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

New Mexico's favorite breadstuff: puffy sopaipillas, so hot from the fry kettle that they're a little hard to handle when you want to pick one up, tear it open and pour honey inside. Sopaipillas are great for mopping the last of the chile from a plate.
"New Mexico's favorite breadstuff: puffy sopaipillas, so hot from the fry kettle that they're a little hard to handle when you want to pick one up, tear it open and pour honey inside. Sopaipillas are great for mopping the last of the chile from a plate."
Michael Stern





Huevos Rancheros -- ranch-style eggs -- come with green chile, sided by refried beans and rice.
"Huevos Rancheros -- ranch-style eggs -- come with green chile, sided by refried beans and rice."
Michael Stern


A close view of Nellie's four-alarm green chile. It is a star at both breakfast and lunch.
"A close view of Nellie's four-alarm green chile. It is a star at both breakfast and lunch."
Michael Stern


The salsa that comes with preprandial tortilla chips is complex, earthy and tongue-tingling hot.
"The salsa that comes with preprandial tortilla chips is complex, earthy and tongue-tingling hot."
Michael Stern


Here's an eye-opening morning meal: sunnyside-up eggs hugged by dual servings of red chile (hot stuff) and green chile (very hot stuff). The red and green combo is known hereabouts as Christmas.
"Here's an eye-opening morning meal: sunnyside-up eggs hugged by dual servings of red chile (hot stuff) and green chile (very hot stuff). The red and green combo is known hereabouts as Christmas."
Michael Stern


The fajita burrito doesn't really look like a fajita or a burrito, but made a fine breakfast anyway.
"The fajita burrito doesn't really look like a fajita or a burrito, but made a fine breakfast anyway."
Cliff Strutz


Nellie's is decorated with attractive art, usually featuring the chile pod.
"Nellie's is decorated with attractive art, usually featuring the chile pod."
Cliff Strutz


In what other region of the country is the local crop so imbued with personality?
"In what other region of the country is the local crop so imbued with personality?"
Michael Stern


Danny and Nellie Hernandez began selling burritos from a wagon in 1962, which earned Danny the appellation of Las Cruces' Burrito Man. They opened a mobile kitchen and Nellie's restaurant soon followed. Danny has passed away; Nellie is still around; and their son Danny Ray and daughter Josie Marie now run the business.
"Danny and Nellie Hernandez began selling burritos from a wagon in 1962, which earned Danny the appellation of Las Cruces' Burrito Man. They opened a mobile kitchen and Nellie's restaurant soon followed. Danny has passed away; Nellie is still around; and their son Danny Ray and daughter Josie Marie now run the business."
Michael Stern



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