On my recent road trip to Austin, Texas I made a weekend stop in Las Cruces and nearby Hatch, New Mexico, proclaimed Chile Capitol of the World and home to the famous hatch chile pepper. So highly regarded are these peppers that even neighboring Texas holds festivals in their honor. There are different degrees of heat in these green chiles, but all are known for their bright citrus flavor. As they say in New Mexico, the poblano is no competition.
It was dark when I pulled into the quirky Big Chile Inn in Las Cruces. New Mexico had me as soon as I stepped out of my car and was enveloped in a sweet smoky cloud of roasting chile peppers. I knew the next day I would be making a pilgrimage to Hatch, in search of their legendary roots.
Las Cruces’ fertile Mesilla Valley is also the depository for the Rio Grande River and a rich flood plain that grow pecans, pistachios, corn, chiles, grapes, and peppers. While friends and family extolled the amazing sauces and dishes of New Mexico, I was far more curious about exploring this strange pocket of agriculture carved out of sheer barren desert.
The next day I browsed an artisan’s market set in the historic town square of the quaint adobe style village of Mesilla. Locals overwhelmingly recommended Sparky’s in Hatch for one of their world famous Hatch Green Chile Cheeseburgers.
Well, ok. I’m on my way. Some may say Sparky’s is just another hamburger joint, but don’t tell that to the locals. On weekend afternoons, live music is a popular draw. There is plenty of barbecue, tacos and burritos, but the burger was really delicious―loaded with melting cheddar cheese and tons of hatch chile pepper strips. That’s it, and well worth the trip. Love those peppers!
Hatch is about 30 miles outside of Las Cruces, heading north on Hwy 25 toward Albuquerque.