Chope’s Cafe

My great aunt Lupe Benavidez runs the best Mexican restaurant in New Mexico, perhaps the best in the world. It is located in my Dad’s tiny home town, La Mesa, about half way between Las Cruces and El Paso. Folks come from all over. Even Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood fame have been.


The bar, where I hardly ever went while growing up. Quite dark and mysterious, at least to a youngster. Café food was served there, though, with orders coming in over a makeshift intercom.



This is the place. It started out of the living room of their house, eventually took over a second room. It is still home as well as restaurant.



Ever wonder why the plates in a Mexican restaurant are so hot when they hit the table? Because of this gizmo! Enchiladas in particular are assembled on the plate, which is placed in this oven to complete the cooking and melt the cheese.


A panful of roasted Anaheim chiles, seeded and stuffed with a stick of Colby cheddar cheese. They will be dredged in flour and egg whites, then deep fried. Just incredible.


I never get a pristine picture of a meal here because I’m halfway through the second relleno before I think to take one. But you can see the chile and cheese inside the fluffy egg batter (very light, hardly any flour). And the all-important glisten of the oil!


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