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Green Chile Bañado Plate at Nellie's Cafe in Las Cruces.

Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch. ~ Orson Welles

I’ve met lots of people since moving to Las Cruces, many from families who have lived in New Mexico for generations, some who arrived here only within the last few years.

And whenever I’ve asked them to name a favorite restaurant – they’ve typically answered “Nellie’s” or “Nellie’s on Hadley. ” (Or about 4 out of 5 times, for you lovers of statistics.)

So, with those kinds of odds, I don’t know why it took me as long as it did ~ over a YEAR! ~ to visit the place. Only know I’m glad I finally did.

For starters, I need to say I’m also glad the couple my husband and I were to eat lunch with arrived minutes before us to reserve a table, Nellie’s, you see, is as small as it is popular.

So small that the “waiting area” is the sidewalk just outside the door.

But thanks to the gorgeous weather and good company we had that day, I didn’t much mind the short wait.

The food was worth it.

The “worthy” dish, in my case, was the Bañado Plate with Green Chile.

First bite at Nellie's Cafe in Las Cruces.

Just before the tears.

The literal meaning of bañado is “bathed,” as in “covered” ~ and that is exactly how the dish was presented to me – a beef burrito covered in cheese and green chile sauce.

After I downed the first few forkfuls, I totally got why some say this is where they serve “chile with an attitude.”

The chile sauce was hotter than what I’m used to, actually brought tears to my eyes.

But I only cried a little bit – tears of heat, yes, but happiness, too.

And I allowed myself to be distracted by the savory chunks of beef spilling out of both ends of the bañado – a ridiculously easy thing to do. The meat was seasoned with a variety of spices, not merely salted, and the taste complemented the boldness of the salsa.

The cheese tasted delicious, too, and came layered in the right amount as well.

Nellie’s doesn’t throw it on with a shovel in the way that many restaurants, Mexican and others, seem to do in an attempt to add life to an otherwise bland dish.

Green Chile Bañado Plate at Nellies' Cafe in Las Cruces.

No “bland” on this plate.

Thanks to the bang in my bañado and the promise of more good eats with groovy green salsa to come, I plan to return to Nellie’s soon.

And the other thing that appeals to me about Nellie’s offerings is that not all of the recipes are spicy hot. So, I look forward to returning with my husband who happens to be one of those people who NEVER likes it hot.

The taco plate he ordered is one of several low-octane dishes on Nellie’s menu and one he, just yesterday, said he would like to have again.

So, why did it take me so long to get to Nellie’s?

Maybe it’s because I’m naturally inclined to seek out relatively new and lesser known restaurants, like Habañeros Fresh Mex, than established favorites.

But, yes, I do understand, at last, the Las Crucean love affair with this place.

If there is one decades-long-tested restaurant in this city you can turn to for an authentic taste of Mexico or what you grew up eating in your own Mexican family, Nellie’s is it.

What is the “tried-and-true” go-to place for good eats in YOUR town?

Nellie's Cafe in Las Cruces, NM.

Nellie’s Cafe, 1226 W. Hadley, Las Cruces, NM 88005 ~ 575.524.9982 ~ Open Tues – Fri, 8a – 3p.