When I think of southern New Mexico, this is exactly what I picture. An old adobe, a plate of food topped with green chile, and a margarita, with the view of some desert mountains just outside. Mesilla is a historic town just outside Las Cruces, New Mexico. Once a major town, it was spared the modernization Las Cruces endured as a result of the railroads bypassing it in favor of the latter city, and today retains much of the charm it would have had in the 1850s. A cute town square, some historic buildings, and the crown jewel: La Posta de Mesilla.
The restaurant dates back to 1939, when Katy Griggs opened for business in what was once a Butterfield Stage station. (Butterfield Stage was the earliest mail service to the American West, running from St. Louis to San Francisco in 25 days, a marvel for 1854, when this building was constructed.) It is eclectic, part old adobe – you can even see some of the original Adobe bricks along one wall – part Griggs home, and part courtyard between the two. The motifs alternate between Mexican and tropical-chic, with parrots being a theme in some rooms. The modern restaurant includes both the old station and the Griggs house, having been connected in 2010. The stunning bar is in what was once the Griggs living room.
Upon arriving, I am greeted by several large parrots and assorted other birds. From there, I make my way to my courtyard table, though I stop quickly in each of the other rooms, fondly gazing on colorful tile, fascinating decorations, and some stunning artwork. (Even the bathrooms have artistic features in them.) I pass a small fountain and take my seat under a pecan tree.
While the building is incredible, and it is a rare treat to eat inside a member of the national register of historic places, the food here is the star. If you’ve ever been to New Mexico, you will no doubt be familiar with the age old question, “red or green.” This refers to the chile you’ll get on your enchiladas or other food. While I won’t fault you for opting for red, or a Christmas mix of the two, the correct answer is almost always green. Here at La Posta, the hot green is absolutely to die for. Spicy, savory, acidic, it tops my enchiladas and makes its way into my soul.
New Mexican cuisine is unique, a combination of relatively authentic Mexican dishes with local Hatch chiles. And yes, it also spreads out into green chile cheeseburgers and the like, but the real stuff has a Mexican base. It takes the opposite end of the Mexican palate as Tex-Mex, and is something you’ll relish. La Posta does it as well as anyone.
As the weather here in Las Cruces is hot in May, approaching triple digits, I also opt for a flight of margaritas. A traditional one, a blood orange margarita, one with coconut, one with blackberry, and the kicker, a cucumber jalapeño margarita with a rim of local pecans and honey. All are good; the last is the pinnacle. Get one… or three.
Old Mesilla itself is charming. Incorporated in 1848, many of the original buildings survive, although not for their original uses. Now, many of the buildings are cute shops, though plaques detail their earlier utilities. A must-stop is a pecan shop, as Dona Ana County, where we are now, produces more pecans than anywhere else. Nearby, the Basilica of San Albino shines over a gazebo in the main square, and the Fountain Theatre still entertains, as it has done pretty much constantly since the early 1900s. But back inside, I am lost in my food.
This was just a brief rest stop for me on my way from Los Angeles to El Paso, but in just a short hour and a half, La Posta – and Mesilla in general – captured by heart. This experience is exactly what it means to be in southern New Mexico, and this food is exactly what that region tastes of. Try it for yourself!
Thank you to Visit Las Cruces for hosting my lunch. As always, my opinion is my own.
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3 thoughts on “Southern New Mexico on a Plate”
You did my mom’s Aunt Katy proud with this post, Jonathan! Now you need to go to Albuquerque, perhaps for the balloon festival in October, for a meal at El Pinto Restaurant which was started by Katy’s daughter Connie and is now run by Connie’s sons, known at “The Salsa Twins.”
I’ll add it to my list!
This is the best Mexican restaurant anywhere! Absolutely love the food, decor, etc.