Some like it hot at Orlando’s. PHOTO: Liam Doran
Utah and Wyoming get more snow than New Mexico. And Colorado has more resorts. But what we lack in snow and access, we make up for in chile. That’s chile with an e, not an i like they make in Texas, because I’m talking about the world-famous peppers that grow like weeds throughout the state, not the tomato-based mush you eat with a spoon down in Dallas.
Each fall, we roast the green version, or dry the red version (which is that color because it sat on the vine longer), stockpiling enough to spice our food—burritos, enchiladas, tacos, burgers, eggs, turkey sandwiches, whatever—through the colder winter months.
Down in Albuquerque, the Frontier restaurant might be the state’s most famous chile spot. Up in Santa Fe, there are several go-tos including La Choza and Maria’s. And when you find yourself in Taos this winter, here are the four spots you’ll need to hit.
Location: Michael’s is right on the main drag (North Pueblo Road) and an easy breakfast stop on your way up to the hill.
What to Order: You can’t go wrong with the Juevos Rancheros, but local photographer Dave Cox suggests the breakfast burrito ($8.35). It’s packed with eggs, bacon, cheese, and just enough diced green chile to make it hot, but not unbearable. Pro tip: call ahead and ask for the handheld version so you grab and eat in the car. If you get the regular version, the burrito will come in a to-go container with chile smothered on the outside, which can be hard to eat while you’re driving.
Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina
Location: Tim’s is right between the main parking lot and Lift #1 up in Taos Ski Valley.
What to Order: The St. Bernard and The Bavarian are Taos Ski Valley’s two most famous lunch spots. They’re both beautiful spots with great decks, but locals often end up at Tim’s instead. Tim’s was opened by Tim Harter who died backcountry skiing back in 1996. It’s smaller, and not quite as scenic, but definitely has the best chile. Go with the chicken blue corn enchiladas smothered in red. Pro tip: act like a real Norteno (which is what they call people who live in northern New Mexico) and ask for a fried egg on top.
Location: Orlando’s is also on the main drag through Taos, but a little farther north and closer to the ski hill, making it an ideal dinner spot after a day of skiing.
What to Order: Go for the Sayulita fish tacos ($10 price), or the chicken red chile enchiladas ($9 price). The taco name comes from Sayulita, Mexico, where owners Orlando and Yvette Ortega vacation every year. The fish is fried, and the tacos are lined with a green-chile mayo and topped with a fresh pico de gallo. The enchiladas are another good choice because of the perfect red chile sauce that’s rich in taste but won’t leave your mouth on fire. The service is also top-notch.
The Sugar Nymphs
Location: This spot is tucked away in the small town of Penasco, which sits about 30 minutes south of Taos. It’s a great dinner spot if you’re headed back to Santa Fe or Albuquerque.
What to Order: The head chef and co-owner at this tiny, remote spot used to work at the famous Green’s café in San Francisco and she has a constantly rotating menu. But there is one staple: the green chile cheeseburger. Made with high-quality beef and topped with diced green chile, it’s one of, if not the state’s best burger. Even better: when you’re done with your burger, order a slice of cake or pie made by the other co-owner who’s a trained pastry chef.