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Green chile at JV’s Place evokes New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. — A lot of New Mexico eateries tout the green chile cheeseburger and claim to serve the best one in the state. JV’s Place in Chama is one such. Now, it’s hard to argue that a cheeseburger, even with green chile, is in any way sophisticated. It’s a hot sandwich, period. Done right, though, it has serious appeal.

And JV’s does it right. We sampled one with a side of fries ($9.25) and were best pleased. The burger was large and well-done, dressed with all the appropriate American-style trimmings. (We should note that JV’s also serves a burger smothered in red, on a tortilla.)

It came with the standard American trimmings, the pickle, the tomato slice, the lettuce and the onion (optional). But the green chile – and plenty of it – was about the best we’ve eaten lately: nicely flavored with that elusive smokiness that instantly evokes New Mexico when late summer turns to fall and roasters all over the state are going full tilt.

And JV’s green is hot enough to get your attention without tipping into flavor-destroying burn.

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JV’s fries also deserved special mention – fresh, thin and quite crispy, several cuts above coffee-shop standard.

Since one of my guests ordered the burger, I contented myself with the enchilada plate ($10.50) and can report that JV’s red is quality, too, although hardly hot. (Vegetarians should note that JV’s makes their red with meat.)

I got the plain cheese enchiladas laced with a little onion, with the obligatory sides of pintos and rice. That rice, by the way, was above average: herby (cilantro, we thought) and a nice change from the tomatoey afterthought version standard across northern New Mexico.

My other guest ordered the taco plate. I’m so used to the wonderful Mexican-style tacos of the Santa Fe area that I was nonplused by JV’s Americanized version: factory-hard tortilla shells from a box, instead of the softer, fresh from the griddle version that is now my standard. And hamburger filling.

My guest was happy, but I wouldn’t have been.

A big pile of puffy and piping hot sopaipillas arrived at our table, too. These were some of the freshest and best we’ve ever sampled. I can report that we ate every single one (two apiece, slathered with honey) and felt no need for dessert.

Other dishes, mainly New Mexico specialties or breakfast standards, were very good, too.

JV’s is a modest place toward the south end of Chama’s main drag. It’s easy to miss, but easier to spot if you look for the crowd of local pick-ups parked alongside. Inside, it’s modestly home-decorated.

But all those pick-up owners aren’t mistaken: the chile at JV’s is first rate.

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