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The Green Chile

On the plate of Reviewer No. 1

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From the outside, the Green Chile--spelled with an "e" at the end, the way inhabitants of New Mexico insist it be spelled--has little curb appeal. That doesn't change much on the other side of the glass doors. The State Street-facing, Southwest cuisine, strip-mall eatery holds 20 or so tables and booths in shades that reflect the arid New Mexico desert: green, brown and another kind of brown. Posters, brown and yellow dried flowers, and chile cut-outs line the walls. A four-page menu holds simple options: flautas, enchiladas, tacos, combination plates. I ordered a taco salad ($8.95) expecting the usual taco salad: little more than a deconstructed taco, just with more lettuce. I was a little scared that Green Chile's descriptor of "with green or red gravy" might mean a salad smothered in sauce, but instead found a happy little not-too-spicy tub of red on the side. The beef was more chunks than shreds and the promised cotija cheese was so unfortunately missing. But the deep brown semi-spicy sauce on the meat and the accompanying veggies flipped the idea of a taco salad on its side. Sauteed zucchini and purple onions added a buttery flavor, and the cooked cabbage pitted against cold iceberg lettuce lent a delicious disparity to the dish ($7.95) and a wish for more of the soft riboflavin-rich veg.

On a return visit with the IT Guy, I told the server I'd heard a tale of tongue torture involving Green Chile's spicy signature green sauce. She laughed. "It's even hotter now," she said. "We've started using Hatch chiles."

Hatch chiles--which are on fire in the foodie world right now--aren't a specific variety but are instead named for the community of Hatch, New Mexico, where they are grown. In Hatch, the chiles flourish in DEFCON shades of green, yellow, orange and red, and are celebrated each year at the famous Hatch Chile Festival (Sept. 4-5, 2010, visit hatchchilefest.com for more on the fest). As a rule, they only hit the Scoville Scale at about 1,000 units, in the same range as an Anaheim or poblano pepper. But the Green Chile must be doing something to up the fire factor. As a spice wimp, I will never know.

A big plate of enchiladas--with red sauce, natch--rice, cowboy beans and sauteed veggies ($9.95) stretched out before me, the same but with two tacos ($9.95) challenged the IT Guy. The enchiladas were plump and pliable, filled with moist ghost-white meat that took on a tang with a sprinkle of tangy cotija cheese I had ordered on the side--I wasn't leaving this visit without it. A trade netted me one of the IT Guy's white-corn-tortilla tacos and a sudden slow-down in my eating: I savored each salty bite of the tender, marinated beef (also now covered in cotija) as it bumped up against the crisp shell.

It's true what they say: It's what's on the inside that counts and fortunately, the outside of the Green Chile stays quiet and lets the food do the talking. It lets flavors jump off their ceramic platters, grab your face, plant a piquant peck on your cheek and yell, "Surprise!"

--Amy Atkins is a big fan of counting what's on the inside.


Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about the Green Chile.

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