De La Vega is one of my favorites places to visit in Las Cruces, and thanks to an El Paso Times reader, it was suggested for a veg friendly review. Lucky me!
This review was originally published in the Tiempo Dining Out section of the El Paso Times on March 29, 2013 as part of a series of monthly reviews that feature vegetarian friendly restaurants in the El Paso region.
Las Cruces makes for a nice, quick getaway if you’ve run into a dining slump in El Paso. Our neighboring city also happens to have a larger variety of vegetarian-friendly restaurants than El Paso does. One such restaurant is De La Vega’s Pecan Grill and Brewery.
It’s hard not to compare De La Vega’s to the national chain BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse; the concept and look is strikingly similar. Like BJ’s, beer isn’t actually brewed on premises. It’s brewed at the Sierra Blanca Brewing Company in Moriarty, N.M., which formulates signature beers especially for them. The other difference is that De La Vega’s is family-owned and locally operated.
New Mexico’s food culture is celebrated with an infusion of Southwest flavors, green chile galore, and pecans in both food and beverage. Twelve house brews, more than 20 bottled beers (including a gluten-free beer), more than 50 specialty cocktails with house infused liquors, and an extensive wine list (New Mexico-grown selections included) are all contained in a separately bound menu.
Green Chile Ale and Pecan Amber Ale will immediately pique your interest. The two are fun and unsual to sample within a flight, but would be overkill as a full pint. My favorite brews were the wheat ale for its crisp, clean flavor, and the pale ale for its hoppiness. Local tributes such as the Las Cruces Lager and the Aggie Amber had a sticky, malty finish. If you’re not into beer, try one of five different house-infused liquors such as the Jolly Rancher vodka, vanilla-brown sugar-pineapple tequila, and black cherry-vanilla whiskey.
The lunch menu is available until 5 p.m., but if you get there from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. you can enjoy the salad bar with its house-made dressings and soups, as an entree or add-on to an entrée. Vegetarians can choose between Portabella, Eggplant Parmesan, or Margerita sandwiches. I chose the Eggplant Parmesan with a side of green chile mac ‘n’ cheese. Other side options include regular and sweet potato fries, potato salad, coleslaw or fresh fruit. The sandwich had thinly sliced and breaded eggplant topped with a flavorful yet scanty amount of marinara and mozzarella on ciabatta bread from El Paso’s Belle Sucre Bakery. The eggplant had a good texture, but the breading was soggy and eggy-tasting. The mac ‘n’ cheese had small elbow macaroni pasta enveloped in a rich, creamy cheddar sauce with plenty of green chile and a hint of what tasted like chili powder seasoning.
I immediately regretted not ordering the Vegetable Lasagna, which is also available at dinner. The lasagna has eggplant, zucchini, roasted tomatoes, basil, and ricotta and mascarpone cheese. Other lunch options include a Portabella Quesadilla and a house-made black bean Veggie Burger topped with green chile, white cheddar and avocado.
The best part of De La Vega’s menu is its appetizer selection. During lunch, you can get Green Chile Hummus served with an artichoke and red bell pepper salad and grilled pita slices. Smoky green chile, cumin, and cilantro shine through the smooth chickpea dip with a gradual heat. The pita slices are a soft flatbread with a subtle rosemary flavor. The accompanying salad isn’t seasoned, but texturally complements the hummus.
Also available during lunch, dinner and happy hour are the popular Stuffed Hatch Green Chiles with ranch dressing. Three green chiles are stuffed with white cheddar, pecan-breaded and deep-fried. The result is a deliciously crunchy, cheese-oozing roasted chile. Another popular dinner starter is the fondue pot of a fontina-swiss-green chile blend served with garlic bread.
During dinner, burgers and sandwiches are replaced with Stuffed Eggplant and Green Chile Manicotti and Green Chile Ravioli.
Green chile lovers will be overcome with indecision and bask in De La Vega’s food and beverage offerings. Vegetarian options are plentiful and marked with a symbol, but vegan options are slim. All salad dressings are gluten-free, and pasta and bread options are available. De La Vega’s has a rotating dessert menu (ask your server) that usually includes a selection featuring pecans. Don’t forget to partake in their daily happy hour (drink & food specials) available in the bar and their spacious, relaxing patio areas.
- Hours: Sundays-Thursdays 11 am-9 pm; Fridays & Saturdays 11 am-10 pm. Dinner starts at 5 pm
- Cost: $$-$$$
- Site: pecangrill.com and facebook.com/pecangrill