Road Trip Through Hatch New Mexico – The Chile Capital of the World

Sparky's Restaurant in Hatch New Mexico

On another marathon road trip across the United States from Arizona to Michigan, my friend Janet mentioned that I should stop in Hatch New Mexico, to try the green chile cheeseburger at Sparky’s. I’m not one to shy away from experiencing something new, even if it might be spicy. So, I plugged Sparky’s into my GPS, and away I went.

Sparky's Restaurant in Hatch New Mexico

Hatch is a small village in southern New Mexico, 37 miles northwest of Las Cruces, famous for its green chile peppers and annual chile festival. The town sees a surge of people during its two-day festival going from less than 2,000 locals to over 30,000 visitors. But you don’t have to wait for the festival to taste and pick up these fabulous green Hatch chiles.

What is special about the Hatch Chiles?

The Hatch Chile is a variety of chile exclusively cultivated in the Rio Grande valley around Hatch. This New Mexican Chile is unique in its smoky flavor, earthiness, and heat level. The Hatch New Mexico Chile can be either green or red depending on when they are harvested. The smoky flavor and spiciness are stronger when the green Hatch Chile is picked early, while the later-picked chiles are more mellow and earthy. Those later chilis can mature longer, turn red, and become sweeter.

I always struggle with spicy food. The funny thing is that my nose has a built-in spice meter. When it gets too spicy, I start to get the sniffles. I was pleasantly surprised at the sweet green chile in the cheeseburger. The Hatch Chile tends to be mild to moderately spicy, ranging from 1,000 SCU to 8,000 SCU. Hatch Chiles are comparable with the heat level in Jalapeños, but they are not as hot as a Serrano pepper. The Scoville Heat Unit (SCU) measures the heat or spiciness of chile peppers based on the concentration of capsaicinoids in the pepper. Another way to determine spiciness/heat level is by size. Smaller chiles tend to be hotter, with larger chiles being milder. Hatch Chiles range in size from 6 to 12 inches.

Since Hatch Chiles are so versatile, they are added to many dishes. You can find fresh Hatch green chile in enchiladas, burritos, salsa, scrambled eggs, stews, sauces, queso, guacamole, and burgers. You can even eat them raw, but it might take some effort as the skin is thick. The most common way to cook them is by roasting them, which brings out their smoky flavor.

Green Chile Cheeseburger at Sparky's
Delicious Green Chile Cheeseburger from Sparky’s

Hatch Chile Festival 2023

If you want to experience a fun Southwest Festival, come to the Hatch Chile Festival on Labor Day weekend. The festival has, of course, many things to do showcasing the Hatch Chile. There is a Chile eating contest, live music, arts & crafts, chile roasting, the crowning of the Chile Queen, and ristra making, the decorative hanging arrangements made of dried chili peppers, garlic bulbs, or other dried vegetables. The Hatch Chile Festival has been entertaining visitors since the early 1970s. Today, you can expect over 30,000 people to trek to Hatch and celebrate the two-day festival. And if you happen to be driving through during this time, roll down the window to smell the sweet roasted pods and listen to the sizzle of the chile skins roasting.


Sparky's in Hatch, New Mexico

Turning the corner onto Franklin Street, I was surprised by the larger-than-life statues that seemed to sprout from the ground around Sparky’s restaurant. The restaurant had four giant servers on the roof holding the New Mexico green Chile cheeseburger in their hand. But, it was what was across the street that caught my attention. A line of huge Americana statues faced Sparky’s, some holding burgers, but all looked like they were paying tribute to the iconic Sparky’s restaurant.

Oversized Americana for Photo Ops at Sparky's in Hatch

Sparky’s is in a brick building that was originally the Peacock Mercantile in 1926. The first occupants had groceries and canned goods on the left and clothes and hardware on the right. Since then, it has been a meeting place for the Val Verde Lodge, an auto parts store, an ice cream shop, a pawn shop, and a community pool hall. It even held local poker games in the back room before becoming Sparky’s in 2007. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inside Sparky's in Hatch New Mexico

After you park your car in the lots opposite Sparky’s, carefully make your way across the street. Most likely, you’ll see a line outside the building. This is where you order your food. You can get takeout or order your food to eat in, whether it is inside a booth or on the back patio. The back patio has many things to look at, from the vintage gas signs to more statues, such as a rabbit, kangaroo, Colonel Sanders, and a giant Uncle Sam.

Sparky's Back Patio in Hatch
Giant American statue holding a green chili at Sparky's

I ordered tons of food to try the green chili cheeseburger and have extra food for the road. The options they offer are the World Famous Green Chile Cheeseburger, “The Double” Double Meat with Double Chile, “The Oinker” World Famous topped with 1/4 lb House Smoked Pulled Pork, Shredded Brisket Sandwich, and Smothered Green Chile Queso Special, among many more dishes. I also got a Pulled Pork Sandwich and Sausage Bites, one of my favorite barbecue meals.

After eating, get your selfies and photo ops with the Statue of Liberty, Big Boy, Robin Hood, Yogi the Bear, and even a dinosaur. Sparky’s is a must-visit when road-tripping through New Mexico that will have something to make even your little ones smile.

Dinosaur and Big Boy Statue at Sparky's in Hatch, NM

Where can I get Hatch Green Chiles?

Hatch Chile Express

As you head out of town to get back on the interstate, you pass one of the best places to find all things Chile, the Hatch Chile Express. This family-owned business is run by Jimmy, the son of Big Jim, who created a new type of Hatch Chile, the Big Jim variety. The peppers they farm and sell are the mild New Mexico 6-4, the medium heat Big Jim, the hot Sandia, and the XXX-hot Lumbria, which is 35,000 SCU. Hatch Chile Express has been featured five times on the Food Network.

At Hatch Chile Express, you can purchase in-store and online a variety of chile pods, powders, salsa, sauces, decorative chile ristras, Chile cookbooks, southwest jewelry, and frozen green chile. Hatch Chile Express is at 657 N Franklin St, Hatch, NM.

Take Chiles Home

Grajeda Hatch Chile Market

There are a few places to pick up Hatch Chiles to take home. All you need to look for are the vibrant ristras hanging from the ceiling at the entrances. Besides Hatch Chile Express, check out Grajeda Hatch Chile Market and Chile Fanatic. Both offer excellent chile products, including frozen green and red chile, tamales, sauces, spices, and so much more. You can even have green chiles roasted for you at Chile Fanatic while you shop. These are great markets for beautiful New Mexico souvenirs and gifts.

Grajeda Hatch Chile Market is at 221 N Franklin St, Hatch, NM. Chile Fanatic is at 251 W Hall St, Hatch, NM.

Village of Hatch Museum

The Village of Hatch Museum is a small, free museum that goes into depth about the unique history of Hatch. Inside you’ll find over 400 memorabilia items from Hatch Valley residents that tell their stories through school, home, and on the chile pepper farms. This small community has an enormous amount of history you can explore at this wonderful museum. The museum is at 149 W. Hall St, Hatch, NM.

Is Hatch New Mexico Worth Visiting?

Sparky's photo op with an alien in Hatch, NM

The simple answer is yes! Hatch is an easy detour on your road trip through the Southwest, and you need to eat at some point. Why not stop at Sparky’s and dig into the infamous Hatch Green Chile cheeseburger? Plus, you can stop and pick up some amazing, spicy chile peppers to take home and get your photo taken with an alien. Because you can’t go through New Mexico without at least one photo with an alien, right?!

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Further Reading

If you are exploring the Southwest, check out these posts for extra travel inspiration:

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