Each year around the dead hottest time of the summer, a silver lining appears throughout the Southwest: Hatch chile season. As long as it's blistering hot outside, why not blister some chiles on the grill, too? The harvesting of Hatch chiles begins in the small town of Hatch, New Mexico near the end of July, and soon the chiles -- which are said to be among the best on earth, especially when roasted -- make their way to markets across the Southwest.
Hatch chiles aren't just one single chile specimen, however. There are dozens of different types of Hatch chiles grown in New Mexico, in an around the town of Hatch. It's been said that supertasters can even tell the difference between Hatch chiles grown north or south of Route 66.
Here in Houston, Hatch chile specials are found on menus across the city throughout August. You can indulge in the month-long Hatch chile festival at Central Market if you can't make it to the actual festival in New Mexico this year. Central Market's "festival" runs through August 30, and features the chiles used in dozens of different dishes throughout the store.
At The Burger Guys, a Hatch chile burger is on the menu for a limited time. It's not quite the monstrosity seen in the picture to the right (that's a "special" green chile burger called the Megalodon), but it's from The Burger Guys, so you know it's going to be huge...and delicious.
Little Bitty Burger Barn has a Hatch chile special of its own: a burger topped with roasted Hatch chiles, grilled onions and Monterrey jack. It's served with LBBB's famous hand-cut French fries, to ease the burn a little bit.
As usual, Chuy's celebrates the Hatch chile season with its own annual festival, which runs through September 11. The restaurant chain prepares an entire menu around the chiles, including items such as Southwest enchiladas topped with green chile sauce and a fried egg and Love Me Tender tacos, filled with Elvis green chile-fried chicken strips and creamy avocado sauce.
For Mexican food that celebrates the flavor of the chile without all the meat, head to Radical Eats. The vegan restaurant makes a mean green chile stew that replaces the traditional ground pork with TVP. You'll never miss the meat; it's all about the Hatch here.
At Cafe Luz, in-house baker Bread 'n' Batter is making Hatch chili pretzels fresh every day. If you find they've sold out today, don't worry; more will be coming tomorrow...and the next day...and the next. Try one with a handmade soda from the fountain for a spicy summery treat.
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And for something completely different, head out to Copperfield. Kim's Creamery, the adorable little ice cream shop on West Road, is known for its rotating selection of seasonal ice creams that are made on the premises. And for the next few weeks, Hatch chile is one of those flavors. We haven't tried it yet; have you?
Let us know about your own favorite Hatch chile specials around town in the comments section below.