Sooner or later locals and snowbirds pick a favorite neighborhood eatery in Cruces. Of course, part of the joy is to keep looking. And to compare notes at social occasions. After six winters in Cruces, my choice now is El Sombrero. First hint came when the parking lot was full, about 3 dozen, on a Wednesday evening. No 2 for 1 specials or such on tap, just a regular weekday night. Meanwhile, about five minutes away a much, much higher rated place had a total of 2 diners. That was a very big hint. Inside, the place is just funky but lean New Mexican, one brick wall, south-of-the-border murals, a couple of bright green shamrocks for upcoming St. Paddy's day, assorted posters and notices. Get the picture? Close quarters, square tables with oil cloth checkered tablecloths, packed with large families, couples, college students, retirees. All animated with smiles on their faces and piles of New Mexican food before them. Cuisine would be too presumptuous a word; what is served is one family's version, since1956, of New Mexican food. Don't be fooled by reviewers who maintain there is something called 'authentic' NM food; it's just one variation or another. Of course, avoid fast food joints. Hint number 2: there was a 50/50 split of happy diners. Half Latino American, half Anglo. One keeps the food 'genuine' and home made, the other keeps it easy on the taste buds. Everyone knows the fare is reasonably priced. Meanwhile, down the street one couple has a quite, romantic meal, while El Sombrero rocks along with a gang of boisterous eaters. Beware, reports are that weekends and lunchtime can have a long wait if you arrive late. Enjoy.
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