Habanero’s Fresh Mex restaurant is currently ranked the second-best Mexican food restaurant in Las Cruces, and I can see why.
In the middle of the city, off Lohman, the building isn’t much to look at. My expectations weren’t very high. Mexican food is my favorite kind of food and I, a broke college student, spend all my money eating out and avoiding Top Ramen. I thought I knew Cruces’ best spots.
From the moment we walked in the door we were greeted, and people filtered in and out to order from the desk under the giant wall of flat screen TVs listing their extensive menu. My boyfriend and I debated on our meals for about 15 minutes, and sent three different groups ahead of us because we couldn’t agree.
I selected the mahi-mahi fish tacos and he got a Christmas macho chimichanga, and we both selected a cerveza from their Mexican beer list. We also got a homemade horchata to share.
We sat ourselves outside on the covered patio and it was plenty cool for an 85-degree day at 2 p.m. Everything from then on was like a formal sit-down restaurant. Our food was brought out to us, and our waitress continuously came to check on us and offer assistance. This is not a simple counter service restaurant.
We were first served complimentary fideo. We had the option to purchase chips and salsa, but chose the soup. Our waitress brought out our food very quickly. I was a little sad I didn’t get to finish my appetizer, but this was not a concern once we saw the size of the food.
One singular macho chimichanga could feed a family of four. I think there is less food in those family size frozen lasagnas they sell at the store. The meat was moist and flavorful, which is something I always worry about in Mexican food restaurants. The green sauce was okay, but the red was incredible. Both the red and green sauces are gluten-free. For context, I am generally partial to green sauce, but the Christmas macho chimichanga is a great thing to get if you want a taste of everything because it has beef and chicken and rice and beans all wrapped nicely inside.
The mahi-mahi tacos were so moist and pleasant. I think fish can dry out quickly, so it was great that it wasn’t overcooked and was very flavorful without being too “fishy,” which happens a lot in a state with zero oceans.
My only quarrel was there was too much tortilla to fish in the taco. This is a personal preference, however, as I usually think tortillas take away from the flavor of the meat. That being said, the tortilla never fell apart on me and that is always my biggest pet peeve.
Unfortunately, we never received our horchata. We were really excited about it, but in all fairness we never followed up with our server as we were overwhelmed with all the food.
As we were leaving, the staff did make sure we had everything we needed and said goodbye to us multiple times as we left. One man even popped his head out the door as we were in the parking lot to say goodbye one more time.
I know what you’re thinking, they probably knew we were doing a review and made sure to be extra nice. This is simply not the case as we most certainly looked like broke college students noticeably splurging on fish tacos. They are just that nice.
Habanero’s offers to-go service. Customers can order online or via phone. Even when they’re closed, you can pre-order for later. They also have several gluten-free and vegan options. This restaurant is great for couples and families, especially those with dietary restrictions.
My last and final thought that I think is noteworthy as someone who has worked in the service industry for the past 5 years, they make sure their staff gets tipped and they make sure they work for it. There is even a sign at the checkout stand that says, “Please tip your servers fairly,” which is something that Las Cruces needs to work on.
The restaurant was clean and organized, the staff was incredible, the food was extraordinary, and I left thinking about how much time I’ve wasted at other restaurants.
I give Habanero’s Fresh Mex 4.5 out of 5 tacos.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual.