Stop And Eat Drive In – Española, New Mexico

Stop and Eat in Espanola, New Mexico
The world-famous Stop and Eat in Espanola, New Mexico: On the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

Stop And Eat–Although it seems this 50s style drive-in has always been at its Paseo De Oñate location, it hadn’t yet opened in 1598 when don Juan de Oñate led his expedition of Spanish colonists to the east bank of the Rio Grande near its confluence with the Chama River. That’s where they founded San Gabriel, New Mexico’s first capital at a site close to present day Española, home of the Stop And Eat restaurant.

While Stop And Eat might sound like a mandate, it’s really more of a strong suggestion that will visit your brain every time you drive by this restaurant. All it takes is one visit and you’ll be hooked.

This 50’s style drive-in not only has an inviting name, it’s got an inviting location on a busy intersection. It’s also got an inviting menu replete with delicious fast food New Mexico style. It’s one of a dying breed, a drive-in under whose canopy you can park your car, walk to an order window to place your order and wait to be called over a loudspeaker.

Stop And Eat features the type of Americana roadfood atmosphere Michael and Jane Stern like so it’s no surprise that this relatively obscure restaurant has been featured on their Roadfood Web site. The Sterns observed that despite its drive-in facade, this restaurant has no carhop service or picnic tables on which to dine. All it’s got is excellent roadside cuisine…scratch that, it’s roadside food. Stop And Eat makes no pretence about serving “cuisine.”

Alas, with its Anglicized spelling of “chili,” Stop And Eat may lend credence to the infamous Española jokes, New Mexico’s equivalent of Polish jokes. The menu, posted on a painted slab of plywood, spells it “chili” in several places. That’s the only faux pas this restaurant makes…and its chile is a fire-breather’s special as in muy piquante, as in the hottest green chile cheeseburger in New Mexico piquant!

The burgers are liberally endowed with fresh ingredients, among which green chile is a must. Ask for a jumbo twin, two saucer sized meat patties if you’re famished or even if you’re not and just want to maximize the sensory delights of eating a very good burger. I took two photos of the green chile cheeseburger but neither turned out clearly. Attribute that to the hiccups caused by the piquant heat generated by this excellent burger.

At Stop And Eat, the tacos are terrific, especially the rolled tacos (and nowhere in the world can you find rolled tacos as good as in Espanola) which are hand-rolled and definitely not the cigar shaped mass produced messes you find at warehouse stores throughout New Mexico. These beauties are stuffed with a bean, meat and chile (my spellchecker wouldn’t allow another misspelled version) blend.

Contrary to what you might find at other restaurants, the Frito pie contains no beans or cheese, but it does possess some of the best capsaicin laden red chile, well seasoned ground beef and at least one chip in every spoonful. It’s among the best Frito pies in the north.

The shakes are delicious–a bit thin, but always cold which really helps on a hot summer day.

Stop And Eat Drive In
110 E Paseo De Onate
Española, NM

LATEST VISIT: 21 July 2007
BEST BET: Rolled tacos, Shakes, Burgers, Frito Pie

Stop & Eat Drive-In on Urbanspoon

3 thoughts on “Stop And Eat Drive In – Española, New Mexico

  1. Eating at Stop and Eat is truly a nostalgic step back for me into the New Mexico of about half-a-century ago. It offers traditional New Mexico foods served with wonderful New Mexico friendliness in a roadside drive-in typical of NM in the 50’s and 60’s. I took Gil’s recommendation and got the jumbo-twin green chile cheeseburger. The “greaseless burger” (as their sign says) meat was fine and all the ingredients were fresh. My only disappointment, and it is a major disappointment, was that the chile was mild on the day I ate there. I actually opened the burger up to see whether they had forgotten to put the green chile on it. They did not forget as there was plenty of green chile, I just could not taste it. Maybe it was just a bad day, and on another day it will be reasonably piquant.

  2. I have to respectfully disagree with regard to the rolled tacos. I ate at Stop and Eat this past weekend (02/20/10) after hearing how good their rolled tacos are from so many people – most of them Espanola natives.

    I was hugely disappointed. The tacos seemed to be of a lower quality and taste than any frozen ones I’ve eaten from the grocery store. The shells were a bit over-cooked, and the filling was almost nonexistent.

    I have had better “taquitos” at any number of other restaurants, including Mac’s – heck, I don’t think I’ve had worse taquitos anywhere. These were solidly last place.

  3. Now you’re speaking my language. The jumbo twin with chile and cheese at Stop and Eat is like heaven. When I die and and go to heaven (stop laughing), the first thing I’ll do is order a Jumbo Twin with chile and cheese.

    I love how that place has remained unchanged through the decades. When I was a kid, we would ride our bikes there and play songs on the juke box. When our team would win an important game, the coach would take us there for burgers. And when I visit home, it’s a reminder that not every eatery is owned by a faceless, soul-less corporation.

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