Red or Green?
A Heaping Helping of History
La Posta de Mesilla plans expansion, while keeping true to its heritage of traditional Mexican fare and steaks.
by Peggy Platonos
La Posta de Mesilla is a restaurant with history hard-wired into the fiber of its being. Through building, menu and ownership, its roots extend all the way back to the 1840s, when the original portion of the beautiful but unpretentious adobe building was constructed and served as a stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach Line.
La Posta waitress Theresa Reyna poses with the restaurant’s special Surf & Turf combination plate in front of the ornate tile fountain in the restaurant lobby. The dessert in her other hand is La Posta’s popular Tres Leches cake. (Photo by Peggy Platonos)
Known at one point in its early life as the Corn Exchange Hotel, the building became a bona fide restaurant in 1939, when its owner, Edgar Griggs, deeded the property to his 19-year-old niece, Katy, for "one dollar and love and affection." Katy opened the doors of what she called her "little chile joint" with four tables in a dirt-floor room, at the back of which her mother and grandmother handled the cooking, without benefit of running water. The only thing that was the least bit pretentious about the fledgling restaurant was its name, La Posta — a term originally used in Spain to designate an inn that provided hospitality stops for the king on major roadways.
There's no evidence that La Posta de Mesilla has ever hosted royalty, but through the decades of its existence, it has been visited by several presidents and numerous celebrities. And the galley in a US Navy submarine, the USS New Mexico, has been named after it. On Mexican Food Night every other Tuesday, sailors on the sub are treated to Mexican dishes based on some of the same centuries-old family recipes that Katy used.
Katy's restaurant was a success from the start. People lined up and waited patiently to sample her food. In fact, so many people came that first day that she ran out of food hours before she intended to close — something she vowed would never happen again. And, apparently, it never did.
La Posta was still going strong when Katy died in 1993. Three years later, Jerean Hutchinson and her husband, Tom, purchased the restaurant from Katy's estate, and have continued the tradition of good food and friendly service that Katy established.
Katy would surely have approved, because the purchase has kept the restaurant in the family. Katy's first husband, Ernesto Camuñez, was Jerean's great-uncle.
La Posta has expanded through the years well beyond the one room it originally occupied, and customers are now seated throughout a veritable warren of rooms that used to serve such varied purposes as saddle shop, blacksmith's shop and stagecoach office.
Plans are being made for further expansion, Jerean says. "We hope by November to have an outdoor patio open with an additional 150 seats available. We'll also be offering catering for the first time. And we'll probably begin serving breakfast on weekends, starting in November."
At the moment, La Posta is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The menu is extensive, but not particularly expensive. All the traditional Mexican favorites are offered — many based on Katy's old family recipes. Most prices fall between $4.95 and $9.95, with multi-course House Specials offered for $12.95 to $14.95.
La Posta is also noted for its selection of perfectly charbroiled steaks, at prices ranging from $12.25 for a six-ounce tenderloin to $15.95 for a 16-ounce T-bone steak.
One must also mention tequila when speaking of La Posta. "We are probably the largest Southwest tequila bar," Jerean says.
Signature drinks like the Chile 'Rita offer unlikely taste combinations for the adventurous. The menu describes this bestseller as, "An exotic blend of 'Besito Caliente' blackberry/habañero sauce, lime juice, Hornitos 100% agave tequila and Patron Citronage. Served on the rocks in a hand-blown 'chile' stem glass. Hot stuff for cool people." Mixed drinks featuring tequila cost anywhere from $4.50 for La Posta 'Rita to $8.85 for La Patrona. That Chile 'Rita mentioned earlier costs $7.85.
The innovations in food and drink at La Posta are totally in keeping with Katy's example. Though basing much of her menu on recipes handed down in various branches of her family, she also introduced her own creations, including Tostadas Compuestas — still on La Posta's menu, which describes them as "toasted corn tortilla cups filled with frijoles and red chile con carne, topped with chopped lettuce, diced tomatoes and grated cheddar cheese."
Today, La Posta de Mesilla claims to be "Still everyone's favorite stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach Line." The fact that the restaurant serves more than 300,000 customers each year makes that a reasonable claim.
Pretty good for a "little chile joint."
For more information about La Posta de Mesilla or to make a reservation, call (575) 524-3524. It's located at 2410 Calle De San Albino in Mesilla.