Given the string of fleeting south-of-the-border joints that have holed up in the nondescript State Street strip the Green Chile calls home, one could easily write off the Southwestern restaurant as the next "former occupant" of the space. That would be a mistake.
There are five things you need to know about the Green Chile.
First: The heat can be a sneaky bastard. The menu at the Green Chile does not rely heavily on the one-two up-front punch of jalapeno. Enter Exhibit A, the obligatory, complimentary starter cup of salsa. The chunky stewed tomato brew goes down sweet and mild. It takes a few mouthfuls before a mature, peppery heat begins to unpack its bags and settle on to the back of your palate.
Second: Order well because you'll be eating your meal twice. Once in the restaurant and once at some point in the future from a to-go box. It's no exaggeration to size up the portions as double XL. And don't think you'll finish off your plate by skipping the chips and salsa; the mere minutes you'll wait between ordering your meal and receiving it doesn't allow for much time to ruin your dinner.
Third: The Green Chile is not a Mexican restaurant. It's a Southwestern restaurant and one that takes a cue from New Mexico, a state where Christmas isn't a holiday, it's a food order, and chiles are meant for ristras as much as chili. The vocabulary may be familiar--burrito, taco, enchilada, flauta, chiles rellenos--but the approach is refreshingly different. The burger section, offering patties smothered in Anaheims, jalapenos and green gravy, isn't just an afterthought but a section of the menu from which the tortilla-timid can order without shame. You'll find plates sided with rice and beans; however, the mild, soupy refried and reheated beans we see in other restaurants have been replaced by slightly smoky whole pintos. A side of cowboy beans for dipping was an exercise in grace. Whole pintos flatly refuse to be scooped up by a tortilla chip and when spooned onto the chip's surface, those fat beans have a habit of simply rolling right off the edge. As for the rice, it's not unnaturally colored and is often huddled up against a pile of sauteed squash, bell peppers and onions.
Fourth: Almost everything on the menu is smothered in red or green gravy (or, Christmas, a combination of the two). A recent weekend lunch had me staring down a plate of flautas with crunchy, fried chicken poking out all sides. But I couldn't resist the Christmas gravy smothered all over my dining companion's table-sized burrito, enchilada, chile relleno combo. However, the best option is a "bowl of green," a deep, ceramic vat of bubbling green chili, which is a somewhat mysterious concoction of tender pork, onions, chiles, jalapenos and cilantro topped with a web of melted jack and a swoop of sour cream. It's viscous, wholesome and spicy enough to make your nose run. It's fantastic.
Fifth: You will want to go back. After the Green Chile's Christmas job, runny red enchilada sauce at other joints just won't cut it anymore.
--Rachael Daigle says if your nose isn't running, it ain't hot enough.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about the Green Chile.