The scenic golf course’s brand new Verde Ale House & Dining brings a fresh, hip vibe to the Las Cruces community
Written by Jessica Muncrief
Photography by Robin Zielinski
With craft beer culture exploding in popularity all over the country, a new local restaurant is bringing the trend right here to the Mesilla Valley. Red Hawk Golf Course recently opened Verde Ale House & Dining, and the concept is unlike anything Las Cruces has yet to see.
“The main inspiration was to bring in something that’s been really popular in the restaurant industry, but is totally new to the golf industry,” explains Red Hawk General Manager Bo Cichuniec. “All these craft beer places are popping up; Albuquerque is just flowing with different breweries right now—Marble, Tractor, Santa Fe, Nexus, Bosque—there are so many. We’re not a brewery, but we’re hoping to create that scene down here by showcasing a bunch of craft beers, not only from New Mexico but outside of the state as well.”
It is the natural next step for Red Hawk, which opened in 2011 off of Highway 70’s Sonoma Ranch Blvd exit, just down the road from the Metro Verde master-planned community. Bo explains that it’s typical for new golf courses to start with a basic clubhouse and a simple sandwich hut, and then expand as the course attracts more golfers. Red Hawk has done just that, growing steadily each year to the point that they saw fit to install a full commercial kitchen. They stopped outsourcing catering for onsite events last fall, and Bo says they’re excited about taking the next step with the full-service, sit-down restaurant that will also expand food and beverage offerings for golfers out playing the course.
“We’re offering not only a variety that you won’t typically find at golf courses, but also what no other restaurant in the area offers,” he adds. “Why eat overlooking a busy intersection when we have 100-plus magnificent acres of green turf grass? That’s the draw out here and, with the Verde Ale House, we want the community to realize that you don’t have to be a golfer to come out and enjoy what Red Hawk has to offer.”
Having a neighborhood restaurant was always part of the vision for John Moscato, the developer behind the Metro Verde community. “Last year, 200 households moved into Metro Verde, and we’re planning for an even larger increase this year,” he says. “This will be the closest restaurant for all these Las Cruces residents considering there is almost nothing as far as restaurants north of Highway 70. This is the major growth corridor in the city, so I think this is just the beginning. We’ll eventually have a bigger clubhouse and more than one restaurant.”
The big draw at Verde Ale House for golfers and non-golfers alike will most certainly be the beers and the hearty, gastropub-style menu developed by Head Chef Theresa Acosta, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. As a military wife, she’s lived all over the world and her food philosophy is farm-to-table, with a bit of inspiration from places like Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Italy thrown in for good measure. “My recipes are inspired by everywhere I’ve lived and worked and the people I’ve met, but all of the products we use are grown and made here in New Mexico and Texas,” she says.
Theresa served her pecan coconut shrimp at the 2017 New Mexico Pecan Festival, and it was such a hit she added it to the menu, along with other belly-warming favorites like ribs, street tacos, burgers, and steaks. Verde Ale House’s signature menu items are those inspired by their vast selection of craft beers. Theresa and Bar Manager Corina Gonzales have spent many hours researching, testing, and tasting beers and foods to come up with just the right flavor combinations. Items marked with a “B” on the menu have beer in them and the knowledgeable servers can help pair these items—or any menu item for that matter—with a stout or ale that complements.
The concept is very similar to wine tasting, but as Bo points out, much simpler. “People are taking pride in the kind of beer they drink, especially the younger generation of millennials and GenX and Y-ers—and even beyond that with baby boomers,” he notes. “Beer is interesting to people because it’s easier to understand. You don’t have to find all those fine flavor notes like with wine.”
Corina, who started out at Red Hawk as a bartender four years ago, says her vision of drinking beer isn’t about what’s fanciest or most expensive, but about what her customers enjoy. “We have 24 beers on tap,” she explains. “A lot of my ideas for the spread came from talking with locals and working with distributors to find out what people are buying here in town. We want people to enjoy drinking beer, and we want to help them understand beers and brighten their taste buds a little more.”
Drinking beer might not be as complicated as wine tasting, but there are nuances to beer flavors and what foods different types pair well with.
Theresa says she opts for thick, dark stouts when creating hearty BBQ and meat dishes, yet favors light blonde ales for items like their beer cheese. She says that different beers do have notes of flavors like chocolate or orange, making them more appropriate for pairing with certain foods than others. Working off Corina’s extensive pairing list, she says that even at home she’s continually experimenting by marinating steaks in beer, and adding it to sauces, condiments, and jellies.
While craft beer is the overarching theme at Verde Ale House, guests don’t need to be 21 to enjoy all they have to offer. Beyond developing their beer selection, Corina’s main goal is to build a good team of servers and bartenders that will provide excellent customer service to keep patrons coming back. The clubhouse has undergone a renovation in preparation for the new restaurant and it now boasts a very hip, rustic industrial vibe, along with an expansive new covered patio.
Corina adds, “We are looking to expand our demographic and bring in more families and young people—people that might not necessarily even be golfers. We’re also reaching out to people who want to enjoy the game on one of our six new TVs or have a nice meal after a golf tournament. There’s a little something for everyone and I think people are really going to enjoy what we’re doing here.”