“Sorry, New Mexico: Pueblo’s Peppers and Their Incarnations Beat All of Your Chiles!”

This published by LA Times reporter, Gustavo Arellano wrote a story in early 2019 called “The Great American Chile Highway – A palate-scorching, Mexican hamburger- and adovada-fueled road trip up I-25 from Las Cruces to Denver” during which while in Pueblo he ruled us the winner of his Chile trip! Here’s the part of the story where he talks about Pueblo (see full story online).

“Hispanos settled southern Colorado in the 1850s, and many manitos (the nickname their descendants go by) feel greater kinship with northern New Mexico than they do with Colorado. The result is food as removed from New Mexican food as New Mexican is from Mexican, with added influence from European immigrants (especially Italians), whose presence in the area goes back more than a century. It’s one of the few branches of the Mexican food tree where such a mix causes little grumbling — because chile.

Take Corine’s Mexican Restaurant in Walsenberg, a city of 3,000. Open since 1957, the diner’s best entree is Pollo de Colorado, fried chicken strips topped with a thick red chile. The result tasted like Mexican schnitzel, and simultaneously lifted my tired body while weighing down my gut.

The chile was even better at Three Sisters, a honky-tonk bar in Colorado City. Prominent on the menu was a bowl of Pueblo-style green made from the Mirasol pepper, which manitos grew for over a century and is currently being prepped for its national day in the sun by Italian-American farmers in the San Luis Valley.

Sorry, New Mexico: Pueblo peppers and their incarnations beat all of your chiles. Just a cup of it at Three Sisters showed why — it was more intense than Hatch, more pungent than Socorro, and as rare as Chimayó. (Colorado growers only harvested about 600 acres of peppers last year, compared to the 8,000 or so that New Mexico registered.)

Mirasol love was all over Pueblo, a city with its own distinct cuisine. There, the most beloved treat is the Slopper, a hamburger patty in a sea of green chile: bar food, bar none. Downtown’s Gray’s Coors Tavern claims to have invented it, and their version is particularly wonderful.

Better were the chicken tacos on white at Polito’s Beer Barrel, a neighborhood dive just a minute away from one of the last operating steel mills in what was once called the Pittsburgh of the West. The “white” refers to flour tortillas, and Pueblo makes them thick and salty, then fries them for tacos so that the end result tastes like pita chips. As a side, Polito’s offered fideo, Mexican-style vermicelli noodles which I’ve eaten my entire life in soup, but were here closer to a cumin-heavy spaghetti. Fried flour tortillas also made the base for a gigantic tostada at Estela’s Mill Stop Cafe, with a side of rice so soaked in tomato sauce that it was basically a broth.

Estela’s Mill Stop Cafe in Pueblo, Colorado

The tostada at Estela’s
I left Pueblo with a Reskie Burger — patty, pimento cheese, and extra Pueblo chiles — from Bingo Burger, and a desire to find ever more Pueblo-Mex. But I could only take one bite before my body finally shut down.

Bluntly put: You try eating chile 27 ways over just two days. It hurts.

The 45-minute drive to Colorado Springs was one of the most uncomfortable of my life. My digestive tract was fine; it was the rest of my body that burned. My eyes felt like they could shoot an optic blast like Cyclops from the X-Men. My skin was warm; my sides began to spasm.

I didn’t sleep that night, constantly waking to the thought of green and red Christmas-ing me with a slow, agonizing, delicious death.”

About Jenny Paulson 185 Articles
Jenny Paulson is the publisher and editor of Pueblo Independent Magazine and can be contacted for more information about Pueblo Magazine, editorial content, marketing, website design and other services.