Denver's five best green chile fixes

El Farolito.jpg
Lori Midson
In case you haven't heard, Denver is a city that's obsessed -- like, really obsessed -- with its green chile. We smother it -- unlike everywhere else in the country -- on absolutely everything. We've even heard stories of people who put it in milkshakes, on top of chocolate cake and in baby food -- you know, to get the kid hooked before he enters the crack phase of his life. Oh, wait -- green chile is crack.

When we were putting together our 2011 Best of Denver issue, there were many spirited discussions about which chile made us the greenest with envy -- and while there were several viable contenders, none was more worthy than Los Farolitos, where the green chile, tarted up with tomatillos and gobsmacked with heat, is simply terrific.

Here are four other green chiles that deserve praise:

El Taco de Mexico

Eltacodemexicogreen.jpg
Lori Midson
If you have the audacity to disparage the green chile at El Taco de Mexico -- which we've heard a lot of bullying gringos do -- then you deserve whatever bad karma creeps into your tortilla. The iconic dive's verde is an incredible food high that's full of invigorating spices, deposits of pork and a slew of hot chiles for maximum twang. It embodies everything that you expect from a killer green chile, and a whole lot more.

Bonnie Brae Tavern

Bonniebraegreenchile.jpg
There are people who swear by Bonnie Brae Tavern's pizza -- and there are those who would rather wear a bra of pepperoni before sinking their teeth into one of the joint's pies -- but this isn't about the tavern's pizza: It's about its green chile, which might be the last thing you'd think to eat in a restaurant that doesn't have a Mexican bone in its brick. But then you'd miss out on some really freaking good green stuff that's an immersion of chiles -- wickedly hot chiles -- and pork that's long-simmered and admirably deep-flavored.

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36 comments
rocksockitty
rocksockitty

The green chile we eat here in Denver comes from Hatch, New Mexico.  To get Albuquerque, it's transported four hours north on I-25.  To get to Denver, it is simply transported six hours more.

To those in this thread contrasting New Mexico green chile with Denver green chile, realize you are contrasting something with itself.  Where Denver restaurants have green or red chile on the menu, they simply have New Mexican cuisine on the menu.

Hatch green chile is not the same thing as tomatillo sauce, or other green Mexican sauces.  Similarly, marinara sauce is not the same as pesto sauce--they feature entirely different ingredients.

To the guy who calls NM chile "meatless," I suppose you just don't know enough New Mexicans.  In its home state, chile is prepared in myriad ways--basically, it depends on your grandma's recipe.

Finally, the article's assertion that Denver smothers green chile "unlike everywhere else in the country -- on absolutely everything" ignores that green chile is New Mexican cuisine.  NM is the only state with an official state question: "Red or green."  The author should do some homework.

Pancho
Pancho

Any true Coloradan knows Santiagos has the best (and hottest) green chile period. Leaving it off voids this list immediately.

LBBK
LBBK

Rocky Mountain Chili Bowl is the best. It's sold from a truck and it's all green chili. I'm addicted.

Guest
Guest

My favorite TOP strains of green chile reside approx 400 miles south of here on I-25 in places named Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and yes, I've tried Little Anita's and some of the others listed.

That being said, We're talking about Denver area, and with all the good choices around here - Efrain's in Lafayette (Boulder too, I hear) is very good and I would recommend it to anyone. But it's all a matter of personal taste - ask 100 people, you're likely to get 75+ different answers. We make our own green chili stew nowadays, and I recommend if you like green chile enough you'll eventually end up making it yourself, just the way you want it.Like bbq - the best is often your own.

I grew up in Bonnie Brae and went to Carl's all the time, but I had no idea they served good green chili - kinda' surprising. On my way to Bonnie Brae tavern to try it. Thanks for the tips and piece, WWord!

Mantonat
Mantonat

I love how a blog about the best green chile in Denver turns into a conversation about the best green chile in New Mexico, Pueblo, etc. Even if the green chile in Denver is the worst on the planet, the idea is still to name the best of those. The green chile in Albuquerque or Santa Fe or Pueblo have no bearing on the conversation. I had some really good chile verde con costillas de puerco in Tulum, Mexico, but I'm not bragging about it here because this is about Denver (OK, I guess I am bragging about it). The thing about those pork ribs with green chile was that the flavor instantly reminded me of the best green chile in Denver. It was the savory flavor of pork braised in a slightly tangy, firey sauce that was just thick enough to cling to the tortillas but not so thick that you feel it congealing in your belly.

Good Colorado-style green chile can be thickened with flour or cornstarch, but it shouldn't be obvious. The versions that look like cream gravy with chiles stirred in do not appeal to me. The other thing that makes it distinctive to Colorado is that the pork is cooked into the sauce so that the flavor of pork is integrated with the flavor of the chiles. I've had (and even occasionally made) good vegetarian green chile, but it's not really Colorado style because it doesn't have pork. If the right cut of pork is used and the pot is cooked long and slow, you end up with lots of collagen and gelatin melted in, which helps thicken the sauce, especially if you have enough to serve on the second or third day.

I have a soft spot for the green chile from the original Chubby's because it was the first I had in Denver after moving here in the late 80s. The green chile served solo at Jack n Grill is also very good. It's more of a soup but has a ton of flavor and is very hot. The green chile they use to smother their burritos is thicker, so it could be that they use the same sauce and thicken it with flour or cornstarch for smothering.

Reubenesp
Reubenesp

El Camargo green chili burritos are deeelicious! The authentic, thick green chili is tasty on its own merits. But what makes their green chili burrito "el mejor de todos" is the combination of tender, non-rubbery, made from scratch daily, "thick" flour tortillas, larded refried beans and prepared daily roasted pork. Because of the seemingly endless and confusing "menu" plastered on three different walls, on hanging mobiles and even on the ceiling, simply say "one green burrito to go, please." Of course, you can order as many as you'd like, and you can also order "for here." You can also order your burrito smothered. (I personally don't like cheese, lettuce and tomato on top of my smothered burrito the first try because it masks the flavor of the burrito itself.)

Hint: Ordering "for here" gives you the opportunity to sit and enjoy your burrito while stretching your neck to check out the "menu."

Notes: In making their standard burritos, the tortilla is "fried on the inside," which adds to the flavor, unless you are ordering from a wide variety of delicious, made from scratch "breakfast burritos" which are available anytime. All standard burritos include beans. Pop is available for 60c from a self-serve vending machine. SoBe, Teas and other beverages are locked behind various glass display cases and are ordered at the counter when you order your food. You pay at the counter when your order is announced. The owner, or a member of his family, will walk around and unlock the display case, retrieve your drink, while you are waiting at the counter to pay.

Last but not least, the menudo is to die for. It is slow cooked, along with chopped up pigs feet, for a thick savory stew. You can order it hot or cold. Cold (to go) is quicker as it has to be warmed up, otherwise.

huth
huth

Awwwww see Fierce, you are hearing with a closed mind not listening with an open heart, "White Men Can't Jump" style. I can almost guarantee that you have never eaten at this Village Inn therefore I can say your opinion of this particular Village Inn's green chile is disqualified. I also guarantee I have eaten far more green chile than you have in many places that you will most likely never eat at, as well as having eaten green chile in just about any restaurant in which you would have eaten green chile, so who's opinion should be considered more valid? It is a dish that I commonly order in what most people would assure me to be a horrible venue for such a dish and sometimes I am blown away at where quality exudes. For example one of my favorite spots for green chile stew in Denver is one that did not make this list: the College Inn... a sports bar, but I assure you its a solid stew.

huth
huth

So this is going to be subjective no matter who you ask I am sure we all have favorites but the fact that 4 out of 5 of the photos on this list are of burritos not chile makes me wonder how serious they dug into the research. If you were going to do a list of the best cars would you take a picture of just the engines? Green chile is an art unto itself and though it can enhance many dishes it really should be able to stand alone as its own entity. Blake St. Tavern is surprisingly good probably the best in Denver in my opinion. Its a chilie base with some tomatillo in it but not over baring, its HOT, it has a nice balance of flavor that is highlighted by the heat but not overwhelmed by it and it has big chunks of quality pork. Little Anita's is crap in Albuquerque and is crap here. I assume it only made the list due to its place of origin. I have yet to try the #1 choice on this list but I assure you by the end of the week it will be inside of me. As far as any one from NM or southern CO goes you should know south-central NM invented green chile and Pueblos bulky bland domestication of the Hatch is a poor alternative to the real thing, Trinidad is world renowned for something else entirely and thats for good reason. And Good Lord @ blog commenter in residence- What Watercourse serves is not actually green chile its like a white chili that they have mislabeled. Its tangy and "fruity" because its made with tomatillos and tomatoes, it's not traditional you can tell by all the tomato farms in NM. You think just because its vegetarian it deserves some leniency, thats like saying its ok to like McDonald's if you have no tongue. I was raised in Albuquerque, grew up with Hatch in my veins and the best green chile I have ever had was vegetarian...and it was at a Village Inn...now what?

Javalina
Javalina

Moved to Oregon 15 years ago and was HORRIFIED to discover that the green in chili verde here is all tomatillos! ick. For what it's worth, have yet to meet chili verde to beat the old Horseman's Haven in Sante Fe.

blog commenter in residence
blog commenter in residence

I expect only hate in response in response to this, but Watercourse has some fantastic green chile. It's tangy and fruity and, yeah, vegetarian. I think the restaurant is wildly over praised and needs another veg restaurant to challenge it and since I don't eat the meat my perspective is obviously skewed... but their chile is really good.

Brandon
Brandon

You don't know flavor until you try green chili from My Burrito Man, a very small up and coming burrito business that mainly works farmer's markets and company catering. A thick and chunky chili with roasted peppers and tomatoes and pork and hints of other spices, I wouldn't have even had an idea it was gluten free unless the owner didn't tell me.

Uncledave8
Uncledave8

Funny story. Ran into a friend who works at Bonnie Brae this afternoon. I say to her,"Did you see where Bonnie Brae got a shout out from Westword for their green chile?" She says, "You've got to be shittin' me?" Ditto.

Laura
Laura

Umm, Albuquerque? I'll have to try these. I have been VERY disappointed by Colorado green chile attempts.

DieHardFoodie
DieHardFoodie

Let the haters hate! We love our green chile. Where is Santiago's on this list? That shit is dank!

Green Chile hater
Green Chile hater

Green Chile is disgusting. It's hot snot. Denver is obsessed with hot snot over nasty burritos, then smothered again with American cheese.

Uncledave8
Uncledave8

Hmm - Bonnie Brea but not La Loma. Not it my book.

Chile Wille
Chile Wille

El Taco de Mexico is definitely in a delicious oniony category of it's own. I'm partial to Benny's and newcomer Zocalo. As far as white people Mexican food goes, davebarnes is right; Brewery Bar does a decent chile, cooked by whites, served by whites, eaten by whites (not hot). In the suburbs, Taqueria Las Palmas does a mighty fine chile in three levels of burn. Westword seems a little too infatuated with Bubba Chinos. There is no tastier way to prevent colon cancer than the OG Chubby's on 38th.

davebarnes
davebarnes

Little Anita's (in my tastings) is very good.They have a bowl of green chile (not on the menu) that is excellent and a bargain.

I love the Bonnie Brae Tavern as I live 100 meters from it. But, in my experience, the chiles are canned and you can taste the metal. It is good, but not great.

I am still a fan of the Brew Bar II's green chile (hot).

Josh
Josh

la pasadita

Jon S
Jon S

Overall this is a worthy list for Denver and some of my favorites around town. However, I have to say that when you are talking Colorado-style green chile, the best is made in Southern Colorado, especially Pueblo. This is the rare (and probably only) case of Pueblo cuisine being superior to Denver. For all the fuss Denverites make about green chile, you have to look far and wide to find a chile that would rate even on the low end of average for Pueblo. Heck, your average joint in Walsenburg or Trinidad makes a green chile that puts most Denver versions to shame.

I suspect part of the issue is the fascination we have with Hatch chili peppers here in Denver. While those are excellent peppers, Pueblo chilis, the Mirasol in particular, are superior. At least for making Colorado-style green chile. It would be nice if a few restaurants in Denver would figure out how to make a proper Colorado green chile from their colleagues in Pueblo.

Melissa_tafoya
Melissa_tafoya

I completely.agree and am absolutely shocked that it's not on here!!!!

rocksockitty
rocksockitty

@Mantonat To call green chile cooked with pork "Colorado style" is patently wrong.  Many in NM cook green chile sauce with pork (in fact, it's more likely than not that green chile sauce is cooked with a pork neckbone for flavor).  

Green chile is New Mexican cuisine.  I love my CO home, but green chile is an import.  Literally.  So are the recipes.

huth
huth

This seems like shameless promotion for a restaurant featuring items which are not the focus of this article. This was not a list of best burritos featuring green chile it was a list just of best green chile.

Guest
Guest

I started eating Albuquerque green in about '75 and have been hooked ever since.

Did you ever get to Sadie's before they moved out of the bowling alley into their current location? It was awesome. Lately Los Cuates on Lomas is one of my ABQ faves. Viva Zia!

Fierce
Fierce

Saying the best green chile you've ever had was from Village Inn is an instant disqualification. That place is disgusting.

bob b
bob b

Umm...attempts? Get over yourself, Laura. Colorado has it's own green chile that makes no attempt to mimic that thin, meatless Albuquerque stuff.

Guest
Guest

Each to his own. Go back to El Paso. Be sure to stay out of Juarez.

John
John

I suppose you like Tex Mex, which is the most disgusting way to prepare Mexican food known to mankind.

Guest
Guest

Brew Bar was very good when I had it. We used to drive down to Brew Bar from the Tech Center @ lunch for their green chile. Good rec.

Beth Barber
Beth Barber

Wow, guess you never actually ate good green chile @Fierce, cause, that's how NM makes their green chile and you can get it at Wendy's/McD's like Huth, and VI in Albuquerque actually has tasty huevos, would I order green chile from a VI in Denver if they had it? NO. Fierce you are a tool.

huth
huth

respond to that V (down there, fool)

Weazeldogg
Weazeldogg

wrong. New Mexico (Hatch) green chile trumps all Colorado attempts....sorry but it rains way too much up there to grow a superior chile. New Mexico RULES.

Green Chile Hater
Green Chile Hater

Green chile is basically in line with Tex Mex though Tex Mex has a lot more flavor. Green chile is so uninteresting. Yay! It's spicy! The flavors lack complexity but we'll smother it all over everything because the rest of the food is bland. Plus, green chile is more of a New Mexican dish than Coloradan, but people from Colorado get their panties in a wad all over it. Hot snot, disgusting.

bob b
bob b

...yet Colorado still has it's own green chile that makes no attempt to mimic that thin, meatless Albuquerque stuff.

bob b
bob b

sorry, that shit is still to thin for this climate. I'll take it thick with pork.

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