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The Santiago's sauce was smooth, warm like an electric tongue-blanket, and those pork nuggets fell apart when they saw a spoon. The mild was devoid of heat but flavorful, the half & half had a pleasant, creeping warmth, and the hot was enough to gas-light you up, but not enough to make the snot drip from your nose — unless you're a wuss. I could understand why Santiago's chile has such street cred, and why grocery stores like King Soopers, Albertsons, Walmart and City Market carry the stuff.

My next logical grab from the combo was the taco, which was hard-shell and stuffed with delicious, well-seasoned ground beef, the top merely garnished with shredded lettuce, cheese and diced tomatoes. A squeeze bottle on the table produced a good, thick red chile sauce with a mild heat that dressed my taco nicely. From there I moved to the tamale, which was perfect: not too dry or too moist, with a generous stuffing of shredded pork.

The first chile relleno I tried in Colorado was a thin, sickly pepper with a scrap of cheese inside, rolled up in a flour tortilla and deep-fried. Santiago's avoided that sin. These rellenos were plump with gobs of melty, white cheese, coated in a light, crisp batter, and blanketed in green chile sauce. Under more green chile sauce, the bean burrito was heavy with a few scoops of refried beans that were under-seasoned and actually crunchy with what I hoped was a bean crust from too much sitting-in-the-pan time. The rice was dry and flavorless, too, obviously an afterthought to the main dishes. The guacamole brightened up the lackluster sides; it was cool, had a good balance between chunky and smooth, a fresh, bright color indicating freshness — and not much flavor. But freshly made foods aren't always going to hit the mark, and I appreciated how much effort went into making everything at Santiago's from scratch, everything to order.

Coloradans rave about the green chile at Santiago's — with good reason.
Jenn Wohletz
Coloradans rave about the green chile at Santiago's — with good reason.

Location Info

Map

Santiago's Mexican Restaurant

5230 E. 72nd Ave.
Denver, CO 80222

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Southeast Denver

Details

Also read: Santiago's founder Carmen Morales talks to Cafe Society

Santiago's Mexican Restaurant
Large combo $10
Chile relleno dinner $6.50
Guacamole $2
5230 East 72nd Avenue, Commerce City
303-853-0821
Hours: 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday

With all of their stores, Carmen Morales and her family have plenty of restaurant business on their plates — but the growth of Santiago's also shows that they have the drive to keep pushing the brand until they've conquered the world.

There are certain things Coloradans know that others don't — and the success of Santiago's in this state is proof of that.

Jenn Wohletz covers the fast-food industry in Jenn in Chains on our Cafe Society blog; e-mail her at editorial@westword.com.

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6 comments
dano323
dano323

There is NO BEST GREEN.....What is best to you, isn't to her, or me or my goat.....SANTIAGO'S is the best to me, because it is of very good quality....AND they ship it to me in SOUTH CAROLINA.....This is the best chili in the world when you live in Charleston.....WoooooHOOOOOOO...SMD

Alcie
Alcie

I drove to the one on the outskirts of Castle Rock. It was before lunch, the chile had not been heated to a safely high temperature. It seems like management at more restaurants would either come in earlier, or plan more accurately about heating up foods that can really make customers ill. I am a fan, but think certain locations are more reliable than others. The one on South Broadway has always been up to par? With a luul in economy, no one wants to throw food away or end up with a Motezuma's revenge (no matter what type of food) :):(

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editortopcommenter

I'd like to publish your comments in our print edition, ideally with your full name/town. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com

greg141
greg141

Their green chile is pretty good, but eating there for a meal is a huge mistake (just like the immensely overrated Bennys).. get their tasty burritos to go, and you're fine... but do not eat in their restaurants for a weekend breakfast.  Ever. Seriously, ever.

Denver Dave
Denver Dave topcommenter

Well, I grew up in New Mexico and I have my preferences about green chile and Santiago's ain't it.  Primarily because green chile should be green not the orangey gravy that Denver seems to favor.  And because, IMO, their "green chile" is just to damn hot to enjoy.  I like spice aplenty but not just for the sake of making you sweat (like Brewery Bar II as another example).  Flavor is more important than heat IMO.  You want good New Mexico style green chile - go to La Loma or Little Anita's.  Just one New Mexican's opinion.  As I have said before, there will never be a consensus on green chile in Denver and that's OK - to each his/her own.  And, the good news is that Hatch chiles should be in anytime and I can make my own.

 

Glad for Santiago's success though - sounds like Carmen has done a great job of taking care of her family and building a successful business.

dano323
dano323

 @Denver Dave How can anyone say that one is better than the next? I'd say.....is the best? Who cares? Just eat ...

 
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