In Denver, green chile is personal. Regulars at the countless Mexican restaurants, bars and diners that serve the Southwestern staple are fiercely loyal to their favorite, rarely considering more than one green chile worthy of mention. But we have to consider them all, and as a result, we've tasted volumes of verde.
Green chile is one of the most contested categories in the Food and Drink section of our annual Best of Denver awards, which this year numbered 116 selections. And the green chile that stood out in 2019 and earned the title Best Green Chile is one that has withstood the test of time and shares ancestry with a number of other quality Mexican eateries in town.
La Fogata, at 5670 East Evans Avenue, has been serving green chile and plenty of other excellent Mexican dishes since 1990 under owner Danette Calhoun. When we talked to Calhoun last summer about her restaurant's Mexican hamburger, which wouldn't be what it is without green chile, she explained that her family founded Las Delicias, and that other family members went on to open El Parral, D'Corazon and other Denver cantinas.
La Fogata's chile is thick and bold, with a slowly elevating warmth that never becomes uncomfortable. Along with the Mexican hamburger (don't expect a bun; in Denver they come wrapped in a tortilla), it smothers burritos, rellenos, huevos rancheros, tamales and chimichangas. The flavor is pure Denver, so don't bother comparing it to New Mexican green chile; Colorado's cooler climate, harsher growing season and preference for hearty, pork-studded stew have created a style distinct to the region. And La Fogata's influence, along with those of its cousins around town, has made its way into many other kitchens.
The green chile can also be found at La Fogata's younger sibling at 8090 East Quincy Avenue, so folks in the south suburbs can get their fill, too. But we prefer the version at East Evans.
Shout-outs for simmering up tasty batches of green chile also go to Adelitas Cocina y Cantina, which won our Readers' Choice award this year, and to Urban Egg, a small, family-owned breakfast chain out of Colorado Springs that earned Best Vegetarian Green Chile. If you want to sample some within Denver city limits, stop at the Belleview Station location at 6991 East Belleview Avenue.