100 Favorite Dishes: Chile Relleno at La Fiesta

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No. 100 Chile Relleno at La Fiesta 2340 Champa Street 303-292-2800

The traditional chile relleno is soft -- like the relleno served at El Chingon, which Gretchen Kurtz reviews this week; Gloria Nunez, who shares the kitchen there with her grandson, grew up in Mexico City. But crispy rellenos also have their fans -- and Denver has a unique variation on this, the eggroll-style relleno. You'll find the city's best version of this very crispy relleno at La Fiesta, which has perfected it over the past fifty years. See also: Join the lunch bunch at La Fiesta

The chile relleno has been a mainstay of the menu since La Fiesta took over a former Safeway on the edge of Curtis Park and turned it into a Mexican restaurant back in 1964. The recipe is basically unchanged: The relleno starts out with an Anaheim pepper stuffed with premium cheese -- not Velveeta, Ron Herrera, son of the founder, assures us -- and then wraps it in a wonton wrapper, fries the package until the exterior is crisp and the interior molten, and smothers it with a sense-searing green chile.

It's delicious -- and unique to Denver, according to Gustavo Arellano, our Ask a Mexican and author of Taco USA. "I've had chiles rellenos stuffed with cream cheese in Arizona copper country, with ground meat in Oaxacan dives, with quinoa in hippie places," he tells us. "But in my travels across the U.S., the only place I've ever found them wrapped in wonton paper is in Denver. Next to the Mexican hamburger, Den-Mex at its finest!"

Do you like your rellenos crispy or soft? And what's your favorite in town? Tell us in the comments section below.

In advance of the Best of Denver 2015, we're already loading our plates with contenders for the best dishes in the city. And over the next nine months, we'll be sharing many of them with you, counting down (in no particular order) one hundred of our favorite dishes before the the Best of Denver 2015 hits the streets on March 26. In the meantime, if there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section below, or shoot us an e-mail at cafe@westword.com.

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