Cafe Society

Cool to Colorado Green Chile

The new issue of Westword includes excerpts of a letter from one R. Rubio of Phoenix, which offers a flavor of a visitor's view of the city -- as well as a taste of what bad service can do for a town's reputation. Here's the entire letter:

I am visiting Denver for the first time. I really like the walkable streets. It would be great to live here. I read your story, Best or Bust, and decided to walk to La Fiesta. I'm sorry to say that I really disappointed. If this is what you think is the best of Denver, I hope the Democrats have a sense of humor (they don't seem to have much of anything else, except a messiah at the moment).

I ordered green chile with rice and beans--something I order a lot in my city, Phoenix. I waited and waited for it, even though there were only three other occupied tables and it should have all been ready to go--nothing to cook up.

When my lunch arrived, I was greeted with a big plate swimming in neon-green green chile, a small spoonful of beans and a small spoonful of rice. There were literally four pieces of pork in this sea of green sauce. I guess every city is different in terms of their style of food. I was born and raised in Arizona. I grew up eating my grandmother's green chile and I order it at every Mexican restaurant that I patronize. I am used to abundant chunks of beef or pork in a green chile sauce. This was the reverse, green chile sauce (soup) with a few chunks of meat. It was more sauce than meat.

I make my own pork green chile at home. Sometimes I like to eat just the sauce, just like a soup, but it is still more meat than sauce. I didn't even taste this mess at La Fiesta. A bus girl came near and I asked her to take the dish away.

I also had to get up and refill my water glass twice. In other words, I was abandoned until my order arrived and my waiter didn't check back with me until he stopped by to give me the check. The check had a total written on the back. Based on the total, he obviously wasoblivious that I had sent the plate back to the kitchen. I told him I was only paying for chips and lemonade. He asked why and I told him.

Even the chips were terrible. I have a friend who is a manager at a Mexican restaurant. He tells me that restaurants can order corn chips with varying percentages of wheat flour mixed in with the corn flour. I had the feeling that these chips were high in that ratio. They were thick, which doesn't bother me, but had no real corn flavor.

I did like the hot sauce that came with the chips.

So I left La Fiesta with no lunch, just a glass of lemonade and a serving of chips and salsa.

I came to Denver for a conference and I liked the city so much that I decided to stay a few days extra to explore some more. So I've been eating meals in Denver since Wednesday of last week. So far, I haven't had anything to eat that I would recommend to anyone. The closest was an appetizer I had at a corporate restaurant, Rock Bottom.

A friend and I went to a place called Dozens, near downtown. I ordered soup and salad. The chicken with wild rice sounded good, but when it arrived, I thought they mistook my order for oatmeal. It was that thick. I didn't bother to taste that, either. The spinach salad looked good, but the dressing, which I think was warm Italian, looked and flowed like mucous. I took one bite, was put off by the flavor and moved both the soup and salad to a table nearby.

It may sound like I am picky, but I don't think I am. I don't eat dairy products, but that is the extent of my pickiness.

I love bread and many times, I make a meal out of a whole loaf, although I only eat the crust. I looked up the artisan bakeries in Denver and found a couple of references, Denver Bread Company, Panera (spelling?), and Trompeau (spelling?). I walked to the Denver Bread Company and got a laundry and white sourdough loaf. The laundry wasn't much better than a loaf from Safeway. It was hard to discern the tang in the sourdough. I thought they had given me a round of plain white bread instead. It certainly needed more salt.

I like walking the streets of a city and exploring. Of course it is hard to tell whether an eatery is good just from the menu or the exterior. There is an overabundance of places to eat in Denver. My luck hasn't been very good, but I will keep trying.

This is a long e-mail, but I wanted to get these things off my chest. I know of a place in Phoenix that is only open for lunch also, and only during the weekdays. A line snakes out the door. There is no indoor seating, only a couple of picnic tables beneath a large tree. They only sell burritos, tacos, and tostadas. Their green chile is something I crave every once in a while, although it means to trek to downtown Phoenix (hideous) and eating in the car on the way back. Their green chile is the best I've ever had, anywhere, including my grandmother's. This place, Rito's, is on the New Times Best of Phoenix list.

The more I read about Denver and green chile, the more I miss my place in Phoenix, but to each his own. Too bad it will be until Monday when I can finally get my green chile fix in Phoenix.

Help R. Rubio enjoy the rest of his Denver stay! Post your restaurant suggestions here.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun

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