Green chile is not only a staple of Southwestern cuisine, it's a dish that Denver turns to for comfort and sustenance. This year more than ever, we need a dose of our favorite green chile, whether straight-up in a bowl or ladled over burritos, omelets, fries or burgers.
Here are ten of our favorite cantinas, bars and restaurants for green chile in its many delicious variations:
Adobo (at First Draft Taproom)1309 26th Street
The advantage that food trucks have over full-fledged restaurants is their ability to explore untapped creative territory in street-food form. Chef Blaine Baggao is a former New Mexico resident whose family hails from the Philippines, and he puts his background to fine use on his food truck's menu. His New Mexico-style green chile (made with Hatch, natch) stands on its own, but you can also get it punched up with smoked-pork carnitas atop cheese fries. Experience an Asian-Southwestern fusion with the chef's green chile cheese wonton dumplings that burn so good. In May 2020, Adobo posted up at the Monkey Barrel in northwest Denver, but recently took over food operations at First Draft.
Brewery Bar II150 Kalamath Street
The stewy mix at this Denver classic varies almost from day to day in its heat level, but it's always brimming with pork and tinted reddish from a liberal amount of tomatoes. Folks keep coming back to Brewery Bar II for those occasions when the green chile is dead-on — and deadly hot. On those days, not even a mound of shredded yellow cheese or a dollop of sour cream will save your lips from the sear that'll stick with you for hours. Better to side your smothered burrito with a "Tiny" — the old-school bar's biggest pour of suds. There's another Brewery Bar in Lone Tree, but we prefer the Kalamath watering hole for its no-nonsense blue-collar service and style — which you can currently enjoy on the expanded outdoor seating spread across the restaurant's parking lot.
El Taco de Mexico714 Santa Fe Drive
No list of Mexican specialties in Denver would be complete without something from El Taco de Mexico, the go-to taco joint for every kitchen rat and high-end chef in town. The green chile here is thin in body but not in flavor, as deep layers of chile and slow-cooked stock combine to create a luscious pool around fat burritos. This isn't Colorado-style (or New Mexico, either, for that matter); it's just pure chile verde from abuela to you. Celebrate the taqueria's induction into the James Beard Foundation's elite group of America's Classics — which takes place on Friday, September 25 — by ordering a chile relleno burrito doused in the house green chile.
El Tejado2651 South Broadway
For decades, El Tejado has attracted Mexican nationals and gringos alike with its authentic Mexican fare — seafood cocktails in giant goblets, for example, and lengua tacos. But the biggest draw here is decidedly Colorado in origin: The green chile is addictive, a gravy-like concoction that's equally good poured over a skillet of eggs and potatoes, smothering a fat beef burrito or just in a bowl on its own. This mainstay on South Broadway changed ownership several years ago, but the green chile remains unchanged. Get it while it's hot — and if you're in the know, you can ask for it even hotter.
La Fiesta2340 Champa Street
Calling La Fiesta's green chile old-school is like calling the sun "kind of hot." Since 1964, the Herrera family has been ladling up gravy-thick green chile to top burritos, Mexican hamburgers, chiles rellenos and other heaping plates of Den-Mex goodness. Close enough to downtown that it has often been a lunchtime choice for business deals and meetings of city officials, the restaurant — once a full-blown supper club and dance hall — still feels like a neighborhood joint in tree-lined Curtis Park.
La Fogata5670 East Evans Avenue
When is your green chile not green? When you're in Denver, where the Southwestern staple comes in shades of tan, brown and even orange, depending on the ingredients. Den-Mex green chile is often thickened with a slurry of flour and oil, which can deepen the color if the flour is left to brown a little. That's how it's done at La Fogata, opened by Danette Calhoun back in 1990. The thick, warming gravy also leans just slightly into the orange color palette, the better to match swirls of shredded cheese that meld into the sauce atop burritos, rellenos and enormous Mexican hamburgers. But don't let the muted color fool you; this green chile still glows a little with a heat that slowly builds until you find yourself reaching for another cerveza.
Los Dos PotrillosFour locations in Centennial, Highlands Ranch, Littleton and Parker
Los Dos Potrillos is better known for its Mexican cuisine reminiscent of the food of founder Jose Ramirez's home town of Jerez, Mexico, than for Denver-style grub, but the group of four restaurants also knows its green chile. While New Mexico purists may not approve of this chile's orange tint, the flavor of the green chiles shines through, even atop twin burritos packed with flavorful meats. Hit the Parker outpost of Los Dos Potrillos and you can wash down your chile with a housemade beer, since the restaurant has its own brewery.
North County94 Rampart Way
The food at this Lowry tavern may be inspired by the Mexican grub of Southern California, but the green chile is in a class of its own. Thickened with masa and tinted pea-soup green from the sheer volume of chiles used, it's rich and meaty and more than a little fiery. Tender chunks of pork loin add toothsome chew, making a great topping for fries or nachos, but a side order on its own — served with fresh tortillas made in-house every day — is our recommendation.
Since it seems that half of Denver's population eats breakfast burritos bulging with eggs, potatoes and green chile from Santiago's each morning, the local chain's sauce is one of the city's most iconic. You might be surprised, then, that the company uses New Mexico chiles for fire and flavor. Eric Casados, son-in-law of Santiago's founder Carmen Morales, explains that the family hails from New Mexico and has been purchasing chiles from a co-op near the towns of Hatch and Salem for the past 28 years. The chiles are picked, roasted, steamed, peeled and diced on site at the co-op's farms, which Casados talks to throughout the year to keep tabs on the heat and quality of the crop. "I think the Pueblo chile is a good chile — a great chile," Casados notes, "but what New Mexico gives us is consistency; we buy over a million pounds a year." We won't argue with him, as long as he promises to keep doing it the same way every year.
Santo1265 Alpine Avenue, Boulder
Rather than relying on pork in his green chile, New Mexico native Hosea Rosenberg, chef/owner of Santo, builds layers of flavor by oven-roasting all of his vegetables before they go in the pot. Hatch green chiles — which the chef buys by the truckload in New Mexico every fall — are the star of the sauce at this Boulder cantina devoted to all things Southwestern. You can get a bowl of Santo's green chile on its own, try it in a stew augmented with pork and potatoes, or have it slathered over stacked blue-corn enchiladas. Better yet, swing by in the morning for a weighty breakfast burrito charged with chile: It's guaranteed to awaken both you and your tastebuds.
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