If you were born and raised in Denver, you are, by default, a green chile geek. And for those of you who popped out elsewhere (New Mexico notwithstanding), and simply don't get why we're so besotted with suffocating our burritos, enchiladas, rellenos and French fries with verde, we can only assume you have yet to grace the quarters of Denver's best green chile contenders. And because this is a city -- like it or not -- whose cooks, chefs and restaurateurs are profound believers in spreading the smother love at a rapid pace, we've updated our original Best Green Chile in Denver roster to include an additional five joints where you can get your green chile fix. Herewith, in no particular order, the ten best.
10. La Loma
In the Colonial dining room and along the bar that runs the length of La Loma, a former church, disciples congregate to drown their sorrows in jumbo margaritas and swish their stomachs with the joint's green chile, a medium-thick verde that's whiffed with garlic, strewn with tender blocks of pork and sheened the perfect green. It doesn't make your eyelids sweat, but it's not for gutless wimps, either. Instead, it's a nicely balanced green chile that goes down easy with a shot or ten of tequila.
Look past the primary-colored parrots dangling from the ceiling, the poinsettias and fake greenery and, this time of year, a Christmas scene straight out of the North Pole, and instead focus on the gratifying, pork-saddled green chile that smothers the whole plate. The kitchen prepares it in varying strengths of heat, and we, of course, prefer the extra hot -- the mean green -- gobsmacked with fresh specks of seed-riddled jalapenos. It won't blister your tongue, but it'll leave you breathless.
8. Tia Maria
The affable man who owns Tia Maria treats his customers like royalty, which is reason enough to plop your butt down in a cushy booth and spend the afternoon slumped over shots, which he doles out in frequent doses. The tequila syllabus is impressive -- and so are the tasting notes that accompany it -- and the shots pair perfectly with the restaurant's verde, a stinging, savory swamp of garlic, tomatoes, cubed pork and ambrosial chiles that weep with heat. It puddles plates heaped with all the usual suspects, and it also swathes a rotund, pink-fleshed ham hock that may be the best dish on the menu.
Good Lord, the green chile at Westerkamps Steakhouse and Meat Market is celestial, and while that may or may not have something to do with divine intervention (the fine folks who run Westerkamp bedeck the walls with Bible verses and even shutter on Sundays to praise God), it doesn't really matter, because the green chile is blessedly, sinfully virtuous no matter if you pray to the universe, to the gods of gluttony, or to nothing at all. Holy with jalapeños and volumed with pork and tomatoes, it's an ambush of heavenly spices and throbbing heat that makes us want to write a hymn in its honor.
Burrito Giant is an odd place, half of it devoted to elliptical machines, art and ceramics, the other half to slinging Mexican food (and, weirdly, barbecue) from an open kitchen overseen by a cook who spends the majority of her time slaving over the burners, which are concealed by huge vats of green chile -- excellent green chile that takes a good six hours to make. The result is a smoky stew studded with pork, chiles and garlic that delivers a devilish slow burn that lingers long after you've swallowed the last bite of your breakfast burrito, which is cheap, delicious and stuffed with housemade chorizo. Bonus: The vegetarian green chile is equally superb.
If you have the audacity to disparage the green chile at El Taco de Mexico -- which we've heard a lot of bullying gringos do -- then you deserve whatever bad karma creeps into your tortilla. The iconic dive's verde is an incredible food high that's full of invigorating spices, deposits of pork and a slew of hot chiles for maximum twang. It embodies everything that you expect from a killer green chile, and a whole lot more.
There are people who swear by Bonnie Brae Tavern's pizza -- and there are those who would rather wear a bra of pepperoni before sinking their teeth into one of the joint's pies -- but this isn't about the tavern's pizza: It's about its green chile, which might be the last thing you'd think to eat in a restaurant that doesn't have a Mexican bone in its brick. But then you'd miss out on some really freaking good green stuff that's an immersion of chiles -- wickedly hot chiles -- and pork that's long-simmered and admirably deep-flavored.
Right. We know. Blake Street Tavern is a sports bar, which is typically personified by a board that wallows in all things fried. And while Blake Street's menu certainly pimps its share of grease bombs -- cheese sticks! Onion rings! Egg rolls! -- it also happens to turn out a mighty fine green, the kind that's thick and stew-y, suggestive of burnt spice, bombarded with nubs of pork and fragments of chiles and specked with black pepper. It's a commanding performance that's rich, searingly hot and strongly addictive.
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There seems to be a bit of -- how shall we say it? -- perplexity over whether the green chile at Little Anita's, a prolific New Mexican chain, is made with a vegetarian stock, or a beef stock. Last we heard it was beef. Anyway, suffice it to say, that vegetarian or not, the deeply scented New Mexican-style verde, abundant with onions and tomatoes, sings with spice and coaxes flavor from just about everything it drapes. 1. When we were putting together our 2011 Best of Denver issue, there were many spirited discussions about which chile made us the greenest with envy -- and while there were several viable contenders, none was more worthy than Los Farolitos, where the green chile, tarted up with tomatillos and gobsmacked with heat, is simply terrific.
We know you have your own green chile obsessions; tell us about them in the comments.