Diego's serves up the taste of Pueblo -- and a Slopper!

Four months after it opened in an unlikely below-ground spot just off the 16th Street Mall, Diego's Mexican Food and Cantina won the People's Choice award for green chile at Denver's Cinco de Mayo celebration. And with good reason, we discovered when we dropped in this past weekend: This stuff is not just hot, thanks to the three kinds of Pueblo chiles (all grown on a farm in Crowley) in the mix, but flavorful.

Owner Tony Terrones has had a restaurant, Mi Ranchito, in Pueblo for years, and the Diego's menu features many of the same family recipes, including a great avocado and carnitas burrito and complimentary queso. And then there's another Pueblo specialty: the Slopper.

Although the Slopper is a rarity on Denver menus, it's such a Pueblo institution that the em>Food Wars crew from the Travel Channel stopped by the city last year to film a segment devoted to finding Pueblo's best Slopper.

Mi Ranchito wasn't featured on that show, but Diego's Slopper could stand with the best of them. This is a classic Slopper: a big, juicy hamburger patty, cooked to order (a perfect medium rare, in this case) and covered with cheese, then plopped on a soft bun, sprinkled with onions, sided with French fries -- with everything smothered in that incredible green chile. (You can also order mild green, or the more traditional red, which Diego's makes with chile pods from New Mexico.)

Denver can claim to be the birthplace of the Mexican hamburger, which tucks a hamburger patty and beans in a tortilla, then pours on the chile, but that dish seems refried compared to a whopper of a Slopper.

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