Eating Adventures

Rocky Mountain Chili Bowl goes mobile

Matt Robinette was out in Tahoe, California, in 2001, training to work for the Hard Rock Cafe when he noticed a gaping hole in local culinary options: No one was selling green chile.

"My wife -- fiancee then -- makes insane Pueblo-style green chile," Robinette says. "We thought about selling it at the ski resorts," but unfortunately for Tahoe, the couple shelved the idea.

Robinette didn't forget about it, though. Last year, while he was back in business school at the University of Colorado Denver and contemplating what he might do when he graduated, he dusted the idea off and decided to make it happen. And Rocky Mountain Chili Bowl was born.

"We started with a hot dog stand," the business owner notes. "We weren't sure what our market was going to look like, and we had trouble gaining traction at first."

That changed when Robinette did a trial run with Cherry Creek Fresh Market, which gave him a reliable crowd from which to court regulars. The trial run turned into a season-long presence, and Robinette soon added steam tables and other equipment to expand his menu -- a list of foods like hash browns and scrambled eggs that can be combined and then smothered with pork-infused or vegetarian green chile. The chile spawned fans, and Rocky Mountain Chili Bowl was soon offering delivery to nearby eaters who didn't want to wait for market days to get their fix.

And by the end of the season, he was looking to grow again.

"We couldn't do bricks and mortar -- it was too expensive," says Robinette. "So we looked at truck and trailer options."

The trailer, he ultimately determined, offered more flexibility for building a custom kitchen, and could be constructed faster. That trailer hit the streets on Monday of this week. Robinette's got big plans on the horizon, too, and hopes to continue to expand.

Now he'll be spending Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the foreseeable future in an office lot at 4340 South Monaco, thanks to a regular who liked his food.

"And we'll definitely be out for the market season next year," promises Robinette. Trailer in tow.

For more information, dial 720-273-6543 or like the truck on Facebook.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk