Dante Alighieri’s classic poem “A Divine Comedy” recounts a spiritual journey in which the author was guided by ancient Roman poet Virgil through hell, purgatory, and paradise. Their path takes them through the nine circles of Hell where they witness the punishments suffered for all eternity by the souls of deceased sinners. The deepest circle of Hell, where Satan resides, is reserved for history’s worst traitors–Judas Iscariot, Brutus, Cassius…and maybe a certain New Mexico food blogger who not only admits there is wonderful green chile to be found outside the paradise that is the Land of Enchantment; he believes it’s possibly just as good, even better than some New Mexico chile. That chile, from Pueblo, Colorado isn’t just an “it’ll do” substitute, but a bona fide equal (or superior) to much of the green chile grown in Hatch, Chimayo, Lemitar, Deming, Jarales and any number of other purveyors of chile fecundity across New Mexico.
“Gasp! Heresy!” you lash out. “Next you’re going to tell us the Denver Broncos, not the Dallas Cowboys, are America’s team. Before you condemn me to an eternity of wailing, gnashing of teeth and non-stop watching of The View, hear me out. My “heretical declaration” is based on two factors. First is a very small sample size of Pueblo chile–two items at one restaurant. I certainly haven’t tried nearly as much green chile in Colorado as I have in New Mexico. Second, it’s been my experience over the past several years that New Mexico’s green chile doesn’t always have all three elements I consider essential to enjoyment of chile: piquancy, a fire-roasted flavor and sweet, fruity notes. You’ll often find chile with two of the three elements, usually piquancy and a fire-roasted flavor, but sometimes the chile is so innocuous you have to wonder if it’s “wussified” so as not to offend anyone.
I had fully expected to dismiss Pueblo green chile as a vile pretender…a parody of brown glop to be taken as seriously as salsa made in New York City. I figured Colorado Governor Jared Polis’s recent contention that Pueblo chile is “the best in the world” and declaring New Mexico chile “inferior” was just political posturing and bluster laced with bovine-excrement. My friend Captain Escalante Tuttle, a very discerning diner, warned me about jumping to conclusions: “At the risk of being flogged on this blog, I actually like Pueblo Chile. I prefer Lemitar and other NM locations, but Pueblo Chile can certainly hold its own in the piquancy and flavor departments.” Another friend, renowned author David Wagner who once called Placitas home for nearly two decades, told me Pueblo chile is actually sweeter than New Mexican chile.
Could Pueblo chile actually have the three elements I consider essential to enjoyment of chile: piquancy, a fire-roasted flavor and sweet, fruity notes? Could it actually compete chile to chile with what New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham insists “is, has been and always be the greatest in the world?” My answer to the former is most assuredly YES! Pueblo chile is for real! It not only surprised me, it blew me away. As to whether Pueblo chile can compete chile to chile with chile from New Mexico, it will take more than my very small sample size of the former to know for sure, but if my inaugural sampling is any indication, there may actually be a legitimate dispute as to what state’s chile reigns supreme.
By Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) standards which measure a chile’s “heat,” at its extreme range Pueblo chile isn’t quite as piquant as the pride of the Hatch valley, but it does start out with more heat. Pueblo chile’s Scoville range is between 2,500 to 5,000 SHUs while Hatch green chile can range from 500 to 10,000 SHUs. Technically, Pueblo chile is of the Mirasol variety, so named because it grows pointing up facing the sun. Pueblo chile isn’t quite as elongated as New Mexico’s Big Jim chiles (10″ to 12″), typically ranging from three- to five-inches in length. Both New Mexico chile and the Mirasol are technically spicy fruits which come from the plant Capsicum from the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The Mirasol’s sweet, fruity flavor is much more pronounced than it is on Hatch chile…just the way this blogger loves it.
Aside from its green chile, Pueblo’s most colossal culinary claim to fame is something with the unappetizing name “slopper.” Fittingly, a slopper is a vehicle for Pueblo’s chile: two grilled burger patties, American cheese served open-faced on a bun in a bowl then smothered (slopped might be more appropriate) with either housemade green chile, red chile or both with the option of French fries and onions on top. Atlas Obscura describes it as “part cheeseburger, part enchilada, and smothered in a Pueblo, Colorado specialty,” but to Duke City diners, that description of a slopper probably evokes images of the K&I Diner’s world-famous Travis, especially with the fries and onions.
As with the Travis, the origin of the slopper is steeped in legend. It’s almost universally accepted that it was first served at Gray’s Coors Tavern almost half a century ago, but credit for its invention is in some dispute. Ostensibly, when a regular patron grew weary of having a hamburger every day, he asked the Tavern owner to put a plain cheeseburger in a bowl and smother it with green chile topped with a handful of oyster crackers. Oyster crackers certainly aren’t the only surprise about the slopper. That some patrons can devour double, or triple meal portion sizes is a bigger surprise considering the regular slopper will satisfy most hearty appetites…including mine.
My first slopper had all three of the aforementioned elements this blogger appreciates in a quality green chile, especially that one element most often lacking in New Mexico’s green chile: that distinctive fruity sweetness that pairs oh-so-well with its vegetal qualities. Pueblo chile may not have had enough piquancy to erode the enamel on my teeth, but its heat was discernible. Ditto for its freshly roasted qualities. New Mexicans often joke that Colorado’s green chile should be called “brown chile” for its gravy-like appearance. True, it doesn’t have the neon green properties of New Mexico chile, but the most egregious thing about it is the Gray’s Coors Tavern’s spelling it “chili.” If there’s a fourth desirable element in green chile, it would be that it’s spelled correctly!
Preceding the slopper as our first taste of Pueblo chile was a chili (my spellchecker is screaming at me for that orthographical error) bean dip, an appetizer so good we excused the misspelled term. Served with housemade flour tortilla and corn chips is a bowl of beans that are more souped-up than they are soupy. Their souped-up quality comes from that pleasantly piquant, fruity sweet Pueblo chile. Shredded Cheddar cheese provides a salty foil.
Some of you reading this review are probably using the three-letter abbreviation “S.O.B.” to describe me for all the nice things I’ve written about Pueblo chile. S.O.B. means something else entirely to my Kim It stands for “Sausage on Bun” or more specifically Runyan’s S.O.B, a housemade Italian sausage served on a fresh hoagie bun (Schuster’s Bakery) with mayo, BBQ sauce, fried peppers and onions and American cheese. Italian sausage sandwiches are another of Pueblo’s culinary claims to fame. If others across Pueblo are nearly this good, we’ve got to be back to explore the Italian sausage trail and take back a few loaves of Schuster’s Bakery buns. They’re the perfect canvas for a great sandwich…and that Italian sausage with its fennel-kissed notes is Chicago good.
The heated debate between Colorado and New Mexico over chile supremacy probably will probably never be settled. There’s too much state pride and partiality for denizens of both states to admit much merit in the other state’s chile, but here’s one blogger not too proud to declare the green chile at Gray’s Coors Tavern to have made a fan out of me.
Gray’s Coors Tavern
515 West 4th Street
Web Site |Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 31 August 2019
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: The Slopper, the SOB, Chili Bean Dip
29 thoughts on “Gray’s Coors Tavern – Pueblo, Colorado”
Heads up, New Mexico – you’ve been branded as Chile War bullies by none other than Gustavo Arrellano, author of “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America” and “The Great American Chile Highway” on eater.com which chronicles his road trip up I-25 from Las Cruces to Denver.
Arrellano has clearly drawn a line in the sand by siding with Pueblo (as in Colorado), its mirasol peppers, and its chile. He pours more salt into the wound by stating that any New Mexican who has not actually visited Pueblo and tried both is not qualified to judge or to claim victory in “The Chile Wars”.
By extension, that may very well include the indictment of Gil as a traitor for his favorable review of Pueblo chile and its famous “slopper”.
Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, Guy Fawkes, Gil Garduno…Traitors all!
You left out Marcus Brutus (Et tu, Brute?
You could always claim that the reason you liked the chile so much, Gil, is that you had the munchies. You were in Colorado, after all, and who knows what you were doing there in the first place?!?!
Or risk being labeled a traitor, whichever is more attractive to you!
Hmm, having the munchies or being labeled a traitor. Like Deion Sanders in the 1995 Pizza Hut commercial, I’ll take both.
You probably don’t know about Deion Sanders. He’s a hall-of-fame professional football player. You know football–it’s what the Denver Brunchos attempt to play every year.
Not sure if you are aware, but Neon Deion was supposed to come to Denver, but the deal fell apart, and he signed with San Francisco instead…
Let me see, it’s been 5 and 7 years since the Broncos were last in a s*per b*owl (redacted for legal reasons! 🙂 ), winning one of those…when was the last time the Cowboys were won, or were at least there? I forget (my memory only goes back 24 years), so I am asking for reals… 😛
I’m reminded of that tired old joke “What do you call 53 millionaires sitting around a TV watching the Super Bowl? The Dallas Cowboys.
My beloved Cowboys haven’t made it to the Superbowl since the 1990s. Rather than offer a litany of excuses for why The Cowboys haven’t returned, I’ll bask in the memories of the SIX Super Bowls they’ve won. A seventh is inevitable when you’ve got such a winning tradition and star-studded line-up.
Heresy is the Sixth Circle of Hell .. including those who have brought discord to the community of the faithful..
Wow, just finished reading Gil’s review after first reading all the fun and witty anti-Gil roasting comments. All I can say is, I wish you had brought some Pueblo Chile back for your Friends and Nay Sayers…
Very good suggestion. Gil could have brought back some Pueblo, Colorado chiles for his culinary posse to taste and compare. But he didn’t. So ask yourself why? Because the chiles would not have measured up to NM chiles, that’s why. I suspect Gil’s sponsored assignment was to sample green chile in Pueblo, Colorado and report back to his devoted following that Pueblo not only measures up to NM chile, but might even be better. You know Gil better than I do, Sr. Plata. Do you think he’s on the take from the Pueblo Chile Association?
If Gil is “on the take,” it’s with NO MA’AM (National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood), the women-hating group founded by Al Bundy and his neanderthal friends. His frequent denigration of The View, a show for women by women, is indicative of his chauvinism.
Whoa! Claudia must have taken a wrong turn after too much viewing of “The View”. Having known him for many years, I can confidently say there’s no one who is less chauvinistic than Gil. His many friends include a number of strong-willed and opinionated women who wouldn’t hesitate to address any perceived chauvinism if they found evidence of it – and who clearly have not. And I’m pretty sure that his lovely wife Kim wouldn’t hesitate to take steps to address any such character trait if she saw the need. Gil is one of the kindest people it has ever been my pleasure to know. He’s entitled to have an opinion – we all do – and his humor is harmless. Maybe Claudia should simply refrain from reading blogs that are offensive to her.
Well said, Becky! What’s interesting to me is even though she has some vendetta against Gil (Are you an Olive Garden executive, Claudia?? Perhaps a producer on The View??), she continues to read this blog. I’m pretty sure this is the same Claudia that left this gem a couple of years ago: https://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=44431
So, what’s your deal, Claudia? Why DO you read this offensive blog???
Even more strange, she must watch Married With Children to know about NO MA’AM. My wife hates The View and so does my mom. The last time I checked they’re both women.
Sorry, I’m not sure of the proper pronunciation https://tinyurl.com/yxqucule
You could have let your Colorado friends know you were coming so we could have met up in Pueblo with you. That slopper would have been awesome to try. Glad to see you on the payroll.
I called the Pueblo Chile Association and talked to Danielle Gonzales. I asked if Mr. Gil Garduno was an employee or a consultant and her answer was rife with tension you’d only find in FBI interrogations. She wouldn’t say no or yes. Here’s her number: 719-542-1704. Maybe you can get more out of her than I did? Good luck!
My apologies, Randy. It really was a whirlwind trip. We had hoped to spend more time (and eat more Pueblo chile) in the Centennial State, but sometimes work gets in the way of life. Best to you and Bonnie.
Oh man, better Gil than me to be taking the “heat” (pun intended) over this controversial subject! I respect the man for voicing an unpopular opinion and quite loudly saying he “likes the chile”…rather than playing it off as “it’s not bad”…
Pueblo is a mere 4-5 hrs (depending on how fast you drive) from ABQ, so perhaps the next FOG dinner could be at Gray’s Coor’s Tavern!
Let the flaming begin.
You like words. Here’s some for you: traitor, turncoat, Benedict Arnold, backstabber, double crosser, rat fink!
You forgot apostate.
According to H. L. Mencken, “A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.”
Well, in the middle of the night, on yet another hot Corrales summer night, I shot up in bed with the thought that Gil has been somehow corrupted. Paid off, immorally incentivized, maybe by these guys:
Yes, the Pueblo Chile Growers Association. I scoured its website for a bio/picture of Gil, but so far nothing has shown up. Yet.
The Pueblo Chile Growers Association states on its website that Pueblo chiles are grown with “mountain water and Colorado sunshine.” Really? Mountain water and sunshine make the difference? Why not claim that playing a John Denver tune when roasting makes Pueblo chiles better than New Mexico chiles?
Okay, I realize this blog Gil does is a labor (long labor) of love. I have had several lunches with Gil and I find him to be a sensitive, intelligent, and very well-read man. But I happen to know he counts the days until retirement and how can I be sure he is not taking a little payola under the table from the Pueblo Chile Growers Association? I’m sure he isn’t. But then, in the words of Gabriel Byrne in the wonderful Coen Brothers movie Miller’s Crossing, “Does anybody ever really know someone else?”
Gil, I’m happy to see you’re not getting too badly beat up about Pueblo chile – at least so far – and the comments are pretty funny. Here in New York, we’re so chile / chili starved that virtually any version of the dish will suffice. I certainly do love New Mexico green chile just about any way I can get it (as long as it doesn’t include cumin) but I was really happy to see that you tried its competitor at Gray’s Coors Tavern – even if they do spell it “chili”. I’ve been curious about Pueblo chile and the slopper ever since you and David Wagner were discussing the subject several months ago. I think it all sounds great and one way or another, I’m going to have some soon. As always, you did a really nice job with your review – it’s so interesting to read about the origin of a dish even though there always seem to be multiple contenders for its creation.
Is this a late April Fools joke?
Are you sure you didn’t ingest a couple blunts of Colorado’s “recreational/medicinal” cash crop before writing this review? It would explain a lot.
Ah Gil, I am relieved to see how you went astray. You ate at a restaurant that features “Coors” in its name.
After a can or two of that weak gruel anything else would seem marvelously flavorful.
I once dined at a restaurant in Pueblo. The waitress confirmed that they boasted a full bar, so I ordered a scotch and soda. She came back a minute later with a flustered expression and asked “So you want some scotch poured into a Pepsi?”
Come home soon. Real food awaits.
And glad you actually liked it. I’ve been a fan of the slopper for quite some time. Coors is probably my favorite, but Sunset’s isn’t a bad 2nd choice!
The S.O.B. is also called a grinder in Pueblo, and there are a couple of really good ones…some even come with a whole chile on them!
Also, as I’ve mentioned before, go to Ianne’s and try the chicken, especially if Frankie is manning the fryer!
BTW, I still respect you, Gil, even if others start unsubscribing in droves!