Grazing on the green stuff


What and Where

• Los Jilbertos, 2812 North Ave.; Berna B’s, 2913 F Road; Main Street Café, 504 Main St.; Las Marias, 2692 U.S. Highway 50; Aztecas, 603 U.S. Highway 50; Leon’s, 505 30 Road; and Tequila’s, 2560 North Ave.

Green chili is hard to judge because there are so many different variations: Mexican style, New Mexican style, with tomatoes, no tomatoes, tongue-scalding, mild, soupy or thick.

Everybody has a favorite style and taste, yet we decided to sample some green chili from restaurants in Grand Junction and Clifton and see if there was some common ground.

Surprisingly, we came up with some pretty close opinions.

Readers offered suggestions and we ended up with selections from seven restaurants. To do an informal, side-by-side comparison, a group of four friends got take-out quarts from each place and planned a tasting party.

Rice, tortillas and other sides went uneaten as we focused all of our energy on the main attraction: green chili, or as it’s sometimes called green chili stew or chili verde.

And so the consumption began.

Here are the impressions of the tasters, from the best on down:

Aztecas Family Mexican Restaurant: This Mexican-style chili was among the top two contenders.

Everybody loved the bite (not too hot), the slightly thickened broth, the fork-tender pork and the significant fire-roasted green chile taste. It had a slight taste of vinegar or pickled chilies and a light green hue.

Las Marias: This well-spiced chili tied for the best taste.

None of us could choose Aztecas over Las Marias because each had something to savor.

Las Marias won marks for good pork and chili flavor, but it was the depth and integration of spices that made it stand out. Cumin and oregano balanced with the Anaheim and jalapeño peppers and flecks and seeds of dried red chiles.

It was certainly the most visually appealing of the lot with a vibrant green color.

Los Jilbertos: The tasters all liked this chili, at first. There was no starchy thickener, a build-up bite, pureed peppers and good pork, but it was salted too heavily.

This is the kind of chili you eat in a bowl, not drizzled over a burrito. The salt might have been a fluke because all of the other ingredients were well-balanced.

Main Street Café: Several readers recommended this one, specifically mentioning the green chili-smothered Elvis burger and the breakfast burrito.

It had a gumbo-like color with obvious tomatoes and onions. The taste was good but the green chili taste was muted amid the other ingredients.

Main Street Café also offers a vegetarian green chili.

Leon’s: I wanted to like this one. My co-worker, who comes from a long line of Latino Coloradans, suggested the place.

Leon’s chili was the hottest of the bunch with an excellent piquant flavor, but we encountered numerous fatty bites of pork. Authentic, yes, but on the greasy side.

Tequila’s: Not a winner in the eyes of the tasters. The pork was tough, most likely from sitting on the stove for too long, and the remainder was a lumpy stew with mediocre flavor.

Berna B’s: Yikes. Maybe they should stick to American food. The pale red color and taste reminded several of us of Spaghetti-O’s.

This food-tasting is a fun little party idea. It’s like grazing, except you don’t have to trek from restaurant to restaurant to get your reward.

All we had to do was circle the kitchen island again and again.

Still, my friend stretched, groaned and complained about having “chili back.”

FOOD PRICES: Global food prices are the highest in 20 years and could continue to rise because of uncertain oil prices stemming from unrest in the Middle East, according to the United Nations agency in charge of food monitoring.

The increase is attributed to higher prices for cereals, meat and dairy. Sugar is the only commodity whose price hadn’t risen.

QUOTE: “Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili.” — Alleged dying words of Kit Carson

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