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Colorado and AZ

We'll be driving from Chicago to Tucson this summer, spending a chunk of time in Colorado along the way. We'll either cross into CO on I-70 in Colorado Springs or on I-50 into Pueblo. We'll be heading to Gunnison, then south on 550 to Ouray and Durango before heading west into AZ.

In AZ we want to visit Canyon de Chelly then will probably stop in either Holbrook or Winslow before heading back to Tucson.

Any help along these routes would be most appreciated!! We're looking mostly for "road food" ...diners and interesting local places. However, if there are particulary special mid-to-upper range places, please do mention them!


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  1. In Winslow, the Turquoise Room at La Posada (www.laposada.org) should not be missed. They are open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, offer up close and personal train viewing and wonderful accomodations. We stay there whenever we can.

    In Gallup, Earl's Restaurant on south side of Rte 66 just east of the center of town is a great local's place.

    In Tucson, we always try to have a dinner at El Corral (www.elcorraltuscon.com) on East River Road. Best Filet Mignon and Roast Beef you can find, and at reasonable prices.

    Check out "Chowhound" on the JerTalk portion of our website for other recommendations.

    Jerry Saywell

    Jerry Saywell

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jerry Saywell

      Did not know Gallup's Earl's Restaurant, but strongly vote for La Posada (good place to stay for the night and it's pet-friendly).

      The Scottsdal Area of PHX is a foodie paradise. Do a search of this board, and you'll want to spend a month near there.

      In Tucson, there are two spots, that I highly recommend: Janos @ La Paloma and The Ventana Room, Lowe's Ventana Canyon Resort. Both are in the North Area of Tucson, right next to the Catalina Mtns. Both are great and each is worth the stop. You should turn up some recent reviews of each - I think that I have at least one for each, that are fairly recent. Both are in the $$$$ range, but are each worth the money.


      1. re: Jerry Saywell

        Earl's in Gallup for breakfast.

        It doesn't get any better if you like Green Chili.

      2. In Gallup, El Sombrero on 1201 W Historic Hwy 66 is a best bet for true old school New Mexico-style green chile. The sopaipillas ain't bad, either.

        Should you pass through Glenwood Springs if traveling on I-70, Juicy Lucy's is great -- fantastic steaks, good salads and an affordable, decent wine list.

        Other than that, in Colorado Springs, steer clear of the ubiquitous chains -- Old Chicago and the like -- if you want a really good meal.

        1. Thanks! We've lived in Tucson and still haven't eaten at El Corral! We live on the other side of town and just haven't gotten there yet.

          By the way everyone, we won't be travelling through Gallup...we'll go from Colorado directly into Arizona.

          Keep the recs coming! I appreciate them all!

          1. Lady Falconburgh's Barley Emporium in Durango is the recommended hang. Excellent brewpub fare, huge selection of beers both bottled and on tap, free WiFi. Heaven on earth if you ask me.

            2 Replies
            1. re: GroovinGourmet

              The food and wifi sound good, but I'm afraid we're not beer drinkers. Any other suggestions?

            2. I'm a little confused as I-70 crosses Colorado in Denver not Colorado Springs, can you clarify? I can give recs in Denver but don't know anything about the Springs.

              5 Replies
              1. re: RobynS

                Sorry...we'd be taking I-70 west then turning south on I-24 I think toward CO Springs.

                1. re: wyf4lyf

                  Okay, unfortunately then I can't help you much since I don't know that area very well but enjoy your trip across Colorado, it's a beautiful one!

                  1. re: wyf4lyf

                    That will be I-25, which goes S., unless you go US 285, which goes out of S. Denver to Gunnison, or US 24 out of the Springs - also to Gunnison. They meet up in Southpark, and you'll probably take US 50 over Monarch Pass to Montrose. Used to be a good restaurant at the Cattleman's Hotel in Gunnison, but it's been over 10 years, since I last dined there. If you have time, take the drive up to Crested Butte. Even though you are not into beer, it's a neat little ski town, with plenty of grub.

                    Unfortunately, it's been too many years since I did either, then US 550 down to NM. I used to have some good spots, but most/many are probably gone by now. Anyway, either is a lovely drive, especially US 550, once outside of Montrose, down through the San Juans. Spend as much time, as you can, in that area. Do not just pass it by, as it is a "wonder of the world." Sorry, no current food recs. Also, a side-trip to Telluride is worth the effort. Check out the route over Lizardhead Pass to Dolores and then down through NM, or backtrack. You could spend a month in the San Juans and not hate one second of it.

                    Enjoy, and drive safely,

                    1. re: wyf4lyf

                      WVF4LYF - That would be I-25, not I-24. IMHO, this is an awkward way to get from Denver to Ouray, esp if you trundle all the way down to Pueblo before heading into the mountains. We live in Boulder. My son lives in Durango. He and we travel diagonally across the state a lot. Cutting across on US 285 has proved to be the best -- unless you hit the Denver-Bailey westbound stretch during the afternoon rush hour. But then, I-25 is no fun during the rush hour either, esp going south our of Denver and through Colorado Springs.

                      1. re: ClaireWalter

                        If you take 285 (which is MUCH prettier than I-25), stop in Salida (a small detour off route) for a meal at Laughing Ladies. Exceptionally good food for such a small town. Or if you want something quicker, grab a bite at Amicas--they've got wood-fired thin crust pizza, calzones, panini and lots of interesting salads. Want a good latte? Stop in at Bongo Billy's Salida cafe and sip your coffee back by the river.

                  2. In Gunnison, have breakfast at the W cafe. Very good Huevos Rancheros. In Ouray, I like the restaurant in the Beaumont hotel ww.beaumonthotel.com. Be prepared for some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. If you have the time in Ouray, take a Jeep trip. Black Bear Pass is thrilling!

                    1. From I-70 you would be taking I-25 south through Denver if you are heading towards Colorado Springs. There is a wonderful little local Mexican restaurant called La Fogata near I-25 and Evans (http://www.la-fogata.com/location_eva...). Also, if you like Thai food, a couple miles out of your way but definitely worth it is Thai Hiep (http://denver.citysearch.com/profile/...). YUM!!!

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: clemery

                        If you take I-70, your best route to Ouray is I-70 west of Denver to C-470 to US 285 thru Bailey and Fairplay via Kenosha Pass, then eventually west on US 50 over Monarch Pass to Gunnison and beyond.

                        On that long stretch of 285 through South Park (the name was the inspiration for the TV show), avoid the Como Depot.There's a newish Italianish restaurant/deli in Fairplay, but the name escapes me. Turn right at the traffic light onto CO 9, and it's on a parallel street one block over. It's an Italian name. When you get to Johnson Village (truck stops, gas stations), instead of turning left and continuing on 285, turn right a few miles into Buena Vista. Cute town w/ a few good Mexican restaurants. If you continue down 285, you can detour a few miles into Salida, a larger and cuter town. Laughing Ladies is my favorite restaurants there. I've been underwhelmed by the restaurants in Gunnison, but then, I'm usually heading for Crested Butte and am "almost there" by the time I get to Gunnison.

                        Ouray is worth some time, because it's such a scenic knock-out. The gorgeous Hotel Beaumont was renovated a few years ago from wreck to luxury. Last I heard, it was for sale. The Tundra Restaurant in the hotel is/was reputedly the best in town, but I haven't eaten there. It is/was open only for dinner. Le Papillon, just off the main drag, is/was a good bakery and deli.

                        Fasten your seatbelt for the drive over the Million Dollar Highway crossing Red Mountain Pass into Silverton. Make a quick detour into downtown Silverton. Watch the train come in from or leave for Durango. A lot of touristy shops, but a very neat town. If nothing else, have a cup of coffee at the Avalanche Coffee House.

                        Continue south on US 550 into Durango, which has been written about on other threads here.

                        US 50 from takes you past the ourskirts of Pueblo along the Arkansas River to Salida and Gunnison. It's a beautiful drive, but I know nothing about restaurants along that stretch.

                        1. re: clemery

                          Actually, there is a cut off from I-70 east of Denver taking Hwy 24 southwest into Colorado Springs which is shorter than going all the way into Denver and then south.

                          1. re: RobynS

                            Thanks for all the suggestions. We've finally settled on our route. From Dodge City, KS we'll be heading west to Pueblo, CO which is along US-50. We'll stay in Pueblo one night (breakfast recs anyone?) and then head to Ouray from there. Sorry for the confusion!

                            1. re: wyf4lyf

                              OK, going US 50, in Pagosa Springs, not too far outside of Alamosa (well, by Western standards, anyway), Joe Cocker (the singer - "A Little Help From My Friends," et al), has a diner just outside the city. Cannot bring up the name now, but everyone in Alamosa, or Pagosa Springs, will know it. The food was excellent and who knows, Cocker might be working the room.


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                I was intrigued, so I looked this up. The place was in Crawford...but it's no longer there. :( Closed in 2003.

                                1. re: wyf4lyf

                                  Bummer! Sorry to intrigue you, only to let you down. Unfortunately, it's been too many years, since I lived in CO and plied those roadways.

                                  Thanks for the update,

                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Bill - Check your map. Pagosa Springs is on US 160, west of Wolf Creek Pass, not along US 50.

                                  1. re: ClaireWalter

                                    Duh, that's what I get when I fly from memory, and not an Atlas. You are so correct, and I am shamed. Thanks for the clarification. I know that the OP will appreciate it.

                                    Since we usually headed down from Denver, and did US 285 into Montrose, I had forgotten my HWY #'s.


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Bill - Check your map again. US 285 goes south thru Colorado into New Mexico and eventually to Texas. It doesn't go anywhere near Montrose either. I empathize w/ your memory for routes. I do, however, live in Colorado and am a ski, food and travel writer, so I know my state pretty well.

                                      1. re: ClaireWalter

                                        Yes, I should have put in all of the junctions - US285 to US50 over Monarch Pass to Gunnison and on to Montrose, where one picks up US550 (Million $ Hwy) down to NM to US54 to US666 to I-40.


                                3. re: wyf4lyf

                                  There's a Conway's Red Top (my rec for the Springs) in downtown Pueblo.

                                4. re: RobynS

                                  Actually, if I were driving from Chicago to Colorado, I'd go straight west on I-80 (unless I had a burning desire to do something alolng I-70) and then I-76 from the NE corner of CO down to the Denver area.

                                  1. re: ClaireWalter

                                    Folks, this isn't a road trip site....but the reason we're not zipping along I-80 is because we want to follow Route 66 out of Chicago for awhile...we have friends to see in St. Louis, friends to see in a little town in Kansas along US-50, etc! We have no need to go to Denver. We wnat a more backroads experience. This is a road trip for fun...and we want to find some interesting chow along the way. So....back to the chow.... :)

                                    1. re: wyf4lyf

                                      US-50 will take you right past Salida (see my post above, sorry I posted before reading all the way through)--but don't be fooled, there's much more to the food scene (and the town) than what you see from US-50. If you don't detour up 291 (a mile or two at most), you'll miss all the good chow. Also, I've done a lot of eating in Pueblo but found nothing really chow-worthy. I'd spend my calories (and my night) in Salida if timing allowed.

                                      Oh! make sure to get some melons in Rocky Ford. Tiny little town on US-50 with the sweetest melons around. Will you have anywhere to cook? If so, pick up Olathe corn when/if you see it. It's from another tiny town in Colorado (west side of the state, so you won't be going through), and the corn's so good there's seldom/never any to share with the rest of the country.

                              2. A few recs for the Ouray area. We had a great dinner a few years ago at Drakes in Ridgway, which is very close to Ouray. Excellent burgers and wine list. Get a seat on the patio for great views and visits from the hummingbirds. Also, in Ouray there was a great coffe shop that I don't recall the name of. They roasted their own organic beans and had a doughnut machine that could make mini treats on the spot. They also had fresh produce from a local farmer available. I recall small purple potatos that helped create some memorable hash browns at our campsite.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: jtc

                                  I'll second the coffee place with the doughnut machine. It's on your left just as you come into town from the north. Wyf, as you are getting the heck out of Dodge (and this has nothing to do with food I'm sorry), take the time to stop at the tiny park on the right about 2 miles out. It's a stop that allows you to see the last traces of the wagon tracks west. You won't see ruts, but if you look with a broad eye, you'll see that 150 years later, the vegetation grows differently where thousands of wagons trampled it flat for about the width of an interstate. What do you figure they had for roadfood?

                                  1. re: thinks too much

                                    That is a wonderful idea...will copy that onto my "things to do page" and bring with me. Thanks!

                                  2. re: jtc

                                    Google is my best friend...I entered "coffee roaster Ouray" and I think I found that shop -- was it called Exotic Earth Coffee Roasters? Sounds great!

                                    1. re: wyf4lyf

                                      That looks to be it. Hope they still have the doughnut machine!

                                  3. In Salida, the food at Amica's (136 East Second Street) is exceptional; don't be put off by people standing inside the door -- they are waiting to order, not waiting for a table. In downtown Durango, try Cosina Linda off Albertson's parking lot: Linda grew up in Michoacan and her simple, tasty food is in the style of that state. Also good is Zia Tacaria on north Main Street around the 3100 block, opposite Mac's Liquor. For expensive food, the Seasons and Ken & Sues are the two best, both downtown on Main. Out of town by 10 miles on the road to Cortez (which is on the best route from Druango to Canyon de Chelley ) the Kennebec Cafe is a favorite, though not inexpensive. In Mancos, Pangyia is new and holds much promise. If you go to Mesa Verde, eat a pricey, but worth-it dinner (they serve only dinner) at the Matate Room. In Chinle, the restaurant at the mouth of the canyon (I think it's the Turquoise Cafe) serves ok food and is a much more interesting place to eat than the Holiday Inn. .

                                    Salida, CO 81201
                                    Phone: 719-539-5219

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: nharper

                                      Thanks for all of that info. Does Amica's serve breakfast? We'll be staying in Pueblo for the night and will want to leave in the morning and head to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. If we can get a big breakfast either in Pueblo along the way, that should sustain us until we're done at Black Canyon.

                                      1. re: wyf4lyf

                                        I'm pretty sure Amica's does not serve breakfast. They specialize in paninni, salads and pizza along with wine and beer. I always order paninni. I'm told there is a very good breakfast place by the foot bridge over the river in the old downtown.

                                        1. re: nharper

                                          No breakfast at Amica's and the good breakfast place on F street (by the bridge in downtown) went under. West Side Cafe (on G street) has diner eggs/etc. Should fill you up. For total Americana, you can stop at the Patio Cafe on US-50; I like their vegetarian green chile (and that's all I ever order there) but the rest is total midwest diner. (West Side Cafe has diner food that leans toward chow, if that makes any sense.)

                                        2. re: wyf4lyf

                                          It's about 150 miles fr Pueblo to Black Canyon/Gunnison NP. US 50 is not fast where it parallels the Arkansas River in the Royal Gorge area or where it crosses Monarch Pass (esp for many flatland drivers). If all you are doing is driving into the park and along the scenic south rim, stopping at an overlook here and there, that part won't take terribly long. It is a beautiful park (a mini-Grand Canyon in a way) but not a large one, and the south rim section is the smaller of the two..

                                      2. I didn't mean to include Amica's zip and phone number at the end of my post. Sorry for the confusion.

                                        1. If you end up on US 24 between Buena Vista and Poncha Springs (whatever route you take to get there), Purple Sage, just outside of Salida and right on the highway, has gotten some good word-of-mouth around here lately. It's fairly new (last fall or winter, perhaps???).

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: ClaireWalter

                                            Is Purple Sage in the old Antero Grill location?

                                            1. re: miss louella

                                              Purple Sage is indeed the former Antero Grill location -- as well as some kind of English-themed beefery before that (can't remember the name), which is why it has that stucco/timber exterior.