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Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona unique must try food

Hi All,

Am visiting these states next month and am looking for Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona unique regional food, and where to get it. So far, I have on my list is:

1. Rattlesnake
2. Cactus fries
3. Bison burger

Anything else? Much appreciated..Thank you in advance!!!

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  1. Buckhorn Exchange, Denver, prides itself on such exotica as rattlesnake and Rocky Mountain oysters.There was a recent thread on this restaurant. The Fort, Morrison (west of Denver), also has many regional specialties, including bison/buffalo. In fact, I believe that they serve more of it than any other restaurant in the country. I've never had cactus fries as such, but I've had "nopales" (prickly pear cactus), a Mexican specialty that has migrated across the border. In NM, especially, red and green chile. Coloradans treasure anything freshly made with Western Slope peaches and also Rocky Ford cantaloupes, tho' these necessarily restaurant specialties.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ClaireWalter

      Dined there a week ago. Photo (left to right): rattlesnake served with dip & tri-color chips, alligator tail and Rocky Mountain Oysters. Didn't like the taste of any of them. But the bison steak entree was delish!

      Place mark:

      Buckhorn Exchange
      1000 Osage St, Denver, CO 80204

    2. You might as well put Rocky Mountain oysters on the list, also known as calf fries. I think the place I'd go down here in the Phoenix area to get them would be Stockyards Restaurant, once the administration building for the Tovrea Land & Cattle Company. Don't go to Rustler's Rooste; they do have rattlesnake, but the place is an overpriced tourist trap.

      A green chile cheeseburger should definitely be on your list. It's quintessential New Mexico grub. While there are New Mexico restaurants here in Arizona that serve really good ones, you should have it while you're in New Mexico. From what I've heard, the Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe serves up the best one. While you're over in NM, have some carne adovada, too. And some flat enchiladas with a fried egg on top. Oh, while you're in Santa Fe, stop at the Five and Dime for Frito Pie. It's a single-serving bag of Fritos, topped with chili, cheese, and onions. The proper way to eat it is either strolling around the square, or sitting on a bench in the square, or leaning up against a wall, hunched over so you don't cover your clothes in chili with every bite. Legend has it that it was invented at that very location back when it was a Woolworth's.

      While here in Arizona, you can't get much more authentic Arizona than genuine Native American food at the Hopi Cultural Center in Second Mesa, about 60 miles north of Winslow on the Hopi reservation. The most surprising thing about the food just might be how very mild it is. They do have American food available as well, but you didn't go 60 miles into the middle of nowhere for a club sandwich, right? A Navajo taco would be a worthwhile bite, too- there used to be a truck stop in Tuba City that served perfect ones, but it's gone. I've heard the people who used to make the tacos in Tuba City are now doing them down in Cameron, but the atmosphere is a lot more touristy. It may well still be worth a stop. A bit of an off-topic note that I can't quite resist mentioning- while you're up in the Four Corners area, tune your radio to 660 AM, the Navajo Nation radio station.

      If you don't feel like swinging by Cameron for a Navajo taco and Phoenix is on your itinerary, you can stop at the Fry Bread House down here and sample an excellent Navajo taco there. I usually skip the Navajo taco and get their special, one of their delicious stews (red chili, green chili, beef vegetable stew, or beef hominy stew) and a frybread. I think the best plan of attack is to go with a friend and split a Navajo taco and a stew special. If you somehow have room after the very generous meal, split a frybread topped with chocolate and butter. Pure heaven.

      Fry Bread House
      4140 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

      Bobcat Bite Restaurant
      420 Old Las Vegas Hwy, Santa Fe, NM 87505

      Stockyards Restaurant
      5009 E Washington St Ste 115, Phoenix, AZ 85034

      Hopi Cultural Center Restaurant & Inn
      Second Mesa AZ, Second Mesa, AZ

      Five & Dime General Store
      58 E San Francisco St, Santa Fe, NM

      2 Replies
      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

        Wow! Thanks so much! These are great ideas. :) If anyone can think of anything else, let me know. Oh, also, is there any kind of special drinks to try to? So far on my list, I have jack rabbit cherry cider. It doesnt have to be alcohol.

        1. re: buttacup79

          At Richardson's in Phoenix you can get a prickly pear margarita.

          Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico
          1582 E. Bethany Home Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016

      2. If you get to Tucson try eegee's Italian ices and Lucky Wishbone for fried chicken, shrimp and steak fingers. Neither place is Southwestern, but both are Tucson-centric. Tucson also claims "ownership" of the chimichanga. Any Tucson Mexican restaurant will do.

        3 Replies
        1. re: lawyerbriefs

          Eegees are one thing I truly miss about Tucson. Oh, how could I forget chimichangas! According to legend, they were invented when someone at El Charro accidentally dropped a burrito in the deep fryer. They were halfway into uttering a Spanish curse word when they caught themselves and censored what they were saying... "Ay, chi...michanga!" The Macayo family up here in Phoenix also claims they invented the chimichanga, but El Charro's story starts earlier and is more interesting to boot. So, the downtown El Charro would be the place to go for one, preferably filled with their delicious carne seca, something else you really don't see outside of Tucson.

          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

            Adding the link...

            El Charro Cafe
            311 N Court Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701

            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              Just a bit more on El Charro -- skip any of the locations around Tucson besides the one listed here. The carne seca may be the same recipe, but the places are pale shadows of the the one downtown and can be downright depressing.

        2. If you are in T ucson try a sonoran hot dog they are all over town (best one at El Guero Canelo) for that part if you are in Tucson just go mexican food, best on the planet.

          P.S. The chimi was accidentily invented at El Minuto, not El Charro!

          1. Unfortunately, Colorado's tourist trap food/claim to fame has already spread to the grocery store near you.

            Beau Jo's in Idaho Springs has been serving prairie-style pizza for forever and is an after-skiing tradition. The once-bizarre combinations of chicken pizza with bbq sauce can now be bought as a microwave dinner from a national chain. The tradition of putting honey on the thick, puffy soapilla-like crust is really all the novelty that remains.

            1. I found a couple more things to try, but not sure where to eat them:
              1. nok qui vi
              2. atole
              3. coffee with pinon nuts
              4. sopaipillas
              5. posole
              6. red chili chocolate cake
              7. calabacitas
              8. biscochitos
              9. chili beer
              10. cactus ice tea

              Also, I dont have much for Colorado, any more suggestions for unique/regional food.


              10 Replies
              1. re: buttacup79

                # 4, 5, 7 and 8 [maybe #3 too, I don't care for it so can't be sure where to find. There's plenty of stores that sell the coffee beans] can all be found in NM without much trouble.

                ABQ -- Garcia's, Frontier, Garduno's, Sadies, Casa de Benevidas, Barelas Coffee House, Duran's Central Pharmacy [yes, pharmacy!] and Model Pharmacy will get you what you seek.


                1. re: buttacup79

                  Colorado has its own version of many of the things you listed... and Colorado style green chile is very good (but different from NM style). Colorado is so different geographically speaking (part mid-west, part prairie, part rocky mountain, part south-west) so it depends on where you are.

                  I am surprised no one has mentioned beer.. not necessarily unqiue to colorado, but surely some of the tastiest to be found. with breweries like new belgium (fat tire), breckenridge brew co, o'dell's.. (and yes, coors)... there is something like 75 breweries within 100 miles of denver.

                  1. re: withalonge

                    Just curious, what's Colorado style green chile? How's it different from NM style?

                    1. re: high desert chow

                      well, being from California (please don't hold it against me) I do not feel I am qualified to answer that question. But if I can hazard an opinion, I'd say NM Style is more of a stew (like to be eaten with a spoon).. and here in CO it tends to be eaten more like a sauce. It is hotly debated either way... but it is really delicious stuff (either style). I've been anxiously awaiting the return of hatch chile season so I can try my hand at a few recipes.

                      for other points of view... try some of these posts:





                  2. re: buttacup79

                    The Nok Qui Vi is available at the Hopi Cultural Center that I mentioned earlier.

                    Skip the chili beer. There's one company I know of who makes it (Cave Creek Brewing), and the stuff is noxious.

                    I haven't seen anywhere to get red chili chocolate cake, but Z'Tejas Grill (a regional chain with locations mostly here and in Texas) does have an ancho chile fudge pie that is quite delicious. There are four locations around the metro Phoenix area.

                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                      Well, I've had a chile beer at Wynkoop Brewery in Denver that is fabulous so I think it's going to depend on the brewer and the person drinking. In fact, the chile beer at Wynkoop is in my top 5 favorite beers of all time.

                      1. re: RobynS

                        Good to know there's a good one out there. The Cave Creek one is just about universally despised; the only reason I can think it still exists is that it would make for one hell of a gag gift. They put a serrano chili in each bottle of it. Suffice it to say, the chili completely takes over the beer and all you taste is fire.

                        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                          If you're ever in Denver hit up Wynkoop. Their version is a nice beer then you get the flavor of green chile followed by a little heat but nothing unbearable. It used to be a seasonal beer but is so popular it's a regular on tap now. I do wish they would bottle it since the brewery isn't very convenient for me to get to.

                          1. re: RobynS

                            Yeah, I hear very good things about that beer from lots of people, not just RobynS (whose tastes I trust, actually, so I'd believe it even if she—I'm guessing she—were the only one who praised it).

                            1. re: tatamagouche

                              Actually? What's that supposed to mean? ;) Kidding! Thanks for the endorsement given the fact that I haven't posted a whole heck of a lot of variety here.

                              Wynkoop also has good food. For some reason I'm stuck on the lamb shepherd's pie when I go but I've tried bites of other stuff (can't remember exactly what) and it's all been good.

                  3. 'Rocky Mountain News' restaurant critic Lori Midson assembled just such a list. See http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news...

                    1. Sorry , it was John Lehndorff, Lori's predecessor in the ciritic slot, who compiled the list in the Rocky Mountain News. URL remains http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news...

                      1. As has already been mentioned, a green chile cheeseburger and a Navajo taco (called an Indian taco on the Hopi reservation) are in the "must try" category. Is cactus candy still being sold in the tourist traps along the Interstates? When I was a child growing up in New Mexico, we stopped at Cline's Corners on US 66 and other places and I always wanted to buy a box of cactus candy. It was really not very good, but I loved being able to say I ate cactus candy.