Day One: Let’s take a road trip! The next three posts highlight our adventures from Pueblo to the San Luis Valley to Salida. A good time was had by all but especially the dog. She is never happier than when she gets to go.
I have lived in Colorado since 1999, but Pueblo was a town I had only ever driven by.
Before last year, the only two things I knew about Pueblo is that they have a riverwalk and a chile festival. Last summer, that changed.
We attended the Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival and my life would never be the same. For one thing, I started buying my roasted green chiles by the bushel.
Pueblo considers itself as the Gateway to the Southwest. It identifies with places in the southwest more than it identifies with Denver, and yes, it is a drastically different place than Colorado’s Mile High City.
When you think of “living history” perhaps you think of a fort museum with actors carrying around muskets and a man recreating the craft of blacksmithing. When I say Pueblo has a living history, I mean that you can sit down at a bar and have the same lunch that people have been eating in this bar since 1933. That’s Pueblo—things are the same way they have always been and that’s oddly comforting right now.
If you’d like to spend a day surrounded by Pueblo’s living history, make this city a stop on your road trip of southern Colorado. Even better, make it a two or three-day adventure every year. After all, a visit to the farm markets can result in buying things to pickle, things to can, and bushels of green chiles at less than half the price of the frozen, one-pound bags of green chiles you’ll find for sale across Colorado’s Front Range. Visiting Pueblo is the second best thing to having your own large garden.
Our trip to Pueblo was 3-nights spent with friends at the Vintage Rose Cottage, a two-bedroom house from 1903. We had convinced these friends that they should join us and Fritzi in Pueblo to eat all the things and to buy green chiles. Those were our only two goals and we met them.
If you just have one night in Pueblo on a road trip of Southern Colorado, this is what I’d advise. Start off the day right with decent coffee and breakfast at Milberger Farms. This farm has only been around since 1986, making this 34-year family-run operation one of the “new kids” in Pueblo.
I like the Pueblo Cakes but our friend Caleb loved the Everett Special that is basically a breakfast slopper. Pueblo is where the slopper originated and like green chile, it’s on nearly every menu. It is a hamburger smothered in green chile. Gray Coor’s Tavern in downtown Pueblo takes credit for the slopper and features it prominently on their marketing. The Star Bar also takes credit so it will always remain an unknown.
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Milberger Farms is a good place to start your exploration of Pueblo because the cafe is in their farm store. You eat surrounded by fresh produced, freshly baked bread and jars of hot salsa.
Hunger sated, we took our friends to explore the farm markets of Pueblo. There are a lot of them and if you are new to the scene I’d advise a farm tour with Frontier Pathways. We took the tour last year and it gave us a thorough and entertaining look at Pueblo’s long-running farm scene.
These farms existed long before the advent of tourism as an industry. For instance, Musso Farms, where I get a bushel of green chiles each year, is in its fifth generation of family ownership. And it’s not just about green chiles and veggies at these markets; Musso has a Spice Room and Maura Farms & Bakery sells baked goods all around the world via their website. Visiting the markets is a way of life for many who live in the region and quite frankly, I am jealous of their nonchalance about such things.
After touring the farms, a Dutch Lunch is in order. Get this famous lunch at Gus’ Tavern, established in 1933. They have been in a longtime war of words with Eilers’ Place over which is the oldest bar in Pueblo. We went to both during our stay and honestly, I don’t care. They both allow me to sit and take part in the ritual of beer drinking that has existed in Pueblo for many years.
Also, both bars have tiny bathrooms and a sink outside the bathrooms which tells me that toilets were an afterthought. I think the bars were built during the time of the outhouse. I am very glad that this part of history has been left in the past.
A Dutch Lunch is basically a deconstructed sandwich. Mayo and mustard are placed on the table as are plates full of cheese, cold cuts, tomatoes and onion and white bread. For four, our waitress at Gus’, who was awesome, recommended the large Dutch Lunch and it fed us like kings or rather like steelworkers in 1935.
In the afternoon, we bagged roasted green chiles. This was one ideal reason to rent a house in Pueblo. We formed an assembly line in the kitchen and packed up our three bushels of green chiles in freezer bags. I don’t scrape the skin or remove the chile skins and seeds, I just throw around 12 in a bag and clean them when I thaw the peppers.
On another afternoon, the guys visited Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, home to two hangars of planes as well as an outdoor flight line. If you are a plane crazy person like my husband, this is a must-see in Pueblo. Both Ryan and Caleb enjoyed sitting in an anti-aircraft machine gun.
It was imperative that we make it to LaTronica’s Restaurant on this trip, an Italian restaurant that’s been in Pueblo for 77 years. Several Puebloans have told me that they like to take their guests here because it is like stepping back in time.
We’d made reservations for 7 p.m. and our table was ready for our arrival boasting a basket of bread and a bowl of pickled delights. We each ordered something different but of course, Ryan got lasagna. It’s his go-to dish at every Italian joint.
I got fried chicken because despite being Italian, this place is known for fried chicken. It was good, but the fried spaghetti I got on the side was my favorite. I have even tried to replicate it at home. Next time I’d get the fried spaghetti as an entree. I may or may not have licked the bowl.
We spent our meal drinking Chianti and talking about mobster movies. Revenge is a dish best served cold and thankfully, all our meals were warm. Hey! We were inspired. It was a fun night and I’d encourage you to be part of history by eating at LaTronica on your road trip to Pueblo.
I could write a book about the eccentric ethnic past of Pueblo. The huge steel mill brought workers from around the world but especially Italians and Croatians. They mixed with the Mexican-Americans who were already in Pueblo and I believe that the food won.
This is a foodie town, and by foodie, I don’t mean cutting edge, artsy bites, but restaurants and farms that have been in the same family for generations. This doesn’t exist anymore in a lot of places around Colorado, especially the Front Range.
Food is something I would encourage you to experience first-hand during your time in Pueblo.
I want to give a shout out to Kate and Christine of Vintage Rose Cottage, a two-bedroom, dog-friendly house. This Airbnb is a great option for anyone traveling with another couple and a dog. It would also be ideal for a family traveling with the dog in tow. Not only is it dog-friendly, but it has a fenced back yard that Fritzi loved.
Next, Day Two of my Southern Colorado Road Trip.
Read Day Two here.
Travel in collaboration with COLO-Road Trips by the Colorado Tourism Office.
All opinions are mine and I chose the itinerary.