Technically, this title is misleading. Yes, there is a James Beard nomination in the town, but it isn’t a taco joint, however, I’ll get to that later in the post. I wasn’t in Alamosa just to eat tacos. I mean, that activity was high on my agenda. This is, after all, the land of homemade tortillas. There are also Mexican restaurants across from Mexican restaurants on Main Street.
We were there for the 14th Annual Rio Frio Ice Fest, and to run (err… walk) the Rio Frio on Ice, a 5K on the frozen Rio Grande River. The bonus is the abundance of tacos available in this area of Southern Colorado.
In general, Southern Colorado is a good place for Mexican food. You’ve read about me eating my way through Pueblo many times (the land of green chiles). In fact, green chile was a goal too. Pueblo is only two hours away and happily, green chile is on nearly every menu in Alamosa.
Located in the San Luis Valley, Alamosa is about 3 hours and 45 minutes south of Denver and just over 30 minutes to New Mexico.
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We’ve been to the San Luis Valley a number of times. The beauty of the area is breathtaking and the lack of traffic combined with the availability of tacos makes it one of my favorite places in Colorado.
This year, Rio Frio Ice Fest had a 90s theme, which is right in my wheelhouse being a child and college kid of the 90s. I even got a scrunchie when I signed up for the 5K on ice! Remember those? They are back in style, by the way.
As has occurred in other years of the event, the race was held on the frozen ponds at Blanca Vista Park. However, when we ran it in 2016, we got to be on the frozen river, however, the Rio Grande doesn’t always freeze well enough. We walked this year, but Ryan ran last time and I walk/ran. There are real 5K runners/competitors here who passed us on their way back before we’ve even hit the ice. True story!
Other events around the fest this year were an air band contest, ice sculptures, Nordic skiing, polar plunge, cocktail and beer tasting, the traditional bonfire and more. It’s a great time to be in Alamosa!
I had a goal that I posted on Twitter of eating green chile every day while I was in Southern Colorado. Our first stop was the 4th Street Diner in Saguache where I encountered a rather excellent breakfast burrito smothered in a fine pork green chile. Major fans of this place, we usually find a reason to stop on our way to Alamosa or places in Southwest Colorado. Saguache is about 55 minutes north of Alamosa, and worth the short detour.
That evening, we dined with Beth from Visit Alamosa at the new Lindo Jalisco. This was not an official HeidiTown-style trip of the old, I’ve changed the game in 2023, but I did make time for a few people who have been a crucial part of making my little town what it has become (and I am so glad that I did).
We started with chips and dip and then I worked my way through a huge taco platter. The grilled tacos are outrageously good and served with rice and beans. I got an al pastor, birria and asada, and all of this food is just $12.99, which for a Front Range dweller, is pretty darn affordable for a sit-down style restaurant.
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The next morning, it was a breakfast burrito for me at All Valley Cafe, a Mexican restaurant during the day, but a breakfast joint in the AM. Again, I smothered it with green chile. Completely different than the day before, this green chile was a bit thinner, but I still liked it, and I liked the price of $8.95.
No trip to Alamosa is complete without a beer tour of the fantastic breweries in town, but I’ll write about that in another post. However, we did have lunch at San Luis Valley Brewing Company. We’ve been a fan of their green chile beer (Valle Caliente) for many years and buy some whenever we’re near Alamosa.
This may be the best deal we found on our trip. Ryan got the fish and chips for $10.50 and I had a cup of green chile at $4.25. It tasted like the spicy green chiles I’ve had at chile competitions (the kind I can’t make). I may or may not have licked the bowl, only Ryan knows (and the bartender).
The fry on the fish is crisp and clean. Important because we’ve often encountered a dirty fry on fish which means the fry oil is dirty. But this was incredibly fresh and flaky, and at the price, I am not sure any place in this state can beat it. Five stars for San Luis Valley Brewing Company!
We ate a lot on this trip. We had to go to The Frier’s Fork & Sanctuary, not only because it’s new in Alamosa and located in an old mission-style church, it has been nominated for a James Beard Award. If that sounds fancy, it is. It’s also incredibly hard to get the nomination and extra difficult for a small town restaurant. Kuddo to everyone at Friar’s Fork for the best new restaurant nomination. The award winners will be announced on June 5, 2023. I’ll be cheering for the Friar’s Fork.
We had a drink and appetizer of fried ravioli in this amazing space. Sunshine streamed in as we dined and it felt like we might be in Italy, not chilly Colorado. We did not have a full dinner there, but I have little doubt, after tasting the marinara, that it is delightful Italian food.
After our appetizer and drink we passed through to the Friar’s Fork Sanctuary for a second drink. This space is surrounded by stained glass and paintings of Italian monks looking happily at full wine glasses held in their chubby hands.
Dinner was at Calvillo’s Mexican Restaurant. I went here during a Rio Frio drinks tour in 2016, and sat at the bar. A lady was making tortillas at the front. Mesmerized, I swore to return for dinner one day.
We sat at the bar again and I ordered a plate of al pastor tacos and Ryan got the posole. This meal did not disappoint on any level. Calvillo’s was everything I’d hoped for and believe it or not, the same bartender was mixing drinks. I was in taco heaven because Alamosa most definitely is.