The votes are in for USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice chile verde contest, and La Plata and Montezuma county restaurants seem to have tickled readers’ fancy, and perhaps their hometown pride.
Three local restaurants – Oscar’s Cafe in Durango, Absolute Bakery in Mancos and Beny’s Diner in Cortez – made the shortlist of 20 restaurants competing for the title of “Best Chile Verde in Colorado.” On Friday, the final rankings, chosen by readers, were announced on the USA Today website.
Although Colorado Springs’ El Taco Rey and King’s Chef Diner ended up taking the top two spots, three restaurants from Southwest Colorado made the Top 10: Oscar’s was third, Absolute was fourth, and Beny’s was sixth.
Paula Berg, co-owner of Oscar’s, said she was honored that her restaurant’s Spanish-style chile verde made it to the Top 5.
“We’re a little place, and we just don’t have the population to vote like they do in Denver, so I’m so glad they acknowledged us,” she said. “I feel like the Four Corners area is a green chile place.”
She said she’s also proud of the other Southwest Colorado restaurants that made the Top 10 list, and plans to try Absolute Bakery’s entry as soon as possible.
Karen Blaine, co-owner of Absolute Bakery, said she and her husband, David, heard about the contest results a day before they were made public.
“We were very happy to hear we made fourth place, because I think we’re one of the smaller restaurants on that list,” she said.
She said she believed the bakery’s use of vegetarian, organic ingredients helped its chile verde stand out, and added that the Absolute recipe relies on flavor, not heat.
Victor Nuñez, Jr., part of the family that owns Beny’s Diner, said being considered for the Top 10 list has already helped the restaurant’s business.
“We’ve been selling so much green chile, even more than before,” he said. “A lot of people have told us we should be the winners, because our chile is the best in town.”
But the restaurant’s owner, the senior Victor Nuñez, said he was just happy to be in the Top 10. He thanked everyone who voted for his restaurant, especially the Nuñez family’s friends and customers.
The other restaurants on the Top 10 list are all on the Front Range. They are Boulder’s Blackbelly Market (eighth), and Denver’s El Chingon Mexican Bistro (fifth), Sam’s No. 3 (seventh), Blue Bonnet Cafe (ninth) and Señor Burritos (10th). USA Today’s Top 20 restaurants were chosen by a panel of experts, and were narrowed down to the final 10 through a voting process that lasted through April 16.