We'd miscalculated. Armed with Spam musubi for an on-the-road breakfast on our way down to New Mexico for the weekend, ES and I had planned our pass-through of Pueblo, Colorado to coincide with lunchtime, a plan entirely based around both an episode of Food Wars and this article on Serious Eats about the city's local specialty, the Slopper: a whole hamburger or cheeseburger smothered in green chili. But having misjudged the driving time, ES and I found ourselves in Pueblo at ten in the morning, far too early to actually eat lunch.
How else to pass an hour? We went to the Pueblo Zoo, where we watched some really cute otters diving in and out of the water. We also saw sad ostriches, sad lions, sad monkeys, and sad llamas (but no sad panda). Oh, the things we do for a meal.
The clock ticked past eleven and it was finally a respectable time for lunch. At Sunset Inn, one of two places in town famous for their Slopper, the menu offered two versions—one with beans (red chili) and one with pork (green chili)—and the waitress couldn't tell us which one was better. So we ordered both, along with a side of onion rings.
Unfortunately, through some kind of miscommunication we ended up with two green chili Sloppers instead of one of each. And in this case, two green chili Sloppers = two dishes of disappointment. The bun was tough and the beef patty dry and tasteless; the green chili was okay, but still did nothing to elevate the crappy burger sitting in the middle of it. The whole thing was kind of cold, too. After several bites, I concluded that this particular venture was a bust. Maybe Sunset Inn's competitor, Gray's Coors Tavern, should have been our destination instead.
Little else to do, then, but speed our way out of Pueblo, leaving our fallen Slopper dreams behind. And in a mere three hours, we reached the Adobe & Pines Inn, our very lovely bed and breakfast in Taos, New Mexico. Just look at our room! A fireplace, a private patio on the roof, an oversized jetted tub, and the most charming decor you could ask for.
We were also greeted by a bottle of chilled champagne and a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries, part of the package we'd booked our reservation with.
Given how comfortable and cozy the room was, we ended up lazing around in there until it was time for dinner. Ignoring the book of menus laid out for guests in the reception area, we headed instead to Ranchos Plaza Grill based on MSJ's recommendation, a restaurant less than a half-mile away from Adobe & Pines.
Based solely on the restaurant's excellent salsa and guacamole, the meal would have already sent our sad memories of lunch into oblivion. But bring in an enormous carne adovada burrito stuffed with pieces of smoky, marinated grilled beef and ladled with a buttery green chili, and the wretched Slopper didn't stand a chance. ES was thrilled with his dish, and even suggested that we come back to Ranchos Plaza Grill another time before leaving.
I wasn't inclined to argue, since my mixed plate of enchiladas and chili rellenos in red chili was proving to be equally delicious. Sopapillas, which had arrived hot along with our entrees, were good even eaten at the close of the meal, especially once we doused each bite with honey.
Bellies satisfied, we left the restaurant and walked next door to the San Francis de Asis Mission Church, a beautiful and humble adobe structure immortalized many times by various artists and photographers. The church is still in use by the community, and we happened to arrive around the beginning of one of the services; I took advantage of the opening and closing doors to step inside to take a peek. If I were ever one to worship, this just might be the kind of setting I would want to be in.
As night fell, we went back to our room and built up a fire in the fireplace, using the wax-and-sawdust fire starters and wood thoughtfully stashed right in the corner. It took a little while to get things really blazing, but once it was going we were rewarded with the warmth, sweet smell, and crackles of a cozy fire, just the thing to eventually lull our tired bodies into sleep.