Diners are known for regional dishes and green chile is king in the Rockies.
No matter what diner you go to in any part of the country, there are some dishes that will undoubtedly appear on every single menu. Pancakes, eggs, hamburgers and French fries, to name just a few. But every diner is also going to have signature dishes and menu items that are regional specialties. If you go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner in Denver you’re going to find green chile on a lot of menus. And you’re also going to find a lot of establishments claiming to have the best in town. Green chile (or chili) is a specialty of New Mexico, and by proximity, the Rocky Mountain region. No diner menu in Denver is complete without a few items featuring the spicy, savory dish. If you order huevos rancheros in Denver, you can bet the eggs will be smothered in green chile. As will your breakfast burrito, and possibly your cheeseburger and fries. Chile peppers, both red and green, are a staple of New Mexican cuisine. While red chile in its sauce form is generally used for covering enchiladas, burritos and more, green chile is hearty and often doubles as both sauce and as a soup or stew.
Chile peppers, which are technically a fruit, have been in existence for thousands of years. They were used by the Inca, Mayan and Aztec civilizations in both culinary and medicinal applications. It is generally believed that Columbus first encountered chiles in the Caribbean and the curious spicy pepper was brought back to Spain by the ships doctor Diego Alvarez Chanco, who first wrote of their medicinal properties in 1494. Back in Spain, chiles were cultivated by monks who discovered they could substitute them for expensive peppercorns when dried and ground up to a powder. It is believed that chiles eventually made their way to New Mexico in 1598 via Juan de Onate, the founder of Santa Fe. After the Spanish started to settle the area, the growth of chile peppers took off.
Today chile peppers are a major industry in New Mexico and the Hatch Valley is renowned for its production of the Hatch chile, which is a hybrid of the Chile Negro, Chile Colorado and Chile Pasilla. It was created by horticulturist Fabian Garcia after 10 years of experimenting to find the perfect chile and was originally known as New Mexico Chile No. 9. Chile-heads around the globe owe Mr. Garcia a great deal of thanks, as do patrons of restaurants all throughout the Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions when they dig into a bowl of green chile, a smothered burrito or huevos rancheros.