Pueblo, CO - Farm -to-table access has never been easier than in Pueblo County, and the restaurant and brewery scene are singing the praises of local food sources now more than ever as COVID has more restaurants nationwide rethinking where their food supply comes from.
You can’t visit many locally-owned restaurants, or national chains for that matter in Pueblo, where the local produce or meat selections are not featured in one way or another on their menu. Prior to COVID, local food producers not only saw the value of local food sources but also tapped into the competitive advantage that only Pueblo crops provide.
Pueblo’s unique growing conditions are what gives the crops a flavor that can only be found in Pueblo’s local produce; including the iconic Pueblo Chile. That unique flavor is what helped put Pueblo ahead of local food buying trends across the country and made Ag a part of the city’s identity.
“If you’re a farmer, chef, or just a good ‘ole food connoisseur, you’ll certainly recognize the unique flavors found in the homegrown fruits and vegetables produced in Pueblo County,” comments Mike Bartolo of the CSU Agricultural Research Center. “In the same way serious cooks set out to find the freshest herbs and ingredients, people flock to Pueblo County farms to stock freezers and refrigerators with local produce infused with the identifiable flavorings.”
Bingo Burger originally launched their trademark Pueblo Chile infused burger at the Chile and Frijoles Festival in 2007. Co-owner Richard Warner set up a grill in front of the Hopscotch Bakery, and the burgers were so popular that their brick-and-mortar shop opened three years later.
Assistant General Manager Chris Arroyo shared that from a community perspective, “People like knowing their food not only comes from Colorado but is also supporting the farms and their neighbors. It’s essentially from their own backyards.”
The Pueblo Chile is an essential part of the Bingo brand, going into not only the beef, but the sauce, cheese, and more.
“Our beef is local too, being ground up the day before by local processors, they bring it to us, so it’s all a very super quick, and it’s really nice being able to tell our customers I know exactly where their meat is coming from as well.”
Bingo Burger’s cheese is locally-sourced from Springside Cheese whose Pueblo Jack cheese showcases the Pueblo chile and Bingo Burger has also teamed up with another well-known local food company, Jojo’s Sriracha.
Jolene Collins, owner of Jojo’s Sriracha, which pulled down a Good Food award in 2020, relocated from Brooklyn to Denver before finding a home for her sauce in Pueblo. After doing a tour from Colorado to New Mexico, Jojo connected with Chris Markuson, the former Director of Economic Development for Pueblo County. The next step was working with the Arkansas Valley Organic Growers Coop.
Jojo now sources not only Pueblo chile, but also heirloom organic garlic from Pueblo farms. “I had the idea in my head from the very beginning, I wanted to work directly with the farmers,” Collins said. “You gotta build those relationships, and this [location] was our start in building that.”
Local farms will be supplying 5,000 pounds of chile this year, and Jojo is already planning for even more. “Each season is a little different. We got in some red jalapenos, not knowing they were specifically cultivated to be spicy, and now they’re our OGX, our hottest. Because we’re small, we can get creative.”
Jojo’s Sriracha is based in the Excelsior Farmers Exchange, which also offers a community kitchen for growers and makers. The exchange is expressly for local farmers and foodmakers “to grow, process, aggregate and deliver fresh, organic and artisanal food products to Coloradans.” The exchange is currently featuring farm boxes loaded with squash, zucchini, lettuce, and beans.
Pueblo’s rich farm heritage extends further, to local cafes owned and operated by farms, like Musso’s Restaurant, which now has their own food truck, or Milberger’s Café, where they’ve combined farm-fresh produce with a hopping car show on Friday nights, or Walter’s Brewing Company, where the Pueblo Chile has found its way into the ever-popular Pueblo Chile Beer, Chile Clamato, and the Red Chile Lime.
“Our Pueblo Chile Beer represents our community statewide being sold in places like Whole Foods among other retailers,” commented co-owner Andrew Sanchez. “When you love the quality of the product you sell, it will always lead you to do business with those closest to you so you can offer both something original and great tasting. Fortunately, Pueblo’s farming community is a perfect match with Coloradoans desire for specialty craft brews.”
Sanchez notes that agriculture in Pueblo is the basis of Pueblo’s resiliency whether in times of global pandemics or industry shutdowns. “Just like beer, communities have to have a story worth telling and a product worth enjoying that keeps people coming back. I’m proud to say Walter’s Beer and Pueblo are both deeply rooted in a great story, filled with great characters, and flavorful products.”
Walter’s Brewery taps into Pueblo’s Ag knowledge regularly as its taproom points to variation and experimentation in each of its new concoctions. “The intersection of business, agriculture, and local residents is empowerment,” adds Sanchez. “In a world of uncertainty and distance, connection and local partnerships are helping all local industries rise together and be more self-sustainable.”
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