Posted By Chris Ayers & Amy Briesch
2/7/2012 7:57:00 PM
If there was one thing that we thought we could depend on in this world, it was a dearth of good food in any national park “gateway town.” Apparently it took Mesa Verde National Park to prove that we were sadly mistaken. Fairly new to the downtown strip, Pepperhead Restaurant was opened by the daughter-father team of Tess and Pete Montaño. The small town of Cortez, Colorado is less than an hour from the New Mexico border and Four Corners National Monument. As a result, their proximity to the Land of Enchantment luckily means that it is still possible to order northern New Mexican specialties within the Centennial State. All of the food at Pepperhead is made from scratch, and the care and quality are evident from the first bite. Not only do they roast all of the green chile themselves, but they even make the lemon, lime, and orange liquors that give their margaritas an extra kick.
Even though the homemade mole was exceptionally rich and flavorful, the chiles rellenos and green chile sauce rose to the top. We have been let down time and time again by rellenos that were subpar or sometimes even downright terrible, but for some reason this is one of the only items that we continue to order even though the odds of deliciousness are most always stacked against us. Paired with chicken and beef enchiladas, the chile relleno immediately garnered our highest lauds: perfectly fried with a light, almost tempura batter, the flavorful thin-walled pepper gave way to mild, creamy cheese accented by the green chile sauce on the plate. We would like to think that we’d dive deeper into the menu next time we are in Cortez, but expect it would be difficult to resist the allure of the “R” combination plate. Plain and simple, this option includes three chile rellenos served with a bowl of either red or green sauce “for your dunking pleasure.”
Items are available to satisfy the palates of both venturesome (posole, carne adovada, carne seca) and cautious (nachos, quesadillas, chimichangas) Mexican restaurant goers. A far cry from the stuffed clams of the Ocean State, here, stuffies are sopapillas filled with meat, beans, and rice and then smothered in green or red chile sauce. For dessert, the same sopapillas are drizzled with honey for a warm, puffy treat. Pepperhead is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-8:30-ish p.m., closed Sunday and Monday.