I haven't been to Colorado Springs in years. The "Springs", as I imagine the locals call it, is an idyllic mix of mountain views, tree-lined streets, rolling hills and the Christian right. Maybe it is simply this unfortunate stereotype of impending judgment and socio-political narrow-mindedness that keeps me away. Likely it is just the fact that it is over sixty miles away and makes for a long, boring, often traffic-filled drive.
Of course the Springs is much more than a long drive and a bunch of people focusing their sights on your family's right to choose its own lifestyle. It is really a fantastic city with a cool zoo, a garden of rocks planted by God herself, an Olympic training center, an entire academy of proud Air Force academics and a bastion of left-leaning undergrads in one of our nation's premier private learning institutions. And then, I recently learned, there is El Taco Rey.
El Taco Rey is a place where certainly folks of all political parties, religious groups and social backgrounds can come together. El Taco Rey is the kind of place that blurs the line between red and blue, left and right. Creationists could sit down here with Darwin himself and happily figure something out while chowing down on a burrito.
These family portraits on the wall can only mean good things
El Taco Rey (here I am just going to give this review away early and say it) is reason alone for Denverites to get in the car and make the drive to Colorado Springs. And the dish that you want to try? The Avocado and Pork Burrito. Smothered.
Growing up in Chicago, being smothered usually meant something bad. Something that might happen to you after you borrowed a few bucks from your neighbor Nice-Guy Eddie and were a wee-bit tardy on the repayment. Being smothered in Colorado, especially anywhere South and West of Denver into New Mexico, is decidedly a very good thing.
Paper towels everywhere. Great sign.
Like smothering that pork and avocado burrito you just ordered. That is like frosting on the cake, or better yet it is literally the green chile on the burrito. The Aguilar family has been smothering away at this location for 35 years. I guess it makes sense then, that the traditions of their family from Colorado and New Mexico have come together in an area that was once pretty much a border region of the original Mexican states to create some fabulous food in the New Mexican tradition.
We didn't order to go, but it came in Styrofoam. Bad for the earth. Good for your belly.Whatever the case, let us return to the beauty and splendor that is this avocado and pork burrito. The pork was cooked perfectly. Obviously slow roasted, it was moist and richly flavored, and by itself would make for an excellent burrito, taco, gordita or even breakfast cereal. The genius and perfection of this burrito comes with the addition of the avocado. It added a creamy, buttery smoothness so that each bite was ecstasy. Smothered under a simple, traditional and homemade green chile, it was simply one of the best burritos I have ever had.
We also ordered a couple tacos, which ended up being a little silly. The tacos were huge, came with two tortillas and each had enough meat to make two smaller, yet still pretty big tacos. They were good, especially, well, the avocado and pork one. But even the chicken taco was moist and fresh-tasting.
In retrospect, one pork and avocado smothered burrito will do you right, and a taco on top of it is just asking for trouble. My wife and I, however, are stubborn and careless eaters. Not knowing when we would return to Colorado Springs, we ordered the tres leches cake with toasted coconut. We did show some mild restraint and waited until driving home a couple hours later to eat it. It was, of course, equally large as both the taco and the burrito, and like the burrito was irresistible; moist and heavy and rich and thick with flavor.
I haven't had much food in Colorado Springs, but if there is a better burrito there, I might just pack up and move. I really can't say enough good things about it, so I'll stop now before I start really gushing. It is also worth mentioning that the family who runs the place is incredibly friendly and helpful, but just like the best of the family run places, they keep some odd hours. So get down there for lunch or before 7pm, and don't even think about showing up on a Sunday, you'll find that el Rey is resting.