Tuesday, 4 Oct 2022

This legendary green chile-and-beer spot will give you a taste of Colorado like no other – The Denver Post

Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we will offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems). 

I wasn’t alive in the 1940s. But every time I watch “The Godfather,” I still get nostalgic for a time and place I never experienced. The same could be said for Gray’s Coors Tavern. I didn’t grow up or live in Pueblo in any decade, but walking into this living piece of history makes me feel like I did.

In which era? Maybe all of them. Gray’s Coors Tavern, at 515 W. 4th St. in Pueblo, is a must-stop for anyone who wants to revel in a piece of Colorado’s past.

The photos on the walls date back generations, telling the story of how Gray’s began its life as Johnnie’s Coors Tavern in 1934, the year after Prohibition ended. Although Colorado liquor laws at the time mostly prohibited breweries from operating their own bars — a vestige of the lawless days before Prohibition when that had been the norm — some verbal (and written) histories of Gray’s say that Adolph Coors worked with a few of his distributors and other businessmen around the state to put the family name above the doors of a few saloons.

In Pueblo, that businessman was Johnnie Greco, who ran Johnnie’s Coors Tavern for the next 50 years, building it into a favorite for locals.  In 1983, Greco sold it to Don Gray and his uncle, Gary Gray, who kept things almost exactly the same as they’d been, aside from a slight change to the name.

Which means that Coors beer, and a lot of Coors, is what you’re going to find there. The best way to order one: in an icy cold schooner,  something fit for the real king of beers.

Sit at the long bar or in one of the divided booths, and chunky plastic menus will lay out the rest of your options, primarily burgers and sandwiches, including Pueblo’s famous sausage and pepper hoagies. But for most diners, there is only one correct choice: the Slopper, an open-faced, double cheeseburger smothered in green chile (Pueblo-grown), in a bowl with a spoon.

The Slopper has a couple of different origin stories, but very few people would argue that it was created anywhere but at Gray’s at some point in the 1950s. Today, you can find Sloppers at a variety of Pueblo eateries — and it is perhaps (or should be officially designated as) Colorado’s signature dish.

But it’s the photos on the walls and the sports memorabilia, mostly of the Denver Broncos, covering almost every square foot that lend Gray’s its timeless aura.

They make me feel at home, as if I’d grown up eating a Slopper at Gray’s every day. Calendars going back decades, team photos, signed posters, neon signs, beer ads, old schedules and so much more. It’s the kind of outward dedication to something that attests to a deep inner pride. In this case, a pride for Colorado and for Pueblo.

Sit for a few minutes at Gray’s, and you can feel it, too.

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