Friday, June 29, 2012

Illegal Pete's

Pete Turner looks back on the early days of opening his first Illegal Pete’s with fondness. "Our “Mission-style” Mexican food comes from the Mission District of San Francisco and has been a part of Bay Area cuisine for many, many years," he says. "The style of food was a revelation to me - with the fresh grilled meats and freshly prepared sauces as well as just the hand-held, portable style of the food. I thought to myself "if I had this food in Boulder on The Hill when I went to school I would have eaten there all the time so I pursued it." Pete, armed with an English degree, opened his first restaurant on The Hill in Boulder on August 15th, 1995. The restaurant now has five Colorado locations with hopes to expand even further in the future.

The original Chipotle in Denver
Apparently the original Chipotle is in Denver near the University campus.  Opened in 1993, we really wanted to go to this location but were unable to make it out there this visit. Some locals recommended we check out Illegal Pete's for a Chipotle-esque experience.  We walked down the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver to find this restaurant packed with diners.  The counter set-up was very similar to Chipotle.  You go down the line telling the maker what items you like, pay, then take your food and find a seat.  Simple.  A difference, is that Illegal Pete's has its own full bar inside, and with happy hour specials going on you're bound to find a great deal to go with your meal.

Being huge Chipotle fans, Keith ordered a shredded beef taco and a chicken burrito.  The taco was small, but good enough for just a taste, as the burrito was his main meal.  Unlike Chipotle, while making the burrito at Illegal Pete's, they stir up the ingredients (rice, meat, salsa, cheese, etc) before wrapping up the burrito.  This was a little strange to Keith and he thought it actually may be a detriment to the flavors.  By mixing it all up, you cannot distinguish each layer.  Sometimes it is nice to get a bite of spicy chicken, followed by a cooling bite of sour cream and cheese. Regardless, he managed to eat the whole thing as usual.  I opted for something a bit different that is not available on the Chipotle menu - chicken nachos.  Topped with a watery, but spicy queso then layered with beans, chicken, sprinkle cheese, sour cream, salsa, and black olives, the nachos were so-so. The chips were soggy already on the bottom and I found the narrow bowl a bit cumbersome to eat out of.  If I were to return to Illegal Pete's I would order a taco or burrito instead.  Still, we prefer Chipotle anytime as they still beat out in service/speed, consistency, and overall taste. 

Total Rating: 3.15
Food: 3, Price: 3, Service: 3, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 4

What I ate:
Chicken Nachos
with queso cheese, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, black olives

Plus Keith ate:
Shredded Beef Taco

Chicken Burrito
with rice, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, cheese

Illegal Pete's on Urbanspoon

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