There's a certain charm that comes with feeling like your watch has been set back 20 years. And that's inevitable when visiting the post-industrial, somewhat defeated landscape 40 miles to our south.
Many Pueblites still haven't fully shaken the kicked-dog feeling from the walloping they received in the 1980s recession. But Pueblo is on the cultural rise. On the food scene in particular, it's managed to bolster a few gems and attract some truly stellar newcomers.
As importantly, it's full of colorful dives sporting good, cheap Southwestern eats. With their seeming lack of regard for dcor and presentation just a focus on good food these restaurants constitute classic Pueblo.
And A and D's Natural Dining is classic Pueblo.
Walk into five-month-old A and D's (named for mother-daughter team Amber and Debra Nieto) and you might feel as though you've entered the empty husk of a small health food store because that's precisely what it is.
In half the space that was formerly Ambrosia Natural Foods, the Nietos have placed four tables with plastic chairs, flanked by an ordering counter extending into a long, open prep space lined with refrigerators. In the room's other half, masked partly by dividers, old cash registers sit alongside boxes and a few dry-storage items. An ancient boom box, bearing its spindles through a missing cassette tape slot, fills the otherwise vacant space with country music.
Suffice it to say, A and D's is no charmer visually. But what it lacks in beauty, it compensates for in taste, serving largely organic, gluten- and wheat-flexible, healthy food.
"Pueblo didn't have anything like this," says Amber.
A and D's menu, adjusted with Wite-Out and highlighters, details lists of smoothie ingredients (fruits, milks and sweeteners), add-ins (flax, hemp, psyllium, whey, Acai and more) and raw juice options. For breakfast, there's oatmeal and granola with fruit options and a breakfast burrito with turkey sausage. At lunch, Southwestern flavor rules with veggie, fajita, quesadilla or bean and cheese wraps and bowls, again with options like all-natural chicken and buffalo. Salads, daily soups and a single dessert item an empanadita wrap of cream cheese, agave syrup and fruit round out the menu.
The only thing to top $5 (before add-ons) is the 16-ounce, four-fruit smoothie; everything's generously priced, considering the organic ingredients.
At breakfast, we tried a ginger-sharp veggie juice, two loaded smoothies with Solar Roast coffees and Anaheim chili-spiced breakfast burritos on rice and spelt tortillas. The liquid offerings, hard to botch with a good juicer and Vita-Mix blender, were delicious and ingredient-heavy (versus ice-filled). The egg, potato, cheddar and sausage burritos, heated like giant tacos on a panini grill, needed a side order of salsa, but otherwise were as tasty as a home-cooked Sunday breakfast. Strawberry and pineapple empanaditas delivered considerable sweetness inside the chewy tortillas.
For lunch to-go, we picked a slightly dry turkey fajita stuffed with sauted onions and bell peppers and a cheddar-rich and nicely spiced chicken quesadilla. A simple veggie bowl of green beans, asparagus, zucchini and broccoli over brown rice with garlic and onion seasoning and a touch of spice topped us off.
All said, if you approach A and D's as you would a healthy friend's pantry expecting no frills, but warmth and quality ingredients you'll walk away satisfied for cheap.