- Griffin Swartzell
- With a fried egg, La Cochinita journeys through textures.
Don't be fooled by the similar-looking, heatless Anaheim pepper. Real heirloom Pueblo and New Mexico green chilies burn, often viciously. When you make chile with the right ones, there's no need for jalapeños or habaneros to adulterate that fruity, earthy flavor that marries so timelessly with slow-roasted pork.
Johnny Galvan uses heirloom Barker's Hot chilies from Pueblo's Vigil farms, and the basis for his recipe comes from his mother, who honed hers in a food truck in Southern California. After six months earning loyalty in the Springs' north and east, his own purple-painted food truck, Johnny G's, finds itself in high demand, and that green chile is the biggest reason why.
Galvan mixes his peppers with garlic, onion, cumin and a few family-secret ingredients, blended and stewed with pork roast from Salida's Scanga Meat, for two hours minimum before service. It's a superlative green chile, and by superlative, I mean I would eat it at every meal and die fat, happy and free of sinus congestion — it brings the sweat without crossing the line into diaphragm spasms. Order any $6-to-$9 burrito or breakfast burrito "wet" — smothered in green chile and topped with sour cream, for $2 extra — or just get a $7 bowl to wallow in at home.
I first tried it on the breakfast-special More-Than-a-Mile-High Burrito, which combines ham steak with veggies, eggs, potatoes and cheese in a homemade flour tortilla that should put reigning tortilla king La Casita on notice. The filling augments the show-stealing chile with ham smoke and a textural gradient.
On the regular menu, La Cochinita, a burrito named for Mayan-style pit barbecue, features carnitas and bacon, and either mild green tomatillo salsa or hot roasted chile de árbol salsa, both pleasant. Topped with a fried egg for 75 cents more, it journeys through an array of textures, with crispy bacon and mushy beans offsetting the soft-but-substantial carnitas.
The house breakfast burrito comes with bacon or homemade chorizo made with lean ground pork. Though the chorizo lacks the low-flavor-spectrum punch of more traditional takes, the spice profile hits every note, and the meat doesn't ooze orange-red grease through the tortilla. But the chorizo spice defines this burrito's flavor profile — it could use stronger competition from that salsa. Or maybe some green chile...
Not content with simply making its own corn tortillas, Johnny G's actually makes its own masa. Try it fried nut-brown to stand up in the JUANachos, featuring chicken as protein. Co-owner/operator Chelsea Fuentez says they fry their chips extra heavily to stand up to the toppings, so go wet or go home. Even a 40-minute drive won't dissolve those chips.
Even without the heavy fry, the corn tortillas taste and feel much heartier than store-bought, like in the special Shoreside Tacos, which feature beautifully cooked shrimp, grilled pineapple, fresh onion and tomatoes, plus salsa and lime wedge. Though the pineapple's sweetness takes the lead, the lime juice and tomatillo in the shrimp marinade cut it enough for the onion and fresh cilantro to build a summer-ready bite.
Granted, the $7 price point for those two tacos may feel like a steel-toed cup check next to $8 forearm-sized burritos. But follow your gut. Between the local ingredients and the killer chile, you can count on Johnny G's gifting you spicy joy, whatever you order.