Several families make up the traditional foods of Pueblo
As any city established over 130 years ago would be, Pueblo is full of history. From old churches and forts to historic railways and steel mills, Pueblo has built a strong history over the years. Part of that history is culinary as well.
Several establishments have withstood the test of time in Pueblo and with the success rate of restaurants being an abysmal 31 percent over three years to hang around over an extended period of time is remarkable.
Frank’s Meat Market
One such locale is Frank’s Meat Market on 2000 Santa Fe Drive. The brainchild of Frank Javornik Sr. and Edward J. Trontel in 1947, Frank’s Meat Market has not only remained a staple in Pueblo, but also within the family.
Sons of Slovenian immigrants, both Javornik and Trontel were meat cutters with a keen sense of familial traditions, among them meat.
“I don’t see a reason to go anywhere else for a good cut,” said Cynthia James, 51, who claimed she has been visiting Frank’s since moving her family to Pueblo from El Paso in the late 90s. “I’m not an adventurous woman, so I don’t stray too far from traditional cuts and flavors, but I have yet to receive a cut of meat that wasn’t ready to season and grill.”
One of the market’s specialties is the Klobase sausage, a Slovenian tradition in its own right. It doesn’t end there thought as the market also offers an array of meats, sausages, bacon, cheeses, luncheon meat and party trays.
“I enjoy the minute steaks, the filet mignon, top sirloin and pork chops,” James said. “My husband really enjoys the Klobase sausages and he’ll get spare ribs now and again on special occasions, because they are a great treat.”
Franks Meat Market is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays until 4 p.m.
Pass Key Restaurant
Speaking of sausage, no single location in the Centennial State has as much hoopla surrounding its Italian sausage like Pass Key Restaurant. The unassuming triangular-shaped building on 1901 Highway 50 West, has become a Pueblo tradition over the years, making its way into major publications.
With its Pass Key Special – an Italian sausage sandwich served simply on a mini loaf of bread with lettuce, mustard and mild peppers – the Pass Key Restaurant has been serving Puebloans and passers-by for 65 years.
Much like Frank’s Meat Market, Pass Key has remained in the Pagano family since John and Frank Pagano purchased the Pass Key Drive-In from their uncle in 1952.
“Having very little knowledge of the drive-in business, we were now businessmen learning from the ground up – the hard way,” John Pagano said. “We had to do the ‘car-hopping,’ waiting on tables, the clean up and cooking all by ourselves with a lot of help from our mother, Helen Pagano.”
Though the days of “car-hopping” faded into the 60s, the restaurant stayed strong, twice changing locations to open up its seating area to hungry patrons.
Pass Key Restaurant is open Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m.
Slopper at Gray’s Coors Tavern
The greatest Pueblo tradition, however, comes from the Slopper. An American knock-off of the Mexican Pambazo, the Slopper is: two grilled burger patties with American cheese served open-faced on a bun in a bowl – then smothered with either green or red chile and the option of onions and French fries on top.
Being a Pueblo tradition, there are several places that serve this feast made for sloppy royalty, but none have more notoriety than Gray’s Coors Tavern.
Located at 515 W 4th St. in downtown Pueblo, Gray’s Coors Tavern has been a Pueblo staple since it was purchased in 1934 (then under the name of Johnny’s Coors Tavern). Though not forlorn with family tradition, Gray’s Coors Tavern has only had two owners in that time frame and has been featured on the Travel Channel and Food Network.
Gray’s Coors Tavern is open daily from 11 to 2 a.m.