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Carne asada tacos at Tacos Navarro in Bessemer, Colo. (Photo PULP)

Pairing Taquerias with Historic Taverns in Bessemer, Colorado

A few months ago I embarked on what very well might have been Pueblo’s first recorded taco crawl. Over the course of several hours spent at the epicenter of taco-dom here in town — namely the stretch of East 4th Street just past the Fountain Creek that plays host to Tacqueria Marquez, Taco Stop, and Vasquez Taco Shop — I sampled tacos ranging from the routine (chorizo, pastor and carne asada) to the more exotic (tripitas, lengua and crispy chicharron).

But there are far more places to get a good taco in Pueblo, and I wanted to pay a few more a visit. Which was why, one sweltering Saturday afternoon, I and my party of loyal companions found ourselves once more in search of ridiculous numbers of tacos. This time we walked a triangle around the eastern end of Bessemer, another hotbed of authentic Mexican food in Pueblo.

And, it being a hot day, we decided to throw some alcohol into the mix as well.

Most people don’t walk around neighborhoods like Bessemer if they don’t have to, but honestly, once you do it can be hard to see why. No one in my party felt at all concerned for their safety over the course of the journey. As was true with the establishments on the East Side, sometimes the best food can be found where many would least expect it — in neighborhoods that show a healthy amount of wear and tear.

Our first stop was Tacos Navarro, a longtime favorite of Steel Mill workers and families from within the surrounding neighborhoods. Tucked away inside a former home, the place can be difficult to find if you’re not specifically looking for it, and even more difficult to find parking if you are. Don’t worry if you’re having trouble finding a spot; much of the traffic here is made up of quick come-and-go visits of people on their lunch breaks, so you’ll likely land a good spot after not too long.

The loyalty of Navarro’s die-hard fans is well-earned, as anyone will discover soon after placing their order with the cashier in the back of the restaurant. The tacos (and other dishes) are quick, affordable, and come in a wide variety of flavors. My favorites are the barbacoa, fish and, surprisingly enough, tacos de buche (pork stomach). As a side-note: I’m not at all a cilantro fan, but I absolutely adore Navarro’s salsa verde, almost as much as their “extremely spicy” red sauce.

Much like Papa John’s, Tacos Navarro adorns all of their taco dishes with a single pepper in the center of the dish. Unlike Papa John’s, this is no mere pepperoncini. Consume it at your own risk (I certainly did.)

As we left the taco shop at the intersection of Northern and Santa Fe with full stomachs, we went to cool down over a few pints of beer at Eiler’s Place, a beloved neighborhood bar across the street from St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Mesa Ave. The walls of this venerable establishment (which just celebrated its 86th-anniversary last month) are decorated with pictures from its past, including more than a few colorful snapshots from their annual Klobase sausage races. Yes, you read me correctly. Sausage races. It’s a thing.

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Our next stop would have been Tacos N Tento on the corner of Evans and Mesa, had the place not been closed and boarded up. Always a bad sign. Instead, we stopped over at Gus’ Tavern for another round of beer.

For those who don’t already know, Gus’ is considered the oldest bar in Pueblo. It’s been around since 1933 and has played host to country music stars, professional boxers, and more Denver Broncos and Colorado politicians than anyone can readily name. On three separate occasions, it received a special distinction from Ripley’s Believe It or Not for having a better beers-served-to-seating ratio than any other bar on the planet. Feel free to whip that one out the next time someone says Pueblo isn’t known for anything cool.

The usual thing to get at Gus’ is the Dutch Lunch — a build-your-own-sandwich situation consisting of a platter of ham, salami, capicola and cheese that’s perfect for parties and large group gatherings. Today, we simply rested after our walk, enjoyed a few schooners and pints of Dos Equis, and prepared to carry on.

After all — there was one more stop on our journey.

What goes better with tacos and a hot day than a cold pitcher of beer? Only industrial-strength margaritas from Jorge’s Sombrero, of course. Few places in town — dare I say the world? — can go toe-to-toe with Jorge Ayala’s head-spinning margaritas, a fact that made this Evans Street mainstay a must-visit on our journey and a perfect place to top off our quest. Pair one of those with an order of chorizo tacos, and let’s just say we all wished we had made Jorge’s the start of the adventure, at least for the sake of our designated drivers.

While not part of the taco walk, El Rodeo Meat Market (same building as Tacos N Tento) on Evans is worth a mention and a stop if you want to skip the walking and just cook up your own tacos with their carne asada and pork carnitas.

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