Part of the fun of exploring new places is checking out funky little joints for food – and I’m not talking about gourmet dinners at fancy hotels, although that’s a nice splurge.
Austin computer guru and bicyclist Tony Fryer steered us toward a place called the King’s Chef Diner, an unassuming little purple castle at 110 East Costilla Street in Colorado Springs. The Colorado diner opened in 1956, and today its purple turrets lure in hungry visitors who like giant servings of greasy spoon fare.
Gary Geiser, who bought the place in 1997, was manning the counter when my husband and I wandered in during a road trip this week. The place is tiny inside, with six or eight bar stools along a curved counter. (Indoor seating is closed during Covid, so we sat outside at a table on the sidewalk.)
Geiser told us that the Valentine Company, a Kansas-based company that built pint-sized, pre-fab diners around the country back in the 1950s, built this one. It’s one of eight still in existence today – and the only one Valentine ever custom built to resemble a castle.
It’s been painted purple since Geiser bought it in 1997, but before that it did turns coated in shades of pink and – to coincide with the Bicentennial in 1976 – red, white and blue.
We ordered the homemade green chile, for which the place is known. It’s made with chiles grown on a 5-acre plot down the highway near Pueblo.
Let me tell you that this year’s chiles are hot. The chile arrived with a giant flour tortilla, cut in half and rolled. That helped temper the heat that built on my tongue like a slow-burning jar of Sterno, but it was so good I pressed on through the sting.
Geiser, who stood outside and chatted with us for 20 minutes as we ate, gave us a jar of chile as a gift to take home with us. You can also buy the chile at King Sooper grocery store in Colorado, or online through Amazon.
Geiser says the diner gets lots of regulars, and joked that coming here for food is like riding a moped – you don’t really want anyone to know you’re doing it. People sneak over on the down low, he says.
But it’s great. Stop by. Order the green chile, and wait for the burn.
It’s worth it.