People will go to great lengths for the things they love — spending thousands on pet medical bills, driving halfway across the country for a Beyoncé concert, even agreeing to spend their entire lives with another human.
For Rob Toftness, the love is for chile once served at Breck on Blake. The great lengths are in his campaign to save it.
When Breck on Blake closed and the Cherry Cricket opened in its place, we reported it and, coincidentally, photographed a bowl of chile. Toftness saw the story and wrote me to jokingly suggest Denverite cover “this travesty of a chile conspiracy.”
We shared a laugh and moved on. But then Toftness followed up with a photo of him and his friend Chris with T-shirts for the cause, and I knew this was serious.
We sat down to talk about the chile over beers at the Ballpark Cherry Cricket on Friday. I know that as I journalist I should remain impartial, but I left feeling pretty fired up about his cause.
Denverite: How’s it going?
Rob Toftness: Good!
Denverite: Those are pretty good shirts.
RT: The other one says “Not my chili. #MakeChiliGreatAgain.” He (his friend) took the more controversial one of the two.
Denverite: Is it just two of them or do you have a whole…
RT: No. I’ve been coming down here for like five years, I live right next door. Another regular also came down and ate this chile religiously, so we’re always talking about it like weirdos.
Denverite: That’s great. I love that. So tell me about what actually happened — when you learned it was going to change over, when you decided to do this. Give me the play-by-play.
RT: So this place was originally Breckenridge Brewery and that was before my time, then it became Breckenridge Colorado Craft and that’s when I started to come down. And they just had this chile on that I would come down and eat all the time. You don’t want to sit there and eat burgers every night. Then when they changed over [to the Cherry Cricket], they were training at the original Cricket and I went out and one of my buddies that works there was like, “Oh by the way, they’re gonna be taking the chile from the Cricket.” I was like, “That’s not good.” So myself and the other regular, his name is Chris, we had the kitchen manager make us batches of this stuff. I had a gallon of it and he ordered two gallons. And then I got a text from my buddy that was like, “They’re not going to be keeping the original chile.” I was like, “This is the worst thing you could tell me right now.”
Denverite: I get that. I’m that way about City Grille’s chile. So did you call? Did you email?
RT: I’ve been talking to as many of the people here as I can. Most of them are fairly powerless, right? But I went to opening day and one of my buddies was there and used to be a bartender her,e and he was pretty happy that day, but we cornered one of the Cricket people in the stands at Coors Field and were just like, “That chile is awesome. You need to keep that on.” And she said, “I’m just the accountant, I don’t make these decisions.” But we just told anyone who would listen. It seems a little weird to be this obsessed about something on a menu but… yeah.
Denverite: Yeah. How often were you eating it, like, a week?
RT: At its peak, it was probably four or five nights a week. It was pretty bad.
Denverite: What was it about the chile? Can you put your finger on it?
RT: Well it’s kind of that thicker chile, really good chunks of pork in it. Sometimes, you go to other places and it’s more of a soup. This was — you could make a meal out of this. It was different than anywhere else in town.
Denverite: That sounds great. Other than that one person you kind of cornered, has there been any response at all?
RT: Some of the people that stayed on from the old place are fans of the old one. They all would prefer, I think, for the old one to come back. You have to be careful because the Cricket’s an institution, right? And they’re real proud of theirs, too. Sorry, the old one was better.
Denverite: So what happens next?
RT: Well I’ve heard through the grapevine that they’ve done taste tests and everybody was in agreement that, yeah, that was better. One time, apparently, they made it and they used it as a green chile on the burrito that they have on the menu. So Chris came down and ordered just that. Like, a bowl of it. Wasn’t even on the menu. So I think people are starting to hear about it. There was a Yelp! review that was posted and someone was like, “Did Rob write that?” So they know that I’m agitating, and we’ll see what happens.
Denverite: Are you going to make more T-shirts, do you think?
RT: Oh I would definitely print more of them. Absolutely. So, Wednesday was calling Cory Gardner’s office for Net Neutrality stuff and today it’s green chile. You have to have a cause.
Denverite: Equal levels of importance, I’d say.
So… it’s working.
A representative for the Cherry Cricket tells me they’ve heard of Toftness and his campaign and are considering brining back the Breck chile recipe.
There are some things they need to work through and discuss, but when they come do a decision, we’ll let you know here.
Do you have a favorite dish that disappeared, either because the restaurant took it off the menu or because the restaurant closed? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about it. This is my thing now.