Shared from the 7/11/2018 Tri-Lakes Tribune eEdition

ON THE TABLE

The best Mexican food, a family affair

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Arlene’s Beans continues to grow as more folks discover its uncompromising fare. Photo by Micah Redfield

ARLENE’S BEANS

366 2nd St., Monument arlenesbeans.com 344-5370

Lunch Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Dinner Hours: Thursday 4-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 4-11 p.m.

Prices: $3.25-$14.99.

What you need to know: The best Tex-Mex in the Pike Peak region is produced by a local family who refuses to cut any corners.

“I have always been around family who loved to be in the kitchen making the best food,” reminisces Arlene Padilla, owner and operator of Arlene’s Beans. Family and heritage are the two most commonly sighted inspirations for success in the kitchen, and Padilla can boast of both. Coming from a family who grew their own produce and beans in Mexico, Padilla’s mother spent the 1970s working in a chili factory, passing along to her daughter a wealth of culinary knowledge.

“As an adult, I followed my mother’s footsteps,” said Padilla. “The rush and love that I have felt from cooking and sharing with others is in my blood. It is a gift and experience of joy when I watch someone take that first bite and watch them nod their happy face.”

But professional chef was not always Padilla’s title. “My husband, Bobby, spoiled me as a stay at home mother for nearly 20 years,” she said. But it was within these decades of domestic life that the seed of culinary entrepreneur germinated. “I would treat our children’s teachers with samples of salsas, pico de gallo, soups, burritos, tamales, Mexican and Italian casseroles and desserts. Teacher appreciation day and holidays could never come fast enough for me.”

When their oldest graduated from Lewis-Palmer High School, Padilla decided to host a party. “We invited 170 guests hoping to get at least half. 160 guests RSVP’d. Our street has never seen that many cars in the 10 years we had been here.”

This is where beans — the other half of the restaurant’s name — came into play. With party leftovers, Padilla and her daughters prepared burritos for an annual community garage sale.

“We sold 60 bean and cheese burritos, and some with green chili. I also had Mason jars with my salsa. The burritos went for $1 each in less than 1 ½ hours. I was hooked,” said Padilla. Customers were so impressed that some demanded she charge more. Others requested bulk orders. “It was like wild fire after that,” she said.

“Our Palmer Lake community had embraced us from day one until the very last day,” Padilla said of the Arlene’s Bean’s 13 months in Palmer Lake. “They knew we needed more cooking space. The high volume of customers was not expected in such a short time.”

Today, the packed restaurant can be found at their new location in Monument where the entire family continues to pitch in, making the best Tex-Mex you’ll find there.

“My motto is God, family, football.”

It’s the first two that have led and inspired Padilla’s runaway success with her namesake restaurant. And it’s her take-noshortcuts approach to cuisine that has solidified this success. “My family never made anything with shortcuts, everything was always made from scratch,” she said.

Such an unrelenting work ethic is clearly demonstrated in Padilla’s cooking, especially her chili and salsa. “My red chili is made from New Mexico Hatch red chili pods. It is a process: pods are inspected, tails come off and rinsed. It is actually vegan and gluten free. My green chili is roasted Hatch, from New Mexico. It is not your usual Colorado green chili, made with a flour roux, pork chunks and tomatoes.”

Such singular dedication is evident. Don’t be fooled by the typicality of the ambience and menu. Even the $5 margarita forgoes the fake sweet-and-sour mix, sticking to fresh lime juice.

This family-run eatery pulls all stops and refuses to cut a single corner in their production of what can only be the finest Tex-Mex in the Pikes Peak region.

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