“It was very nostalgic for him,” said Chet Wallenstein, Allen’s personal chef and frequent dining companion. “It reminded him of those early days of Microsoft.”
The software giant was founded by Allen and his childhood friend, Bill Gates, in New Mexico in 1975, and operated there until relocating to the Northwest at the end of 1978. That productive time in Albuquerque was the beginning of Allen’s long love affair with that part of the world.
Wallenstein said: “Paul loved the Southwest. He used to say that being around those red rocks helped him relax and think.”
So, when Allen needed a dose of inspiration, he’d often head to New Mexico, and Duran’s was typically the first stop. His go-to order was the Hatch green chili enchilada, a tamale with red chili sauce, a flour tortilla on the side.
But this isn’t your typical flour tortilla. It’s hand-rolled to order, arriving at the table toasty and warm, a pat of butter on the side. The exceptional tortilla is slightly thicker than most flour tortillas, giving it the strength to transport some of the vibrant, from-scratch chili sauce from the plate to the mouth, no spills along the way.
It was Duran’s homey fare that helped inspire Allen’s final passion project, a restaurant in Southern Utah. Rosita’s Santa Fe Kitchen made its debut near Zion National Park late last year, not long after Allen passed away in October.
It’s a deeply delicious tribute to Allen, who owned a ranch nearby. “He had a hand in everything about the place, from the menu development to putting a taco on the sign out front,” said Wallenstein. “Someone who knew him well said that when he walked into Rosita’s it was like being in Paul’s head.”
When diners arrive at the former fruit stand on the outskirts of Springdale, Utah, there’s nothing that shouts “Paul Allen created this place because he loved this food and this region.” However, while standing in line to order at the counter, customers might notice a framed photo on the wall of Allen and his beloved dog, Rosie. Yup, the place is named after his faithful companion.
Must-try dishes at Rosita’s include the Christmas Chicken, served with both red and green chili sauce, the massive, slow-roasted beef rib, a ground beef taco, as well as a stellar version of posole, the pork and hominy stew. The green chili cheese burger is another standout. All the fare is lovingly prepared by chef de cuisine Aaron Sanchez, and his team. Every meal should definitely end with another dish Allen adored: soft serve ice cream and a slice of fresh-baked pie.
Rosita’s is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and will start serving breakfast beginning Feb. 1.