REVIEW: Illegal Pete’s brings good drinks, food and to the Fort Collins dining scene. |

REVIEW: Illegal Pete’s brings good drinks, food and to the Fort Collins dining scene.

Shannon Teslow
For Windsor Now!

Shannon Teslow

At first glance, Illegal Pete's may look like just another fast food, casual gourmet Mexican restaurant.

It's larger than most, but it still has the watch as your food is made, assembly line-style set up.

What I like and respect about Illegal Pete's, and frankly what sets them apart from many of their competitors, is their commitment to very high quality, local ingredients. In fact, Pete's only uses all-natural, antibiotic-free, hormone-free meats from Niman Ranch, a company committed to humane and sustainable ranching practices. They also feature all-natural, preservative-free tortillas, including a whole wheat option. In addition, nothing is pre-made.

What really makes Illegal Pete's a stand out though is its excellent downtown Fort Collins location and rooftop patio. In the summer, it's tough to beat this spot for enjoying a margarita and some good Mexican food.

This is where my husband and I, along with some friends, landed the other night on a beautiful summer evening. Having a bar upstairs is a plus, keeping the commuting to get drinks to a minimum.

While the traditional margarita is good, I found the fresher lime taste of the Coin margarita top notch. My friend, Christine, gave a thumbs-up to the Bloody Mary, which was medium spicy and loaded with fresh tomato flavor.

Recommended Stories For You

Pete's homemade chips and salsa are first-rate. We all liked the medium Salsa Verde and Chili-corn salsa, which had just the right kick. For maximum-heat lovers, rumor has it that the House Hot will put you in tears.

Anything made with Pork Carnitas is excellent here. Their "3-Cap" slow braising process uses three bottles of real Mexican coke along with orange juice and secret spices. The flavor is outstanding and the meat is especially moist.

I tried both the Pork Carnitas Burrito ($6.99) and the Pork Carnitas salad ($7.29) and can't decide which one I liked better. Both come with beans, rice, guacamole, cheeses, sour cream and, in the case of the salad, tomatoes, bell peppers and an excellent cilantro ranch dressing.

The chicken burrito ($6.79) is also very good but it doesn't have quite the flavor that the pork carnitas brings to the table. What is unique about all burritos at Pete's is the fact that they mix the filling ingredients before they fold the burrito. Brilliant! No more gobs of sour cream in one end and none in the other.

The Fish Tacos ($6.99 for 3) are excellent as well. The key ingredients are the super soft corn tortillas that don't fall apart while you're eating them, the beer battered, lightly fried fish fillets and the wonderful creamy white sauce used to accent the fish. A little bit of crunchy cabbage and salsa fresca completes the meal.

I'm a big guacamole fan and pay extra attention to any Mexican restaurant's version when I'm dining out. Beyond enjoying it with chips before the meal, I will add it to everything I order so I highly value it as a key ingredient. I was pleased to find that Illegal Pete's guacamole is quite good. It's obviously made in-house and relies on simple, fresh avocados and a minimum of seasonings.

Good drinks, good food and good friends on a roof with a view is quite simply a really good time. Illegal Pete's brings all of it to the Fort Collins dining scene.

Illegal Pete’s

ADDRESS: 320 Walnut St, Fort Collins

TELEPHONE: (970) 999-3051

HOURS: 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to midnight Sundays.

BREAKFAST HOURS: 7 to 10:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. RATING (out of four stars): Three Stars