The restaurant review goes old-school this week, coming to you from the Pass Key on Abriendo Avenue. The menu inside this revered eatery would have you believe that eating a Pass Key sandwich is as much of a Pueblo tradition as going to the Bell Game or playing basketball at “the slabs.” That legacy has been earned through decades of serving arguably Pueblo’s finest Italian sausage sandwich.The “original” Pass Key sits at 518 E. Abriendo Ave., on the corner of Abriendo and St. Louis. The triangular building is well lit and offers seating in booths, tables or at the counter. Some antique keys are displayed over the counter, and the place has an intimate, used-but-not-abused feel about it.
Most Pass Key regulars don’t even bother looking at the menu and go straight for the Pass Key special. It’s a slightly spicy, perfectly filling Italian sausage sandwich. The special is highly customizable, and can be ordered with American, Swiss or Provolone cheese, mild peppers, and chips or french fries. The fries vary from being nice and crispy to a little limp, but the main focus of the dish is the sandwich.
Although the sausage is, as one would expect, a touch on the spicy side, it’s never hot and disagreeable. The bun sometimes comes out of the kitchen looking a little squished, but the taste is really what matters.
The super Pass Key special is also noteworthy; it’s a regular special, but has all three kinds of cheese melted on top of the meat. It’s a little much for most mortals, but cheese lovers and extremely hearty eaters will probably fall in love.
Most customers have their exact special planned out before arriving, but for first-timers looking to make a good selection, a special with Provolone and fries works well.
Pass Key doesn’t limit itself to just Italian sausage. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fried chicken sandwiches, chili burgers, dutch lunches, grilled cheese sandwiches and onion rings are all menu items as well. Soups, salads and chili bowls are also available.
Still, most people go to Pass Key for the special. Puebloans from all walks of life frequent the three Pass Key restaurants in the city of Pueblo. Some vary in name, but all are family owned, and the food remains the same from restaurant to restaurant.
Service is usually good at Pass Key. And even at peak times, the waiters and waitresses always provide adequate table service and food delivery times are prompt. Food is also available for carry-out, and customers are welcome to phone their orders in ahead-of- time for pick-up.
Prices are well-suited to the everyman budget. A special with fries will cost you around $6 and most of the other sandwiches come for less than $4, even with chips. A total meal for two, with drinks, would probably be around $15. Customers are welcome to order just a half Pass Key special, helping to cut costs for lighter eaters.
Verdict: Pass Key is a special place in the hearts of many Puebloans. The restaurants are true representations of Pueblo’s culture, and benefit from a product that hasn’t changed much over the years. More importantly, the food, specifically the special, is tried and true, and absolutely delicious.
The north side Pass Key is conveniently located at 1901 W. US Highway 50 — just a short jaunt from campus and is certainly worth a first-time trip on the merit of the Pass Key special alone.
4.5 stars out of 5
Address: 518 E. Abriendo Ave.
Phone number: 719-546-1850
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
CLOSED Sunday and Monday