July 20, 2003 by

George E. Pappas


Categories: Business

Forty years ago,George E. Pappas smothered an overstuffed burrito with cheese and green chiles and gave it a brand name — the tacorito.

Pappas founded the Holly Inn restaurant in Denver, Colo., in 1960. The popularity of its main dish caused long lines to form outside the establishment, and led Pappas to trademark the entree’s name.

“Everybody makes big stuffed burritos now, but 40 years ago, they were unheard of,” said George’s nephew Michael A. Pappas.

Pappas died on July 7 from heart failure. He was 80.

26 Responses to George E. Pappas

  1. vikki buss

    I remember him from the time we first ate there 30 or more years ago — the best Tacorito, Enchiladas and Chile Rellanos in the entire united stated! We now live in Washington and I dream of eating at Holly West and seeing the big guy walking around or just sitting at the bar talking to patrons!
    I’d love to have the recipe so I don’t get so homesick — it was the best ever!


    i WAS MARRIED TO HIS COUSIN GEORGE PAPPAS 3-3-35 FROM 1969 TO 1985 MY NAME WAS DIANNA PAPPAS WE LIVED IN FT LAUDERDALE FLA I AM now divorce d and live in illinois he lives in reno nevadadjbonitzer rn bsn msn

  3. Karen J Thayer

    My husbancd & I lived in Denver,CO in 1974 & 75 and then again in 1980. We loved the Tacorito!! We now live in Memphis, TN. We have searched everywhere for a restaurant with the ‘original tacorito’ and finally found that there are only 2 restuarants in the world that have them. One is the Holly Inn in Wheat Ridge, Co. and the other one is La Fonda’s in Omaha, Nebraska, both originally opened and owned by George. We recently visited relatives in Denver and got to go to Holly Inn in Wheat Ridge and, we had our first Tacorito in 30 years!! It was just as awesome as ever!! While we were there I asked to see George several times, as we wanted to let him know how much we’ve missed having the Tacoritos and how wonderful they are! No one told us of his passing!! They just said he wasn’t there, but might be in later. ??

  4. Michelle Minick

    20 yrs ago I was pregnant with my daughter (she is at USC in LS now)…my craving was a Tacorito….my husband had them made, frozen, shipped in dry ice for me…I worked for HS yrs and yrs ago….my friend was just in Denver…had one sent to me over night….I still love them..I live in California..so I think u get my drift here….ty GP …don’t let the one last restaurant close..or…give me the info and I will open one here in SF…xoxox always the besrt to ur family…

  5. michelle Minick

    WOW I just talked to both the one in Wheatridge and Omaha..I am gonna get my Tacoritos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOHOOOOO. never let something u love so away….

  6. Mike Pappas

    This is all great to see so many people who were marked for life by the Tacorito and my Uncle George. One thing, don’t confuse his former partner and still the owner of the Holly West, that is George Apostalakis. He is still doing it right!

  7. Mary Ann

    George Pappas was a very gracious man as I remember him some 25 years ago when I worked for “him” in Omaha, Ne for nearly 2 years at La Fonda’s. I worked along side Debbie Korpela who was George’s confidente with how the businesss was going in Omaha while he lived and ran the headquarters from Denver. I thought of George as a father, who cared deeply for the people who he trusted and worked for him. I’ll never forget the Tacorito and every time George and Gary came to Omaha and how we lived it up!! especially when his hourse won an race at Aksarben. He was an indivdual that would give someone a second chance to prove himself.

  8. Larry West

    I worked for Pappas for many years at Holly Springs and La Fonda in the Springs and will never forget the tacorito or the Georges. Nor will any of my kids who grew up eating tacoritos. Please give George Apostalakis my best.
    Larry West
    Colorado Springs, CO

  9. Cindy Ray

    My mom, Bobbie Ray, waited tables for some years at the original Denver Holly, and my sister, Sue worked for George’s brother (Mike?) at the “Automatique”(?). We sometimes hung out with George’s kids Monica and Marlene (close to my age), and Georgie. I was just poking around online for information on the twins, and found the notice of George’s passing. I would love to hear from the girls!

  10. greg jackson

    I was a dishwasher at the original Holly Inn. It was a really fun atmosphere where all were part of a team. George was a larger than life personality regaling staff and patrons alike. Little George was always tending to the business and always respected the staff. Still a friend to this day (and the best Sinatra impresario I have ever seen Danny Wine would be out there bussing tables along with waitstaff Pat Moraeno, Big Karen keeping customers happy and Chris, Kenny, and Mike on Grill. And of course the prize was the much loved Tacorito. I love that dish and wish I knew where to get one today.

  11. Michael Kanas

    I remember as a young boy going to the original Holly Inn which was at Evans & Holly steet in Denver. I always had a Tacorito and a Guacamole Salad they were the greatest. If Uncle George was there he would always come sit with us and that was very special. Later as I got older I often stopped in the “Tacorito” restraurant at Monaco & Evans (which had replaced the original “Holly Inn”). If I was lucky I would find Uncle George Pappas and sometimes my Cousin Michael Pappas there in the lounge. It was a double treat for me. George Pappas had heart of Gold, and cousin Michael Pappas was quite close to him. There was an ambiance there that is hard to describe, but many others felt it too. It was not unusual to see many familiar faces having a meal and enjoying it too. The place was packed every time I went there. Somewhere in heaven I believe there are Tacoritos’ being served, and George Pappas right there with an amusing story or just a good word to cheer you up. It’s what he did so well for so many.

  12. Terry Dodson

    I rememmber Geo from when I first met him in or around 1968 and tacoritos where about $4. I left Denver in the 80’s but visit family every year.Before 9/11 I used to order them togo and they would hold the lettuce and sauce on the side and I would freeze them and carry them home on the plane and we would enjoy them a few days later, Not quite the same but still great.
    We still enjoy tacorito’s today. I have had the recept since the middle 70’s when a friend that was a cook in the wheatridge Holly Inn was fired and when’t to work at Coor’s. It was said that he orig.came up with the recept and was fired soon after and so the story goes. I guess only George would know. but we enjoy a great tacorito today.

    • Diane McWilliams

      Hey Terry. This is Diane McWilliams, Paul’s sister. I used to eat at Holly West all the time, I loved the tacorito. Do you care to share the recipe with me? I’ve been trying to find it for a very long time.

  13. Mike Pappas

    It is wonderful to read all these great tributes to my Uncle George! and the Tacorito!
    If you all can hold on until early 2008, I’ll have the recipe for all of you in the book “Pappas Family Secrets” written by my father Michael G Pappas, Goerges brother.
    We published it once, but they have been sold out since 2005.
    Hang in there!

  14. Bob Block

    Wow, I just found this blog. I discovered the tacorito, and met George, in the early-mid 70’s. I worked in an office building that was next door to the Holly Inn on Evans Ave. in Denver. A group of us ate tacoritos for lunch several times each week…I was addicted. When my company transferred me to Lincoln, Ne. I was astounded to find a La Fonda opening in the new (in about 1980)Centrum Mall. When George was there, he always sought me out for a chat about business, the old days, etc. Since 1989, I’ve been in N.J. and there is NOTHING here that even comes close. Did someone say that the tacorito can be shipped frozen??? PLEASE send details to bobblock@comcast.net

  15. Barbara Gage

    We really do miss the tacoritos. I read mention that early 2008 that Mr. Pappas’ cookbook “Pappas Family Secrets” would again be available. Are they out yet? Where can I find out? I would really like to get a copy. Mr. Pappas could really make a mean tacorito. They were to die for.

  16. michelle minick

    I wrote way back in regards to George and his Tacoritas…went to amazon to see if the book has been published which has the recipe..but alas..no luck. I would love to have the receipe as I have some health issues that wont keep me here too much longer, but man I would love a tacorita before its time…anyone have any info?

  17. Mark Jordan

    I have really fond memories of working at the Holly West location in WheatRidge while in High School (’81-’84). I only met George Pappas a handful of times, George Post was the owner…George Doukas the manager. Anyway, that place hopped, the Tacorito was incredibly popular…I even recall customers buying quart containers of the sauce. It really was special… R.I.P. George.

  18. mack vaughn

    It was sad to Hear about George’s death. I worked for him at the old Holly Inn,did breakfast at the Holly East, Vail, North and the La Fanda de Acubo (sp).I remember, the great waitresses, I was cooking so we did not always like each other during the ‘rush’, but friends before and after. And who could ever forget the quite times after closing, and his wonderful Christmas parties. If any one cares I still remember the formula for the Red Chile, if you want to make 20 gallon patch. George was a great guy, but I hated the Tacorita, I made over 200,000 of the damn things.

  19. Mack

    George was a hell of a guy. I worked for him at several of the Hollies starting at the old Holly Inn off and on from 72′ to 80′. Was always a fair boss. Who could ever forget his staff Christmas parties?

  20. Bruce

    I was teaching guitar classes in the Denver area in the mid 70’s. Every Monday, after my classes I would go to the Northglenn Holly where the staff would have Tecate on ice for me. On Thursdays I would go to the Holly on Evans. I would always order the Tocorito. I met George at the Evans location. Gathered from the staff that he was very good to them.

  21. Dave

    Wow, Do I remember those good ole days at the Holly Inns. I used to be a cook and worked at Holly Inn, Holly North, and the Holly West.(mostly Holly West) I remember those intense dinner rushes and the waiting lines that seemed to go on forever. Sometimes George would walk in the kitchen and smile at us and then leave. At dinner I used to have my broiler totally full of steaks and I would watch a guy named Dave make the mexican food plates at the speed of light!! And yes I miss those Tacoritos!! And the Christmas Parties were awsome!!!

  22. Monica Pappas/Adams

    I have enjoyed reading all the tributes to Daddy-Pappas. If anyone wants to send a personal message to me , my email adress is:
    Thanks, I’ve enjoyed all your memories!
    One of the Pappas twins

  23. kathy

    I just saw that the Holly West is closed. I have been going there since we moved to Applewood in 1969 When I was 10. I even had my rehearsal dinner there in 1984. I wish I had known it was closing, I would have gone for one last tacorita. They were the best. I went to that restaurant more times than any other restaurant, hands down. I will miss it.

  24. Peggy aka Hope

    My belated sincere condolences to the Pappas ohana!
    I also worked Holly Inn waiting tables and was one of the peeps who helped train and open the La Fonda in Omaha(?). I worked Holly West for a short time and then I got bumped to management and worked Holly North (had a crush on little George there too). I also was in management at La Fonda on Arapahoe Rd. I also was in management of the Lincoln La Fonda too.
    I always was a bit jealous of the twins but they were actually very nice peeps.
    I would LOVE to get a copy of that book if only for the memories. I had great fun working those restaurants. Geeze, I hate getting old, I’m 60 now! 😉

  25. Allison Judy Beckman

    I enjoyed working there back in the day with the long lines. My favorite the Tacorito and Fried Ice Cream, yum. RIpeace, Mr. Pappas.

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