An approachable modern taqueria, Cochino Tacos is the brainchild of Johnny Ballen, co-owner of the Squeaky Bean. Some of the quirkiness that comes with Ballen's personality, well-reflected in his LoDo restaurant, is also present at Cochino, a place located in Englewood at 3495 South Downing in a former gas station that sat empty for four years.
The interior décor, on which Ballen collaborated with Shike Design, is contemporary, sprinkled with vintage treasures found or salvaged over the years. There are pieces of a Days Inn sign by the entrance, a prized retro Bevador cooler (one of those that has the bottle-like top) behind the bar, stools that came from an iconic dive at 32nd Avenue and Vallejo Street, colorful tiles sourced from a Boulder artist, old lamps from Rioja, and bathroom mirrors crafted from metal cabinets that came from Montrose. There are Jesus figurines and pig paraphernalia (in its literal non slang sense, cochino means pig) and a disco ball and a toy "taco truck" adding to the friendly vibe.
The menu, a collaboration with chef Julian Smith, formerly of Bol in Vail, is approachable and has broad appeal. There are, of course, tacos and many of them, five of which are focused around pork, some that feature beef, chicken or fish, and some that are vegetarian and vegan. But there are also salads and a burger and lighter appetizers like ceviche. Ballen's goal is to be neighborhood and family-friendly and to provide a solid option for those who find themselves in the neighborhood dominated by two hospitals.
The amber-hued bar displays a great selection of whiskeys and tequilas, the two spirits that are emphasized in the cocktail program. But make no mistake: The booze selection is broad and includes several things on tap, with a rose, a white wine, and a Malbec among them, plus beer, of course. Bonus: There will always be two frozen drinks available - a staple frozen Paloma and a rotating handle that makes its debut as Fernet with Orange Crush, in honor of the impending Broncos season.
With room for some 80 guests inside and an additional 48 on the patio, Cochino Tacos will open on Tuesday, August 30 for dinner service. Lunch and brunch will be added soon.