It’s the year 2018 and pan-Latin dim sum is now a thing in Denver. Chef Dana Rodriguez, of Work & Class fame, on Tuesday rolls out her color-popping carts in the dining room of Super Mega Bien. The new disruptor of a restaurant is located at The Ramble Hotel, on the corner of 25th and Larimer streets.
“Don’t forget to eat with your eyes,” reads the menu of “big food” or $30 shared plates to be enjoyed along with the rolling $3-$11 dim sum. Dishes come from Rodriguez’s native Mexico as well as from Central and South America. Along with the room’s decor, they are a feast for all the senses. “So everything here is more big and better than good,” Rodriguez says, laughing. She got the idea for her second restaurant’s name from a line cook at her first restaurant, Work & Class. He made a habit of answering the question “How are you doing?” with a response along the lines, “Super mega ultra fucking bien!” or some variation thereof.
“And I’m like, no, that’s way too long,” Rodriguez says, still laughing. But Super Mega Bien was the perfect name for a place that’s all about being “happy here.”
For Rodriguez, who emigrated from Chihuahua and worked her way up from dishwashing, creating a culture in which employees stick around to become managers and general managers or sous chefs and head chefs “is the whole idea.” At Super Mega Bien, she has partnered with Work & Class co-owner Tony Maciag and longtime employee Tabatha Knop. Most restaurateurs just think about multiples of locations, Rodriguez says. “But we have a really great culture with our people, and they are in love with us, and we love them and wanted to do another place so they can grow up with us.”
All of this love is translated for the customer in splashy floor tiles and wall-to-wall Brazilian street posters (also celebrity appearances from Bruce Lee to Charo). Hovering above the room is a wood art installation that literally brings the house down. Then come those primary-colored carts that squeeze in just right between the tables. It’s an immediate cultural conversation starter: Peruvian leche de tigre ceviche atop Mexican tostadas; Peking roasted and honey-glazed duck with escabeche and gorditas. “Asian food and Mexican food have a lot of things in common,” Rodriguez says of the Latin and dim sum combination. “Even though our cultures are different, we wanted to put something together that can glue all of those ideas.”
But Rodriguez is the real glue of the place. At Work & Class, the motto is “a square meal, a stiff drink, and a fair price.” For Super Mega Bien’s three-day, test-run extravaganza last week, lucky fans got the chance to try out the restaurant for free, and a few spots were also saved for friends and family. Throughout the night, groups of diners passed around bottles of sangria verde or purple corn punch as they dipped into the dim sum plates.
Fellow restaurateurs like Beth Gruitch and Jen Jasinski, who got Rodriguez her start in Colorado, walked in to receive super warm staff embraces. Towards the end of the evening, a Super Mega employee sat down to dinner with his grandparents and received the VIP treatment — house caldo de piedra (or hot stone stew), a platter of slow-roasted pork shoulder, and more entrees. “I worked the last two nights, and they gave me today off to come in and enjoy it,” he said, the grandparents smiling so very big with excitement.
Status: Super Mega Bien opens for dinner, dim sum, and drinks from 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, at 1260 25th Street. For more information, follow the team on Facebook or head to the restaurant’s website.