The days when most Americans misconstrued Mexican food as just combo plate after combo plate after combo plate are over. While Denver’s full of places to go for a multi-regional sampler in one sitting — LOLA Coastal Mexican and Garibaldi Mexican Bistro come to mind — its restaurants increasingly highlight the regional diversity of Mexican food, from the tortas of Mexico City to the distinctive sushi rolls of Sinaloa. Here are a few that hone in on a single specific tradition.Read More
Where to Find Mexican Specialties in Denver
Know your tlacoyos from your tlayudas
Tortas A Todo Madre
Speaking of Mexico City: Though the marvels of hand-held construction that are tortas likely weren’t invented here, CDMX has become their unofficial headquarters, with vendors on every corner hawking sandwiches whose enormity and array of fillings are unmatched elsewhere. And though singling out Tortas A Todo Madre is a bit of a cheat, in that it purportedly specializes in Juarez-style food (including hamburguesas), this Berkeley gem certainly makes its tortas in the spirit of the Ciudad. Glorious case in point: the torta Cubana, a tower of power with crispy diced beef, breaded ham, hot dogs, cheese, avocado, and much more.
When it comes to street food, Mexico City’s right up there with Hong Kong and Shanghai for world-class diversity. The family who owns this three-branch longtimer hails from the capital south of the border and celebrates its vibrant foodways with an array of specialties that include huaraches — thickish masa “flatbreads” topped with everything from chorizo to cactus — and their close cousins, bean-stuffed tlacoyos, as well as various alambres: mixed meat-and-veggie grills accompanied by homemade corn tortillas. (Pictured is the alambre al pastor — a dish that owes its entire existence to Mexico’s Arab immigrants, whose influence on meat cookery shows in the prefix “al.”)
The family who runs this Jefferson Park fixture hails from Puebla, where local forces prevailed over an attempted invasion by the French in 1862. But the European influence lingers on in the region’s cuisine, as with its affinity for crepes. You’ll find them in savory and sweet incarnations at Chili Verde, along with several other Pueblan claims to culinary fame — most notably the chocolate-tinged, sesame seed–sprinkled mole poblano and the beef-stuffed chile en nogada, distinguished by its use of walnuts and fruits both fresh and dried.
Zocalito Latin Bistro
Zocalito’s Michael Beary served as Aspen’s ambassador to Oaxacan cuisine for years, not only as a chef but also as an importer of its native chiles. His relocation to the CBD hasn’t changed his focus: The menu abounds in the pasillas, chilhuacles, chilcosles, and more that he uses in everything from spice rubs to the moles for which Oaxaca is famous. For sheer complexity of flavor, Beary’s sliced skirt steak in dark, chocolatey mole negro is an absolute must, as are the remarkably complex pasillas rellenas.
SOL Mexican Cocina | Cherry Creek
Chef and cookbook author Deborah Schneider has devoted much of her career to exploring the cuisine of the Baja California peninsula, abundant in seafood and laced with Mediterranean influences from up the coast. If the Cherry Creek outpost of SOL Mexican Cocina is rather posh by the standards of Taco Tuesday habitués, they can rest assured that that’s not out of keeping with the dining scene in the region itself as they dig into shellfish dishes galore and Ensenada-style taco platters — washed down with wine from the Valle de Guadalupe.
El Coco Pirata
Never mind the social-media haters who complain about slow service. With the right mindset, this Sinaloan seafood specialist is a blast, serving up myriad heaping platters of ceviche, molcajetes brimming with mariscos, and lots more — including Sinaloan-style sushi rolls (yes, that’s a thing, and it’s not to be missed). Even the micheladas come loaded with shrimp and oysters.
Tarasco’s New Latino Cuisine
Chef Noe Bermudez’s Federal Boulevard fixture (and its Westwood sibling, Kahlo’s) stands out from the taqueria pack in two ways: one, it’s vegetarian-friendly, and two, it’s sprinkled with recipes from Michoacán, the so-called “soul of Mexico.” Highlights include tamales de elote, made with fresh corn beneath dollops of crema and salsa verde, plus a sprinkling of queso fresco; the earthy bean soup called sopa Tarasca; and Bermudez’s notoriously intense mole siete chiles.
Oaxaca is no less celebrated for its mezcal production, and this South Broadway sibling to Adelitas Cocina y Cantina does the culture surrounding the agave spirit proud. Not only is the selection exceptional, but the staff is well-versed in its every detail. Palenque serves food too — including, with any luck, tlayudas on special: Think of them as Oaxaca’s oversized answer to tostadas. (Bonus: you can also try pulque, a refreshing beverage fermented from agave sap, just down the block at Dos Luces Brewery.)