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Latin Lovers

I could eat these every day, no problem. The Calderons came to Denver from El Salvador in 1981 and worked their way through several area restaurants, including Josephina's and Lakewood Country Club, before opening their own place. Their considerable cooking experience helps make their "everyday" dishes something special, particularly when those dishes feature sauces.

The pan con pavo ($4.50), for example, used a strong tomato sauce to tie together an exotic hoagie of French bread, radishes, chicken, pork and watercress. The house specialty, cielo, mar y tierra ($12.75), sort of a surf and turf plus fowl, brought another wonderful sauce: a butter-touched, creamy tomato concoction strewn with onions. It went well with slices of garlicky French bread, the Calderons' homemade, pancake-thick corn tortillas or the side of a finger; the sauce was so heavenly, it would have made any meat taste good. The chewy but tasty flank steak, however, proved worthy of its blanket, as did the juicy chicken leg and shrimp. A mound of slaw drenched with lime juice and sprinkled with oregano finished off the plate. Yet another wonderful sauce--a reduction of beef stock with vegetables--coated the unbelievably tender beef and potatoes in the stewlike carne guisada ($6.75).

The Calderons' kitchen expertise shows in the non-sauced items, too. The fried plantains ($5.75) paired perfectly cooked, soft-centered banana quarters with refried beans and soured cream. The plantain leaves were pressed into service for the tamales ($1.50 each), which packed shredded chicken and green olives into sponges of corn masa. And the sopa de mariscos ($8), a concentrated, savory soup, was teeming with shrimp, crab shells, squid and fish. Unfortunately, the unidentifiable swimmer was rife with bones--one of our few complaints with Rincon Tropical.

Location Info

Map

El Azteca

303 16th St., #9
Denver, CO 80202

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Downtown Denver

The other concerns its service. Since only two other tables were occupied during our visit, there was no excuse for the lack of attention paid to us. The food is cooked to order by the Calderons, so we were prepared to wait for our meals--but our drinks were never replenished, we had to bus our own empty plates in order to get any elbow room, and the check took so long that we finally had to walk over to the waitress at the cash register to get it.

But I'd go a lot farther than Rincon Tropical's cash register--and sit in surroundings a lot smaller than those at El Azteca--for meals this good. These are two Latins I love.

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