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Give Them a Hand

We were two broads looking for margaritas for ourselves and quesadillas for the kids. We found those and much more, including some killer fajitas ($8.95) made with tender, charred-edged beef that had been grilled with onions and green bell peppers. And when we asked for extra onions, we actually got them.

El Noa Noa's specialty has always been the sopaipillas, sweet and savory, and they're great both ways. In the savory version, the El Noa Noa Special ($4.75), the puffy triangle looked as though it were going to explode from all the pork, refried beans and cheese stuffed inside; the whole wonderful mess was topped with more cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream, which we promptly smothered with a side of fiery green chile ($1.50). That same good green smothered the chiles rellenos ($6.75), two soft packages filled with tons of cheese.

The fajitas were so stunning we decided to get an order of carne a la tampiquena ($8.75) to go. The menu promised the sliced, chile-rubbed steak would be "grilled to perfection," and it was; it was sided by a cheese enchilada, a shredded-chicken-stuffed flauta and rice and beans that survived the journey home just fine. We also took away the special of the day, the pozole ($5.99), a modest but tasty take on the soup, with a thin tomato base, plenty of pork and even more hominy.

Now, about those margaritas ($4.50 each) and quesadillas ($2.50). The drinks were large and no-nonsense, and not one complaint was heard from the peanut gallery about the cheese-filled tortillas sided with refried beans and rice. (Maybe the kids were too busy watching the peach-shirt-wearing gentleman crooning in the bar area next door.) Nor did the staff frown once at the mess made beneath the high chair of my friend's ten-month-old. And they didn't even wince at the sight of honey smeared from one end of the table to the other. The honey was meant to adorn the most delectable dessert sopaipillas ever ($3.75 for two), but what can you do when four-year-olds get ahold of the honey bear? We tipped well.

So support the old and the new: Take your family to El Noa Noa this week, then stop by to visit the Gil family at La Praviana next week. Just remember that they're making those pupusas by hand--and they've already got their hands full.

La Praviana, 2231 South Broadway, 303-722-0129. Hours: 6 a.m.- 8 p.m. daily.

El Noa Noa Restaurant, 722 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-6071. Hours: 9 a.m.- 10 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday.

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