By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
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By Nate Hemmert
When I stepped back outside, the wind had picked up. The fuzz from the cottonwood trees was blowing so thick that it looked like a freak summer snowstorm, but the rain wasn't far behind. I walked back down the boardwalk and crossed toward the water, looking for Laura, finding her sitting, waiting. She asked what I'd found to eat.
"Apple fritters and a pork sandwich," I said.
"From the same place?"
28025 Main St.
Evergreen, CO 80439
Region: West Denver Suburbs
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Pork sandwich: $6.25
Brisket sandwich: $7.25
Apple fritter: $2
12 East First Avenue
Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Breakfast burrito: $3.75
Chicharrones burrito: $3.75
Tamales (2): $5
Chuletas de puerco: $9
"Jesus, you must be the happiest boy in the world."
Her voice was still cool, but she smiled when she said it. And then she ate half a doughnut, some of the pork sandwich — picking at the meat with her fingers — and our battle was temporarily forgotten. We made for the car when the rain started to fall in earnest, walking hand in hand under an armistice of doughnuts and barbecue.
A couple days later, we had a dinner scheduled at one of the town's newest Indian restaurants — white-tablecloth tandoori, nouvelle biryani and samosas eaten off of nice china. And then some chickenshit motherfucker came along and caved in the ass end of Laura's car, crushing the back bumper, the trunk, the pipes, shoving the gas tank up somewhere into the vicinity of the back seat. Laura wasn't in the car, but she heard the noise — the thud and crumple so unique to cars doing terrible things to each other — and when she came out, all that was left was the damage, skid marks, a note pinned under the wiper with a bogus phone number, and a trail of vital automotive fluids marking the arc of the coward's fast U-turn as he fled the accident.
Suddenly, neither of us felt much like putting on the dog and dining on high-end lamb curry or nouvelle anything. We wanted comfort food, something we knew and trusted, something to make us feel good when things were looking pretty bad. We wanted Señor Burritos.
We've been going to Señor Burritos for a long time — to the location on First Avenue, just off Broadway, with the paintings on the windows of the little burro wearing a hat, the streaks of red and green neon running around the roof. Since our first visit here, half-drunk and goofy, after drinks and a movie at the Mayan, it's been one of our favorite fallbacks, the place we eat when we don't want to have to think about where to eat, when we don't want to even look at a menu.
We know what's there: tamales soaked in pork-studded green chile with a bite like a razor blade; big breakfast burritos that are served all day and on into the night; chicharrones burritos made with a fifty-fifty mix of cubed pork and crispy trim; sopaipillas with honey, fresh out of the fryer, that always taste of the ghosts of the last ten or twenty or a hundred things to have been fried in the same oil. I've sat in this room wolfing down free chips and salsa, drinking tall bottles of Mexican Coke, watching the strangest of crowds cycle in and out: artists and musicians, cartoonists who use the place like a studio, students and families, drag queens, the guy alone at his table poring over the pictures in the gun magazine, smudging his fingers across the pages as if it was high-gloss porno. In the corner, there's a vending machine where you can buy stickers of bleeding-heart Jesuses and wicked temp tattoos of stylized black dragons, should you be so inclined. The girls who work the counter are sweet and accommodating, the cooks generally sullen and silent except for the odd nights when something goes wrong and they explode into the kind of Spanish no one learns in high school.
Laura and I showed up near closing and ordered tamales, sopaipillas and chuletas de puerco — skinny pork chops rinded with fat, seared on the flat-top, washed in green chile and presented under a blob of creamy, perfect guacamole. The chuletas are my favorite dish here, my alpha and omega of bad-night comfort food, served with the best flour tortillas in the city — thin and crisp at the edges, sticky, almost like Indonesian roti. For a while we sat in silence — eating good food and thinking ugly thoughts. Laura was thinking about where we'd find the money to fix her car since we didn't carry any rear-ended-by-a-gutless-asshole insurance. I was thinking about how I could find the gutless asshole himself. Neither of us came up with any good answers, but we smiled a little anyway, taking comfort in familiar tastes, a familiar place.
By the time we finished, the last rush of the night was coming in under the neon. On the way out, I bought Laura a sweet dragon tattoo to stick on her arm, and a breakfast burrito for me, so I'd have something to eat the next morning — a little comfort, wrapped to go, insurance against whatever troubles tomorrow might bring.