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When we return to the counter to order dessert, Sergio notices that we haven't cleaned our plates (the portions are very substantial at Frijoles). "You didn't finish dinner so you could eat dessert?" he ask, and laughs. "You and my wife should be good friends."
Yes, we should: Because not only does Roxanne apparently have an affinity for desserts, but she knows how to make them, too. The sweet, creamy tres leches cake -- soaked with condensed milk and paved with freshly whipped cream — is superb. So is the flan, made from an old family recipe that results in a caramel-rich dessert textured more like cheesecake than the typical gelatinous lump of custard.
We're full to the point of exploding, but still linger for a moment to chat with Sergio, who takes a break from cleaning up the kitchen for the night to give us a proper sendoff. By the time we walk out the door, we feel like part of the family.
12095 W. Alameda Parkway
Lakewood, CO 80228
It was family that brought the Negrins here, and family that made this restaurant possible. Soon after they moved to Denver from Florida last year, Sergio and Roxanne found this spot, which had been sitting vacant after the last tenant, a deli, closed its doors. With the help of Roxanne's mother, Ana, the couple inked a deal on the space, then remodeled it and opened Frijoles in September. The restaurant is often filled with family, the entire clan working or visiting, speaking with each other and customers in a passionate mix of Spanish and English.
I watch the action when I return for lunch: a mountain of lechón — slightly spicy braised pork served with more moro and a few blocks of boiled potato-like yuca mixed with caramelized onions. I'm so amused by the familial haggling over tasks and techniques that I stretch out my meal with another empanada, this one packed with ropa vieja – soft, shredded skirt steak cooked in a tangy tomato-based sauce that Frijoles also serves as a special one day a week.
As I take my last bite, it's all I can do not to shout "Que rico!" over the din.