Chef Efren Velasquez is coming full circle in his return to Jefferson Park. After sixteen years as a server, manager and chef at La Loma, where he helmed the kitchen at the Denver favorite, Velasquez helped move La Loma from West 26th Avenue to its current downtown location in 2016. But now he's opening his own restaurant, El Cazo Cocina y Cantina, just blocks from his old kitchen.The chef expects to open his new restaurant at 2901 West 25th Avenue in early May.
La Loma moved out of Jefferson Park to make way for a new apartment tower being built where the rambling restaurant stood for 35 years. El Cazo will occupy the ground floor of a new apartment building going up at 25th and Elliot Street, the same intersection where Sarto's and Sexy Pizza reside. Velasquez notes that he intentionally focused on Jefferson Park when he began looking for a restaurant space. "It was a no-brainer," he explains. "I spent sixteen years of my life working here."
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Velasquez adds that the neighborhood has been in need of more Mexican restaurant options since La Loma moved, so he plans to bring a mix of Colorado-Mexican and recipes from his family. "All the recipes are either mine or my mother's," he notes. "I've always been known for my enchilada sauce."
The chef was born in Texas but spent much of his childhood in Chihuahua, Mexico, where his mother owned a restaurant, so professional cooking and hospitality are in his blood — as is green chile. He'll branch out from La Loma's famous sauce and promises that El Cazo's will be even better.
All of the meats at El Cazo will be cooked over a wood-burning grill, including those in Velasquez's other specialty, fajitas. There will also be a full bar with top-shelf margaritas, signature cocktails, Mexican beer and wine.
Velasquez is targeting May 5 for the opening, bringing his cooking back to Jefferson Park just in time for Cinco de Mayo — twice the reason for celebration in the neighborhood.