On my way to take some friends in town from Mexico City to Denver's best restaurant, I prefaced by saying, "Understand, this stuff has precious little to do with Mexican food. Chubby's is pure Colorado Chicano cuisine." I've savored huevos rancheros and burritos across the States and all over Mexico, but nothing holds a candle to that little hole in the wall on 38th Avenue. It's the most exquisite example of a culinary tradition that is completely unique to this part of the world, and I was thrilled to read Gustavo Arellano granting it the praise it deserves.
Just read Gustavo's article on Den-Mex food. Back in the late '80s, I used to frequent Joe's Buffet — pronounced like "Jimmy Buffett." What drew me to the dimly lit dance hall/restaurant was the Mexican hamburger. A couple of co-workers and I would get out there a couple of times a month. We became friendly with the waitress, who said that Joe's would be closing its doors forever and that she was opening up a restaurant of her own and had saved her tips, etc., for several years.
When I found Joe's closed one day, I remembered what she told me. And she'd said that she had the recipe for the Mexican hamburger.
I went to the Taqueria Mexico on West Colfax Avenue and found her waiting tables at her own place. The Mexican hamburgers are exactly the same as at Joe's Buffet. I like this place better than Chubby's on West 38th Avenue.
Just thought Gustavo would like to know if he ever gets the chance to come back to Denver.
The best green chile in town comes from my kitchen at home, after I make a stop at one of those Hatch chile stands along Federal in late summer (or early fall). Yum.
As an Orange County transplant, I agree that trying to find a good Mexican restaurant like we are used to in Southern California is daunting, to say the least. As I started to explore and sample, though, I also have come to find that Colorado has its own unique flavors. Love the cooler burritos before Broncos games, which reminded me of a guy who used to go door-to-door back in OC selling tamales out of his cooler. I did manage to find a good taco truck that, while not El Chavito, still satisfies while brewery cycling in Fort Collins.
Thanks to Gustavo for the tips on some new places to sample in Denver. I'm disappointed that he won't be coming to Denver on his book-signing tour, because he still owes me a signed copy of his OC book!
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Editor's note: Good news, Toby. Gustavo Arellano will be signing his new book (and giving you an old one) at Su Teatro on Wednesday, May 30. Watch ¡Ask a Mexican! for more details.