Cochino Taco Set to Open in Englewood on Tuesday, August 30

Cochino Taco opens in Englewood on August 30.EXPAND
Cochino Taco opens in Englewood on August 30.
Mark Antonation

Johnny Ballen, co-owner of the Squeaky Bean downtown, has made fine dining an entertaining prospect, with amusements like found-object decorations and a cocktail shrine to departed celebrities enhancing the dining room — all while maintaining a respect for seasonal ingredients, along with partner/farmer Josh Olsen and chef Chris MacGillivray. And now Ballen's got a new joint of his own that, while considerably more casual than the Bean, captures the same playful spirit and focus on food. Cochino Taco opens on Tuesday, August 30, bringing a Mexican cantina to a former gas station in a quiet Englewood neighborhood better known for its health-care facilities.

If the devil is in the details, then Ballen has a devilish streak a mile wide: Cochino is packed to the rafters with elements that add whimsy while providing guests with a top-caliber experience. In the entry, a massive lamp salvaged from a doctor's office stands guard, providing light to the host stand but also tipping a hat to the medical community that will be a big part of Cochino's customer base, especially once lunch rolls out in September. A reclaimed Bevador refrigerator is a quaint touch behind the bar, but it's also a working beer cooler stocked with craft beers as well as Coors Banquet in cans and Montucky Cold Snacks, a canned lager made in Montana that's just now hitting Denver.

This taqueria was a Phillips 66 gas station in the 1950s.EXPAND
This taqueria was a Phillips 66 gas station in the 1950s.
Mark Antonation

Details bring the menu to life, too, from white-cheddar-dusted chicharrones, crunchy pig tails and an authentic escabeche on the appetizer list to the array of tacos that anchor the list, with four each of pork, veggie, beef and chicken/seafood. Cochino's opening chef, Julian Smith, sprinkles the menu with the same kind of clever touches that Ballen brings to the decor: pepitas, juniper, jicama, melon, hot-pepper jam and smoky mojo mayo bolster traditional taqueria proteins from pastor to pork belly.

For kids of all ages, a five-dollar "taco truck" totes two crunchy tacos laden with ground beef, yellow cheese and iceberg lettuce. At the bar, a glistening array of tequila, mezcal and other Mexican spirits takes up the most shelf space; to the side, a duo of slushy machines churns out a frozen paloma and a second frozen concoction that will change regularly. 

Cochino Taco will open for dinners initially, with lunch and brunch to be added soon. Keep reading for a look inside.

The entry and host station.EXPAND
The entry and host station.
Mark Antonation
Booth backs made from an old Days Inn sign.EXPAND
Booth backs made from an old Days Inn sign.
Mark Antonation
The main dining room at Cochino.EXPAND
The main dining room at Cochino.
Mark Antonation
Cochino's bar is decorated with lots of pigs.EXPAND
Cochino's bar is decorated with lots of pigs.
Mark Antonation
The antique Bevador cooler still keeps beverages cold.EXPAND
The antique Bevador cooler still keeps beverages cold.
Mark Antonation
These stools came from a former dive bar at West 32nd Avenue and Vallejo Street.EXPAND
These stools came from a former dive bar at West 32nd Avenue and Vallejo Street.
Mark Antonation
Industrial racks used for hauling steel pipes serve as room dividers.EXPAND
Industrial racks used for hauling steel pipes serve as room dividers.
Mark Antonation
Barware with the Cochino logo.EXPAND
Barware with the Cochino logo.
Mark Antonation
Muralist Jeff Maxim adds this pig and another on the opposite side of the building.EXPAND
Muralist Jeff Maxim adds this pig and another on the opposite side of the building.
Mark Antonation
Original windows that once looked down into a garage bay now provide diffuse light for the bar and dining room.EXPAND
Original windows that once looked down into a garage bay now provide diffuse light for the bar and dining room.
Mark Antonation
The wall at the end of the bar.EXPAND
The wall at the end of the bar.
Mark Antonation
The bathroom hallway.EXPAND
The bathroom hallway.
Mark Antonation
Jesus watches from the bar.EXPAND
Jesus watches from the bar.
Mark Antonation
One of Cochino's house beers.EXPAND
One of Cochino's house beers.
Mark Antonation
Taco trucks for kids and happy hour.EXPAND
Taco trucks for kids and happy hour.
Mark Antonation
A view of the bar from the dining room.EXPAND
A view of the bar from the dining room.
Mark Antonation
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Cochino Taco

3495 S. Downing St.
Englewood, Colorado 80113


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