Los Farolitos does Denver's best birria
The fantastic carne en su jugo at El Olvido made me hungry for another stew native to Jalisco: birria. This dish boasts a savory red broth, thick with fat and imbued with the heat and earthiness of dried peppers. Right before serving, the cook plunks hunks of meat — lamb, pork or, most traditionally, goat — into a bowl of the broth, then serves the stew with tortillas, cilantro, onions and lime.
Birria is served in a few places around town, but the best one I've found is at Los Farolitos, an Aurora strip-mall spot that Maria Rivas bought last year. She kept the illuminated yellow awning that proclaims Los Farolitos serves food done in the style of Mexico City. But the menu spans many regions of Mexico, and you can get green-chile-smothered beef-and-bean burritos here, too. Among the featured dishes are lamb barbacoa and birria de chivo (goat), and a buffet by the entrance is heaped with all kinds of Mexican specialties, including pig's feet, tamales, chiles rellenos and chicharrones.
When I grabbed a seat in the sparsely decorated dining room on a chilly night last week, though, I wanted just one thing: birria. And I wanted it fast. Luckily, I didn't have to wait long. The lone server came over quickly, placed a basket of chips and a bowl of thick, pasty salsa on my table, then scampered back to the kitchen with my order. Minutes later, she returned with a loaded tray holding a brimming bowl of the stew along with corn tortillas and the usual accoutrements, as well as a few more salsas.
I've found that the best way to eat birria is to make tacos with the meat, then finish off the rib-sticking broth. So I started in on the stew by pulling tender chunks of goat off the bone and bundling them into the tortillas with a squeeze of lime, a spoonful of smoky salsa, and a sprinkling of onions and cilantro. The meat had a hint of gaminess that was tempered by the rest of the taco's contents, as well as the impressive, savory broth. An angry red in color, the soup was layered with collagen, heat, pepper and even sour notes from lime, which helped lighten it. On a cool night, this was true, body-warming comfort food.
Despite the generous portion — I could have split the birria with another diner and still been satiated — I couldn't resist supplementing my meal with a gordita stuffed with chorizo. The plump, griddled, lightly greasy rounds of masa held a mass of peppery, juicy sausage, salty queso fresco, sour cream and a little crisp cabbage. I topped that off with onions, cilantro and lime, and managed to finish it off. Because I am a gordita, too.
I paid my check and waddled out the door, another Jalisco craving satisfied.
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