Dan Ohlson, the former owner of Chez Jose, the burrito joint in Cherry Creek that shuttered last December after a seventeen-year run, swore up and down that he'd never open another restaurant in Cherry Creek. Never. He vowed, too, that he'd never have an underground space. Ever.
Ohlson is now eating his words.
"I said I'd never go to Cherry Creek again, and I said I'd never go underground, and here we are, underground, in Cherry Creek," quips Ohlson, who recently leased the subterranean space at 2817 East Third Avenue, where Q Worldly Barbecue sat until it, too, closed last November.
Ohlson, who had been scouring for square footage ever since Chez Jose closed, had initially set his sights on a vacated building on Old South Gaylord Street, in Washington Park, but when the landlord rejected his offer, he moved on -- to Cherry Creek. "I actually really like this space, and I love the patio, plus there's a great built-in bar, and I got a much better deal than I would have on the Wash Park space," says Ohlson, who's shooting for a May 5 opening -- Cinco de Mayo.
And that's a date that makes sense, since Machete -- the name of Ohlson's new restaurant -- is a tequila bar and taqueria. And he's hired Jose Avila, the kitchen manager at Elway's Cherry Creek and a Mexico City native whose family has a fleet of street-food carts, to oversee the kitchen. "I'm excited to do my own thing -- to show people in Denver what real Southern Mexican food is," says Avila, whose board is short, tidy and peppered with street tacos, tortilla soup, Mexican ribs, alambre dishes and whole chickens. The tacos -- mahi mahi, pastor, chorizo, barbacoa, puerco pibil and arrachera (skirt steak) -- will be mounted on housemade corn tortillas, notes Avila, and served with salsas that zigzag from chile de árbol to pineapple.
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As for the tequila part of the equation, Ohlson says he's starting with a stash of fifty but plans to eventually stock the bar with more than 200 different tequilas. "What's really cool about the tequila part of this is that we're building a cage with lockers for people to put their private bottles in there," he adds.
We'll drink to that.