Some of the world's worst restaurants come out of a restaurateur's attempts to define a cuisine, a mood or himself. Some of the best come as an answer to a problem or a declaration of intent. When it opened exactly four years ago, Mezcal could have gone either way: become yet another half-bright attempt at "defining" the intersection between Mexican cuisine and American tastes, or a bold "screw you" to the fine-dining explosion that was then the center of Denver's foodie consciousness.
Good thing for everyone that Mezcal went the second way. That Sean Yontz, being legendarily pissed off about the failure of his fine-dining, Nuevo Latino restaurant Vega, decided the future was in tacos and super-call mezcal rather than foie gras and huitlacoche, and that new partner Jesse Morreale agreed, seeing money in the same. The pair went on to other ventures, including Tambien (reviewed on page 55), and Mezcal led the wave of new restaurants opening along that stretch of East Colfax.
A loyal Mezcal customer from the start, I recently returned for a weekend brunch — sparsely attended and hangover-casual, but still warm and inviting. Mezcal does a great bar trade with shots of agave juice that most people have never heard of and cheap tacos and killer sopes to pad out the impact. Lunches are brisk, dinners an event when the place is filled with people drinking and wolfing down tampiqueña. But I love Mezcal most in the mornings. Sitting in a quiet back booth under the gaze of Mexican wrestlers and cinema stars, I ate the pozole for which the kitchen has become deservedly known (thin and spicy, rich with swollen hominy and pork, sided by chopped onions, cilantro and razor-thin slices of radish) and, as best I can remember, about 300 tacos. Sure, there were eggs on the menu, breakfast burritos, even soy-based chorizo sausage (a travesty), but I can think of no late breakfast more perfect than a bowl of good pozole, three Pacíficos, a handful of chips and guac and as many double-tortilla tacos (both asada and al pastor) as I can hold.
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