It's the end of an era. Just over thirty years ago, Rosa Linda's Mexican Cafe opened in a storefront at 2005 West 33rd Avenue. And about five minutes after that, an artist whose studio was in the then-decidedly lowbrow Lower Highland neighborhood called Westword to say that he'd just found Denver's best burrito. He was right: Rosa Linda's won the Best Burrito award in the Best of Denver 1985. Rosa Linda Aguirre, who's manned the kitchen at the restaurant that bears her name from the start, remembers when she got the call that they'd won. "That was the beginning of everything," she says.
In the years since Virgil and Rosa Linda Aguirre expanded their restaurant along the block, just as they expanded their family. Their five children grew up working at Rosa Linda's; you'll frequently find their grandchildren there now. And all too often, you'd find Virgil and Rosa Linda there, too; they were the hardest-working couple in town, and as generous as they were dedicated. They finally took a three-week vacation, and recently returned with peace of mind and a decision: to close Rosa Linda's. "We're calling it a retirement," says Oscar Aguirre, the oldest son, who thought about taking over the place: After all, LoHi is very hot these days, one of the city's top dining destinations. But the economics weren't feasible on a personal level, he explains.
And Rosa Linda's connection with the community has always been very personal. Which is why, rather than just shutting the doors, as the family was tempted to do, Rosa Linda's is staying open through Friday, October 30, when it will be serving a limited menu and saying goodbye to fans.
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So on Saturday, October 31, for almost the first time in three decades (there was that time the restaurant was closed because of that pesky heating issue), you won't be able to stop in Rosa Linda's for a shredded beef burrito, or an order of machaca, or just to say hello to the Aguirres. "With Mom and Dad, the biggest thing is they're not having to be there," says Oscar. "It's good to just step away."
The building will stay in the family; Jezebel's occupies a leased space in the corner, and there's a salon on the other side. Oscar reports that there are already other potential tenants interested in the Rosa Linda's space.
The timing is tough, but it was critical to make a move now, because Rosa Linda's has fed thousands every Thanksgiving for the past thirty years, and it was time to either get preparations under way — or decide to close that charitable effort down, too. And the decision not to hold Rosa Linda's Thanksgiving Feast for the Needy in 2015 was almost as tough as the decision to close the restaurant itself.
So let us now give thanks for all that Rosa Linda's Mexican Cafe, and the Aguirre family, have given to Denver over the years.