San Diego-style Mexican food isn't common in Denver, outside of the Tacos Rapidos family and a couple of other independent eateries in the suburbs. And late-night Mexican grub is even rarer — and I don't mean what most Denverites consider late-night, where you're home before midnight with TV remote in one hand and a bag of food that's merely adequate but far from satisfying in the other. Just a block off Colfax Avenue at 1385 Santa Fe Drive, Tacos Los Compas is now there for you with a Southern California fix at any time of day or night.
Los Compas opened its doors — and, more important, its drive-thru — last month, and is now open 24/7 with an assortment of burritos, tacos, enchiladas, tortas and — most important — carne asada fries, the manna from heaven that sustains after-hours diners well past last call. For the very specific price of $8.74, you can land a hefty order of loaded fries that will test the limits of its plastic takeout bag, so carry that precious cargo with both hands if you must remove it from the safety of your car before consuming.
There's nothing gourmet about this treasure heap of fast-food goodness, just skinny fries piled with grilled, marinated beef, caulk-gun guacamole, sour cream and two kinds of cheese (yellow and white, if you need specifics). Little plastic cups of green and red salsa come with the order, and if you're lucky, you'll also score a baggie of some of the best escabeche in town; the crunchy, tangy veggies add a homemade touch, and a blast of heat, to the fast-food meal.
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In fact, while Los Compas is unapologetic about its purpose on Denver's food chain (the words "fast food" appear on the sign and the menu), flavors and ingredients rise slightly above the competition, with fresh tortillas, flavorful meats and other homey touches, like menudo on the weekends and honest breakfast plates (think huevos rancheros or scrambled eggs with a choice of breakfast meats) served any time.
But its those in-between hours, when you're not quite sure whether it's the end of a long night or the beginning of an even longer day after, that Tacos Los Compas is there at the ready, something much needed along the Colfax corridor.