The best Mexican dish in the United States -- at least according to Gustavo Arellano, author of Ask a Mexican -- is the Mexican hamburger, which was invented in Denver....and can still be found only in Denver. That's what Arellano determined after researching his new book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.
Although Arellano is a fan of the Mexican hamburger at Chubby's, it really got its start at the long-gone Joe's Buffet. The massive, 15,000 square-foot building at 753 Santa Fe Drive -- in the heart of what's now Denver's Art District on Santa Fe -- was purchased last fall by Marcus Giavanni, who named it The Cow and promised to bring back the "World Famous Mexican Hamburger."
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So far, though, many of Giavanni's grand plans have been put on hold. There's no sign of the rooftop deck he'd wanted to install by summer, and the restaurant portion has yet to open -- much less serve the original Joe's Buffet Mexican hamburger (Giavanni says he bought the rights to name) seven days a week. But he's still broadcasting his radio shows on Streaming Radio USA from the place, and booking plenty of events there; he's also offering catering services, with Mexican hamburgers an option.
Until Giavanni revives Joe's Buffet, you can still get an excellent approximation of the original Joe's Buffet Mexican hamburger at Taqueria Mexico, the restaurant at 3800 West Colfax Avenue that Maria Estrada started in the late '80s, after Joe's Buffet closed. Today her son Gerardo Arredono and granddaughter Niki Gandora run the place, but Maria still stops in on weekends. And the Mexican hamburger is a constant.