The Bamboo Hut's had a tough year, but it's coming back strong. For more than twenty years, this oddly named Mexican joint has been one of the town's best-kept secrets (no phone number, even), serving up great chicharrón burritos and searing green chile (made from peppers grown in Commerce City) to regulars willing to put up with the odd hours and minimal ambience. Then the Hut's longtime cook left, and it looked like the joint might fall flat. But with new/old talent in the kitchen, the Hut is hot again, and enjoying new popularity with club-hoppers who frequent this end of Larimer. Those newcomers won't know that while Gina's cooking up some of the old standards, she's also made a few changes -- including the chips and hotter-than-hot salsa, both freshly made, that arrive on your table fast...and free! Ten-Hut!

The Bamboo Hut's had a tough year, but it's coming back strong. For more than twenty years, this oddly named Mexican joint has been one of the town's best-kept secrets (no phone number, even), serving up great chicharrón burritos and searing green chile (made from peppers grown in Commerce City) to regulars willing to put up with the odd hours and minimal ambience. Then the Hut's longtime cook left, and it looked like the joint might fall flat. But with new/old talent in the kitchen, the Hut is hot again, and enjoying new popularity with club-hoppers who frequent this end of Larimer. Those newcomers won't know that while Gina's cooking up some of the old standards, she's also made a few changes -- including the chips and hotter-than-hot salsa, both freshly made, that arrive on your table fast...and free! Ten-Hut!

In many cases -- okay, in every case -- the most important thing influencing our appreciation of a Mexican joint's chips and salsa is the environment in which they're served. The best-tasting chips and salsa on the planet do nothing for us if they're dished up, say, by the sample ladies at the local Sam's Club. That's why we're such fans of Juanita's. This Boulder institution is basically a chips-and-salsa kind of bar, the sort of place where you want to collapse into one of the tall-backed booths and stay for days. Making this perfect chips-and-salsa environment even better is the fact that Juanita's happens to serve an excellent order of crisp, oily chips and a fine, fresh, thin salsa that's the ideal accompaniment to a couple of cold ones.

In many cases -- okay, in every case -- the most important thing influencing our appreciation of a Mexican joint's chips and salsa is the environment in which they're served. The best-tasting chips and salsa on the planet do nothing for us if they're dished up, say, by the sample ladies at the local Sam's Club. That's why we're such fans of Juanita's. This Boulder institution is basically a chips-and-salsa kind of bar, the sort of place where you want to collapse into one of the tall-backed booths and stay for days. Making this perfect chips-and-salsa environment even better is the fact that Juanita's happens to serve an excellent order of crisp, oily chips and a fine, fresh, thin salsa that's the ideal accompaniment to a couple of cold ones.

Mezcal
Danielle Lirette
Mezcal's kitchen turns out fantastic Tijuana street-corner shrimp cocktails with big, tail-on shrimp floating in a sweet-and-spicy tomato juice with diced chiles, onions and big slices of fresh avocado, served with Saltines (the best part of any great coctel de camarones). It makes sopes with meat, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes and all that good stuff packed inside a crisp, greasy fried shell. The house also runs a late-night happy hour that's perfect for attracting the city's party monsters: $1 tacos, a deal that beats the pants off any of those fast-food drive-thru dollar menus. Done in the style of borderlands Mexican vendors, these tacos come double-wrapped in corn tortillas, stuffed with fillings and topped with shredded cabbage. A half-dozen with a couple of cold Coronas? Short of lighting out for Tijuana, there's simply no better way to end the day.

Mezcal's kitchen turns out fantastic Tijuana street-corner shrimp cocktails with big, tail-on shrimp floating in a sweet-and-spicy tomato juice with diced chiles, onions and big slices of fresh avocado, served with Saltines (the best part of any great coctel de camarones). It makes sopes with meat, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes and all that good stuff packed inside a crisp, greasy fried shell. The house also runs a late-night happy hour that's perfect for attracting the city's party monsters: $1 tacos, a deal that beats the pants off any of those fast-food drive-thru dollar menus. Done in the style of borderlands Mexican vendors, these tacos come double-wrapped in corn tortillas, stuffed with fillings and topped with shredded cabbage. A half-dozen with a couple of cold Coronas? Short of lighting out for Tijuana, there's simply no better way to end the day.


Tamayo
Matt Ritscher
When the margarita was invented, it was an elegant drink -- an exquisite combination of great tequila and native juices that was as refreshing as the breeze blowing off the Mexican coast. But when it headed north -- no doubt brought back by those spring-breakers as a souvenir, like a social disease -- it morphed into a grain-alcohol, apple-juice orgy, with ingredient combinations that made your teeth squeak and your head hurt. Over the last several years, though, bars and restaurants have started restoring the margarita to its rightful recipe and place in the drink pantheon. And nowhere does a margarita reach the heights that it does at Tamayo, where the house marg is made with El Jimador and fresh lime and lemon juices in a simple syrup made on site. When ordered on the rooftop patio, those heights include a terrific view of the mountains, but you'll want to stick close to your bartender, who, when asked, will bring out fresh chips and two terrific salsas -- a green tomatilla and a red cruda -- sharing the same pewter bowl.

When the margarita was invented, it was an elegant drink -- an exquisite combination of great tequila and native juices that was as refreshing as the breeze blowing off the Mexican coast. But when it headed north -- no doubt brought back by those spring-breakers as a souvenir, like a social disease -- it morphed into a grain-alcohol, apple-juice orgy, with ingredient combinations that made your teeth squeak and your head hurt. Over the last several years, though, bars and restaurants have started restoring the margarita to its rightful recipe and place in the drink pantheon. And nowhere does a margarita reach the heights that it does at Tamayo, where the house marg is made with El Jimador and fresh lime and lemon juices in a simple syrup made on site. When ordered on the rooftop patio, those heights include a terrific view of the mountains, but you'll want to stick close to your bartender, who, when asked, will bring out fresh chips and two terrific salsas -- a green tomatilla and a red cruda -- sharing the same pewter bowl.


Can't afford a trip to Mexico this year? No problem. Aztec Sol is the next best thing to being there -- and an evening at this bar is so cheap you'll be able to drown your sorrows often. The brainchild of Jose Lara, whose family makes tequila back in the old country, Aztec Sol serves a grande selection of 200-plus tequilas, including wood-aged brands and boutique breeds, that will make you swear off Cuervo for good. Extra points for the authentic atmosphere -- love the cement floors -- and street-vendor-style food, including two kinds of "pork lining" tacos.

Can't afford a trip to Mexico this year? No problem. Aztec Sol is the next best thing to being there -- and an evening at this bar is so cheap you'll be able to drown your sorrows often. The brainchild of Jose Lara, whose family makes tequila back in the old country, Aztec Sol serves a grande selection of 200-plus tequilas, including wood-aged brands and boutique breeds, that will make you swear off Cuervo for good. Extra points for the authentic atmosphere -- love the cement floors -- and street-vendor-style food, including two kinds of "pork lining" tacos.


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