If you're going for Colorado-style green chile, you need to forget everything that makes a classic New Mexican verde or the tamal sauces you find at some of the more authentic norteo Mexican lunch counters around town. A Colorado green should be definitive in its own way, a thick stew full of chiles and pork and whatever else the kitchen decides to throw in. Reiver's produces a brew whose dull heat, smoky flavor and strangely pervasive, savory bite makes it the perfect dipping sauce for everything on the menu. The combination of the chiles' fire and the pork's fatty luxuriousness are unbelievably addictive, and a true taste of this peculiar Colorado specialty.
Senor Burritos
You can tell how good the food is at Seor Burrito by the way all the customers lean forward each time an order is laid out on the counter and the way all but one lucky someone fall back into their chairs, disappointed when they discover that the food coming out of the kitchen isn't for them. This little space is about as spartan as it gets -- just a few tables, a big counter and a bigger menu. There are house specials, daily specials and fantastic sopaipillas that come hot out of the fryers. But as the name implies, the joint is all about burritos -- in many varieties, each assembled to order, all fantastic.
The easiest way to find these guys is to go to the vendors' area of the Boulder County Farmers' Market and look for the longest line. Then get in it, wait, and several minutes and a few bucks later, you'll walk away with the best corn tamal in Colorado. The masa is soft and sweet, rich with corn's natural sugar, and a perfect complement to the spicy chicken and green chile inside. There are fancier tamales out there, and cheaper ones. But in season, there are no tamales better than those coming out of the Amaizing Corn Tamales booth.
Tacos DF
Mark Antonation
Simplicity. In the food world, this is an often overlooked attribute. But not at Tacos D.F. When you order an asada taco here, you get a generous pile of chopped, marinated carne asada taken fresh off the grill (along with whatever grilled onions were stuck to it) and wrapped in a fresh tortilla. That's it. But that's more than enough. The flavor is amazing -- blood and char and caramelized-onion sweetness -- and though many varieties of salsa are available at the repurposed salad bar, the best accompaniment to these tacos is a squeeze of lime. Also not to be missed: the pork tacos with a smear of blazing-hot green tomatillo salsa, which are the best thing to come from a pig since bacon.
El Taco De Mexico
Courtesy El Taco de Mexico Facebook
All day, every day, whenever you need it and whatever you want: That's the defining joy of having a joint in town like El Taco de Mxico. Though the crowds ebb and flow, the work in the open kitchen is constant, with the women there always chopping, stirring, slicing and cleaning to stay on top of the rushes that hit this place with the constancy of the tides. From standards like crispy rellenos and beef tacos to more traditional Mexican comfort foods like tacos cabeza and menudo on the weekends, El Taco de Mxico does nearly everything better than nearly every other place around. How can you tell? Come Sunday, when all the churches in the neighborhood let out, the wait for a seat at the counter can stretch to an hour or more -- yet the regulars wouldn't think of going anywhere else.
Patzcuaro's
Summer Powell
Taquera Patzcuaro is almost three decades old, and with its recently acquired liquor license, it should last at least another thirty. Just about everything at this time-honored sit-down spot comes steeped in the flavors of Michoacn. From the mar y tierra plates and camarn al mojo de ajo in its deceptively simple lime and garlic sauce to the tacos albandl with their white onions, roasted jalapeos and slivered fried potatoes that attend half of the other plates on the menu, Taquera Patzcuaro has a distinctive style and taste all its own.
There are only two ingredients in a good, unblended mezcal: water and the hearts of agave cactus. And yet with just this, the village palanqueros who make Del Maguey mezcal -- working in a style and with equipment unchanged since the sixteenth century -- manage to come up with more than a half-dozen truly unique tastes, each one based, like wine, on the mineral content in the soil, the weather and the way the agave is handled in that particular Oaxacan village. Each label is amazing, unlike anything you've ever tasted. And many are now available in Denver, where about twenty restaurants and twenty retailers claim to stock the stuff. It's expensive, but -- like many premium indulgences -- absolutely worth it.
Papier-mch-parrot Mexican. Carnival Mexican. Meximerican. We're still struggling to come up with a simple descriptor that describes the kind of Mexican food being done at places like Ric's -- the carefully considered fusion of Mexican flavors, Texan innovation, Borderlands heat and American tastes that will no doubt be the modern flavor of Mexican cuisine as it spreads throughout the rest of the country. Honesty and authenticity in cuisine are not as important here as huge portions, non-threatening presentations and a family-friendly menu with something for everyone from Grandma to Junior. That said, Ric's food is also pretty good (if you can stomach things like chicken quesadillas made with cream cheese sharing the table with sizzling platters of fajitas and deep-fried chimichangas), and the atmosphere is welcoming to everyone.
Los Carboncitos
Courtesy Los Carboncitos Highlands Facebook
Los Carboncitos is one of the best free-chips-and-salsa joints in town, and we're amazed that they're still just giving this stuff away. Every meal here begins with a basket of fresh chips and a caddy of four free salsas running the gamut from merely hot to truly punishing. Honestly, we've considered on many occasions stopping in, eating a whole basket of chips for lunch and then just walking back out again. And yet every time, the chips and salsas act like blood in the shark pool -- stoking our hunger, firing our appetite and causing us to end up ordering more huaraches and soup than any one person could reasonably eat in a single sitting.
There are spots where you can get a great beef-cheek taco; places where the asada burritos are as big as your head. But there's only one Mexican restaurant in town where our favorite plate is, technically, a vegetarian one. That restaurant is Rosa Linda's, where the cactus tacos keep us coming back year after year. The tough outer petals are de-spined, peeled, shaved and cooked down until they're as tender and sweet as those canned green beans your mom used to make you eat as a kid. But these are much, much better. Add a little salsa or maybe just a squeeze of lime, and you've got the very best way to eat your vegetables.

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