Mexican food isn't just one thing. It's not defined by smothered breakfast burritos or flour-tortilla tacos filled with fried chicken and bland chipotle aioli; it can be far more than combo plates of gloppy enchiladas and sides of beans and rice. But sometimes it seems as if that's all Denver really wants. Case in point: One of downtown's most interesting and delicious Mexican restaurants, Garibaldi Mexican Bistro, just closed its Golden Triangle location at 1043 Broadway, a block away from the Westword office, after only three months in the spot that was previously home to Quijote's.
Thankfully, the original location of Garibaldi is still going strong at 3298 South Broadway in downtown Englewood, for those of us who have become addicted to the quekas (enormous grilled tacos filled with meats, cheese and sauce), pambazos (salsa-drenched tortas), tlayudas and nopales rellenos.
The evidence suggests that Englewood citizens are far more willing to embrace something new and different than are the downtown workers and residents of a major city. Owner Jesus Cruz says a customer base never really developed at the Golden Triangle location, even though it was on one of the busiest stretches of road in the metro area, and surrounded by a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood of apartment buildings and condos. He acknowledges that the lack of a liquor license (which was in the works, if slowly) didn't help, but plenty of other businesses do a brisk lunch business, at least, without booze — and the Englewood Garibaldi's has steadily built a following over the past three years without one.
Yes, the Golden Triangle Garibaldi served burritos, tacos and enchiladas, all very well made. But the house specialties came from Mexico City, and included a variety of street food and higher-end dishes, so you could indulge in a hamburguesa tropical stacked with pineapple and ham, or explore the Azteca menu loaded with pre-Colombian ingredients: nopales, potatoes, chiles, blue corn tortillas, squash and tomatoes. Seasonal favorites included huitlacoche and squash blossom quesadillas, something rarely found in other Denver restaurants.
All of this is still being served in Englewood, and Cruz has just added breakfast hours there, so the original Garibaldi is now open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day but Sunday. Thanksgiving is even on the table, with lamb barbacoa, complete with rice, beans, onions, cilantro, salsa, limes, tortillas and soup, available for pre-order until November 20 for you to take home to your family.
If you had planned on trying out the Golden Triangle Garibaldi but just ran out of time, or if you're a fan of the Englewood original but don't make it down south that often, let this closing be a reminder that great food isn't always enough to attract attention, and that there's no such thing as security in the restaurant business.
I hope I'll soon see you on South Broadway under the Conoco awning, where Jesus Cruz and his family are still serving up good comida.