Cochino Taco has definitely been following a trend with its taqueria locations: opening in former garages or gas stations. Restaurateur Johnny Ballen launched his first Cochino in a former Phillips 66 station at 3495 South Downing Street in Englewood in 2016, and followed up last year with an outpost at 176 South Broadway, in what had previously been Gary Lee's Motor Club & Grub (and which was a mechanic's garage before that).
Ballen is making it a trio with a new Cochino Taco slated to open next spring at 7702 Ralston Road in Arvada. He purchased the building from the Little Pub Company, which ran 4Barrel Bar & BBQ there for four and a half years in what was built as a Texaco service station in the 1950s. Before 4Barrel, the building was home to Bella Bistro for several years.
The restaurateur has been looking for a third location for several months, keeping an eye out for properties with large patios (or room to build one), and he says he knew the Arvada spot was perfect the moment he saw it. Along with a small tree-lined patio with a fire pit on one corner of the property, there's also a spacious covered deck with radiant-heat flooring, which Ballen plans to keep. Large garage doors open from the patio into the dining room, and a long bar extends to the opposite side of the space.
Ballen is already working with the City of Arvada and the Arvada Economic Development Association to determine what modifications can be made to the building before opening, since he'll need to add Cochino's signage, paint scheme and other outdoor embellishments (will an enormous pink cow with a pig's tail like the one on South Broadway fly in Arvada's historic district?).
Olde Town Arvada doesn't currently have many taco options, with Forth Worth transplant Fuzzy's Taco Shop one of the few Mexican restaurants in the area, and Ballen says he's also looking forward to unleashing his collection of agave spirits on the neighborhood, since there's no mezcal and tequila bar nearby. The shopping and dining district has also closed off some of its streets to through-traffic and enacted an open-container rule, so customers of the many bars and restaurants there can stroll and sip. The new Cochino Taco sits on the very northwest corner of Olde Town, so soon you'll be able grab your frozen paloma or Kip Winger (made with Zima!) on the go.
Ballen rose to restaurant celebrity status as co-owner of the Squeaky Bean, one of Denver's most daring and delightful restaurants during its eight-year run, first on Tejon Street and then in LoDo. While he's no longer in the fine-dining business (and we haven't spotted him in a loud tuxedo in years), Ballen's style and personality are evident in Cochino's lively and irreverent vibe — and in the Bingo Brunch he revived from the Squeaky Bean days at the South Broadway Cochino.