When Tao Tao Noodle Bar, a stellar Chinese joint in Aurora famed for its xiao long bao, mysteriously shuttered in March of this year, the space, which has seen its share of restaurants, sat vacant for quite a while, but late last month, it reopened as El Rico Dicho Menuderia Y Taqueria, a quirky Mexican restaurant that pays tribute to El Chapulín Colorado (The Red Grasshopper), a Spanish television series that parodied superheros. "We grew up with El Chapulín Colorado, and we wanted this to be a place that reflects our Spanish culture," says manager Jesse Tovar, adding that the kitschy quarters, currently bedecked with antique guns, murals of Pancho Villa and vibrant, hand-painted characters from El Chapulín Colorado, are still a work in progress. "By the time we're done, the whole place will be all about our Spanish heritage," he adds, noting that a second room, which doubles as an indoor patio, will also undergo a makeover that showcases Mexican history. And the menu -- a collection of burritos, menudo, street tacos, gorditas, huaraches, tortas and discadas -- is decidedly Mexican, as well, though Tovar and his staff are also making, and selling, carne seca, a Mexican beef jerky that was originally dispensed to Mexican cowboys when they hit the trails. The thin triangles of dried meat (which bear no resemblance in taste to American beef jerky) can be served solo with wedges of lime and packets of Tapatio hot sauce, or shaved and stuffed into burritos. "You don't see carne seca very often in the United States, but we make it in-house and people love it," says Tovar. And according to him, his breakfast burritos, priced at $1.99 and bulging with eggs, cheese, green chile, cubed potatoes and a choice of ham, chorizo, bacon or carne seca, are equally popular, if not particularly profitable."We have thousands of college students around here, but students don't have big budgets, so we're selling them cheap, and while we're not making any money on them, we serve them all day and they're really, really good."
The restaurant, which is owned by the same family that runs the local El Camaron Loco chain of Mexican seafood shacks, is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Make sure you bring cash, because credit cards aren't accepted.