If you're a chef known for creative interpretations of Asian and Mexican classics and fusing Hawaiian, Japanese, American and Mexican cuisine into a new style of dining across several successful restaurants, where do you turn to for inspiration for a new dish? To the customers, of course! That's exactly what chef/restaurateur Troy Guard has done at Los Chingones, his mini-chain of lively cantinas with locations in RiNo (2461 Larimer Street), Stapleton (10155 East Stapleton Drive) and the Denver Tech Center (4945 South Newport Street).
For two weeks in September, Los Chingones challenged customers to come up with a new taco recipe that could potentially land on the menu. Then, on October 4 (which happened to be National Taco Day), three finalists' tacos were served and customers were allowed to vote on their favorites. The winner will be served as the October "WildCard" taco for the remainder of this month at all three restaurants.
"Taking guest submissions is a fun way to change things up and interact with our amazing Chingones community," says Guard. "With tacos, the sky's the limit, so I really enjoy seeing what people come up with...and the guests love it!"
Guard also announced this week that he'll be opening a new restaurant, FNG, at 3940 West 32nd Avenue in the Highland neighborhood in November. "We'll be serving up F'n Good comfort food, rocking cocktails and high times," the chef said in his company's newsletter.
So what was the winning taco? The prize went to Jeff Newcomb, who submitted his idea for the "Left Coast" taco, which is meant to evoke a California-style barbecue chicken pizza. The recipe tops a corn tortilla with chicken doused with chipotle barbecue sauce, smoked Gouda cheese, red onion and cilantro. Newcomb won a "Los Swag" gift card worth $100 along with the right to claim that his taco is being served alongside creations from one of Denver's top culinary talents.
Because there were plenty of good submissions, Guard also gave props to the runners-up. Those were a "Southern Comfort" taco submitted by Grace Rugh at the original RiNo taqueria made with buttermilk fried chicken, spicy honey glaze, garlic masher purée and biscuit crumbles; and the Stapleton location's winner, "The Dirty South," made with fried green tomatillo, black-eyed "peaco" de gallo, pimento cheese sauce and baby arugula from Taylor Dean.
The three Los Chingones winners will certainly have something to taco ’bout with their friends and family for years to come.