First Look

Work & Class Team Launches Super Mega Bien

Mark Antonation
The cart rolls through the dining room with a choice of five or six small plates each night.
Loud and lively: That's the scene on any given night at Work & Class, the eatery from Tony Maciag and chef Dana Rodriguez that's still one of the hottest tickets in town, even four years after launching in RiNo. Equally raucous and rockin' is Super Mega Bien, the latest effort from Maciag and Rodgriguez, along with partner Tabatha Knop, which officially opens at 1260 25th Street in the new Ramble Hotel on Tuesday, May 15.

Like Work & Class, Super Mega Bien defies an easy one-phrase definition of its style and menu.

Yes, "pan-Latin American" encompasses Mexican, South American and Caribbean influences, where Brazilian pao de queijo (puffy cheese buns) butt up against Puerto Rican pernil de cerdo and Oaxacan seafood caldo de piedra boiled at your table, thanks to an 800-degree stone plunked into the broth.

But since when do Latin American restaurants sport dim sum carts that wheel around the dining room loaded with antojitos — shrimp and octopus tostadas, delicate molotes, black-bean pupusas topped with quail eggs — and other nibbles ranging from $3 to $11 per plate? Just point to what you want and your server will stamp your ticket and add it all up later (a dangerous game if you're not one to keep track as you dine). And while you're at it, tack on one of SMB's large-format drinks meant to serve four thirsty guests: a Peruvian purple chicha punch or a vibrant sangria verde (ringing in at $25 and $30, respectively), for example.

click to enlarge Inside Super Mega Bien. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Inside Super Mega Bien.
Danielle Lirette
click to enlarge The bar at Super Mega Bien. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
The bar at Super Mega Bien.
Danielle Lirette
However you choose to describe Super Mega Bien, know that Rodriguez continues the tradition of complex and flavorful recipes that have earned her national attention, including more than one James Beard Award nomination.

click to enlarge A lamb lollipop from the cart. - MARK ANTONATION
A lamb lollipop from the cart.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Ribs and a black-bean cake. - MARK ANTONATION
Ribs and a black-bean cake.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge At the chef's counter. - MARK ANTONATION
At the chef's counter.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Inside Super Mega Bien. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Inside Super Mega Bien.
Danielle Lirette
click to enlarge The ceiling of Super Mega Bien. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
The ceiling of Super Mega Bien.
Danielle Lirette
click to enlarge Brazilian yuca cheese bread (pao de queijo). - MARK ANTONATION
Brazilian yuca cheese bread (pao de queijo).
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge You can enter Super Mega Bien from 25th Street without having to go through the hotel. - DANIEL LIRETTE
You can enter Super Mega Bien from 25th Street without having to go through the hotel.
Daniel Lirette
The team first conceived of the Super Mega Bien project back in late 2016, explaining that the name comes from one Work & Class cook's frequent response to the question "How are you doing?"

"We want to make sure that people don't perceive us as another taco place," Maciag noted at the time. So you'll find handmade corn tortillas siding the lamb mixiote and specialties from Yucután, Oaxaca and other regions of Mexico, but you won't come across street-style tacos or Den-Mex combo plates swimming in green chile. This is a deep dive into Latin American flavor — much of it new to Denver. Epazote, achiote and papalote are as likely to season your dinner as salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

Details to look for inside the restaurant: a host station that resembles a giant takeout container, hundreds of wooden dowels suspended from the ceiling like stalactites, tabletops made from wood floors salvaged from the Boulder High School gym, a pinball machine scoreboard, and "merchandise and ephemera" for sale on the dim sum menu — including bandannas, luggage tags and a custom-built dim sum cart you can have made for only $1,800.

Super Mega Bien will be open every Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 11 p.m., with entrances on 25th Street and from the lobby of the Ramble Hotel. A website is in the works; for now, additional information can be found on the restaurant's Facebook page or by calling 720-269-4695.