First Look

Baja Specialist Sol Cocina Opens Monday, August 8, in Cherry Creek North

Cherry Creek North has been a cloud of construction dust for the past year or two, with new hotels, condos, apartments and office buildings popping up where quaint boutiques, cafes and beauty salons once occupied aging buildings. The real-estate boom has pushed rent prices up, though, and new restaurant spaces are attracting national groups over local startups. Witness the arrival of the Thirsty Lion, Del Frisco's Grille, 801 Chophouse and Matsuhisa, all in the past nine months. And joining them next week will be Sol Mexican Cocina, which is set to swing open its doors at 200 Columbine Street on Monday, August 8.

Sol got its start in Newport Beach, California, and has grown to a total of four locations in California, Arizona and now Denver (the company also runs two smaller-scale eateries called Solita in the Los Angeles area). The concept is Baja-style Mexican cuisine, with a heavy emphasis on seafood and wood-fired cooking, which can be observed through plate-glass windows separating the spacious kitchen from the bar.
The menu comes from executive chef/partner Deborah Schneider, whose five cookbooks have earned national attention, including a James Beard Award nomination. Helming the Cherry Creek kitchen is head chef Lou Ortiz, who opened both locations of Los Chingones and has done time at other Denver restaurants like Big Mac & Little Lou's Seafood and Blackbird Public House.

Ortiz explains that there's an interactive element to many of the dishes on Sol's menu, with servers adding tableside flourishes to such dishes as elote (fancied-up corn on the cob), guacamole, ceviche and peel-and-eat shrimp. He also points out that many dishes are customizable (making this a good destination for diners with dietary restrictions) and that the kitchen makes 32 salsas from scratch each day.

Whole fish, ribeye steaks and Kobe beef cuts will impress the Cherry Creek business set (a fifty-seat private room equipped with a complete A/V setup is also a draw for business lunches and dinners), while a roster of eight street tacos and fifteen specialty tacos will give fans of Mexican antojitos plenty to sample.

Sol Cocina will initially be open for dinner seven days a week, but will soon add lunch and brunch hours.