Film and TV

Mouth of the Border

Next time you're getting your axles chromed out at A & M Custom Tire and Wheel, don't miss one of the metro area's best and most authentic Mexican lunches--right across the street at a plain-faced red-brick hideaway called Christy's.

Never heard of the place? Of course you haven't. Unless you run a string of greyhounds or otherwise know your way around the grain elevators and cracking towers of Commerce City, you've likely never visited the corner of East 64th Avenue and Kearney Street, tucked away in the humble 'hood behind Mile High Kennel Club. That also means that you've never sampled the splendid egg-and-chorizo burrito ($1.95) at Christy's. Or the great shrimp soup, caldo de camarones ($6.50). Or the terrific octopus tostadas ($4.25). That's right--octopus. Pulpo en espanol. Try ordering that at Taco Bell.

Just don't expect anything to be easy. Like keeping the table you've chosen for the duration of your meal. Or prying a soup spoon loose from the kitchen. Or paying the check when you want to.

Over three or four trips, we've learned that the waitresses at Christy's are graduates of the Jesus-am-I-exhausted-and-what-the hell-are-you-doin'-in-here-anyway? school of table service. They don't glower, exactly, when you want a second bowl of salsa. And they probably won't pull a gun if you suddenly ask for another order of guacamole. But don't go demanding, say, a mixed enchilada plate. These ladies seem like they've stayed up late, played hard and lost their share of the big pots.

In the middle of lunch, someone might commence to vacuum. More often comes the impatient bark: "Mild, medium or hot?" Even before your order for Christy's transcendent bean-and-chorizo burrito gets halfway out of your mouth.

Care to discuss interior decoration? Serapes and sombreros dominate along a row of red vinyl booths and amid tables stuffed with captain's chairs. On a far wall, a feather-shrouded conquistador stands in a sea of black velvet, a buxom beauty cradled limply in his arms. You can't miss the pool table.

In Christy's at noon, there's an unmistakable, vestigial sense that something happened here the evening before. If something happened to you the evening before, go for the big bowl of menudo ($4.45), abrim with tripe and spices. Or half a dozen oysters on the half-shell--ten bucks.

Alas, Christy's recently got out of the weekend nightclub business and has decided to close its doors early. On the occasion of our last visit, instruments belonging to Grupo Nueva Historia still squatted, serape-cloaked, on the bandstand next to the postage-stamp dance floor. But not for long. "Band? We're not gonna do that no more," our waitress allowed. "Thank God."

Her meaning wasn't entirely clear, and we weren't asking. But on the way back to the car, it took some careful footwork to avoid the shattered glass glinting on the parking lot. And a vagrant black sneaker, size eleven.

Never mind. In its new, daylight-only incarnation, Christy's dishes up the good stuff, the hot stuff, the real stuff, without compromise to the Yankee palate. The huevos rancheros ($4.50), smothered in (answer, please!) mild, medium or hot, will start your engine but good. The lengua taco (that's tongue to you, gringo) is splendid, and the chicken and rice sopapilla ($2.95) is a welcome innovation. Sweet tooth? The "dessert taco" comes in three flavors--cherry, blueberry and apple.

Did we mention that the bar is nicely stocked (including five brands of Mexican beer)? That Ram Herrera or Jose y Jose will be blaring from the jukebox? Or that actually serving a drink at the bar sometimes seems as large an imposition on the management as taking a lunch order?

Such are the rough charms of Christy's, where you chow down for real while barely denting the old wallet. Now if they'd just fire up the band again and let everyone stay till dark.

Christy's, 6101 East 64th Avenue, Commerce City, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday, 303-287-2050.

Denver is full of great joints--neighborhood spots that will never rate a Zagat mention but always add flavor to a city. We'll be serving up looks at some of the town's true joints on a semi-regular basis; if you have suggestions for places we should visit, e-mail us at [email protected].

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Bill Gallo
Contact: Bill Gallo