No. 48: Cabeza Tacos at Taqueria El Trompito
10021 East Hampden Avenue
The original location of El Trompito in far north Denver has been slinging tacos stuffed with just about every meaty bit and chile-based sauce you could hope for since the last decade. The newer location, on the city's opposite corner, opened at the end of 2011 with the same corrugated steel decor on the inside and the same menu as its northern sibling. While too much variety can often signify a kitchen stretched too thin, El Trompito pulls off a number of rare treats — from pambazo sandwiches drenched in gaujillo chile salsa to mixiote de borrega (a succulent, braised lamb shank dish).
While El Trompito offers more than 20 different types of taco, slow-cooked meats are definitely the house specialty. For a tortilla-wrapped version of the mixiote, try the barbacoa de borrego: toothsome shreds of lamb that drip juices if you don't tilt your taco just right. The meat is mild, only slightly fatty and great just as the kitchen serves it — completely unadorned. Still, El Trompito sports a tempting salsa bar, so a smattering of minced onion and cilantro and a dash of bright salsa verde brings out the best in the lamb.
And while the borrego has flavor to spare, the taco de cabeza bursts with so much meaty goodness you'll forget about everything else on the menu. Slow cooked until the meat almost melts with a melange of chiles and spices (make sure you check for stray bay leaves before your first bite), the cabeza (mostly cheek meat) is dark, rich and unctuous with fat and collagen. The bright orange salsa made from chiles de arbol is a better accompaniment, with enough heat and roasty flavor to stand up to the beef. You'll thank your taquero for doubling up the tortillas — the juices of the cabeza soak right through the first layer.
In advance of the Best of Denver 2015, we're loading our plates with contenders for the best dishes in the city. And over the next few months, we'll be sharing many of them with you, counting down (in no particular order) one hundred of our favorite dishes before the the Best of Denver 2015 hits the streets on March 26. In the meantime, if there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section below, or shoot us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2014 countdown are linked below.
No. 100: Chile Relleno at La Fiesta
No. 99: Gurage Kitfo at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant
No. 98: Cochinita Pibil at Work & Class
No. 97: The Greggers Tongue Sandwich at Olive & Finch
No. 96: Baum Cakes at Glaze by Sasa
No. 95: Goat hot pot from Viet's
No.94: Head cheese from Beast + Bottle
No. 93: Kettle Chips from Amerigo Delicatus
No. 92: Pork Belly Confit at Solera Restaurant and Wine Bar
No. 91: Tacos Campechanos from La Calle Taqueria
No. 90: Biscuits from Denver Biscuit Co.
No. 89: Clams and Chorizo at Gozo
No. 88: Aburi Sushi at Sushi Den and Izakaya Den
No. 87: Kimchi and Sausage Torta at City, O' City
No. 86: Mar y Tierra Molcajete at Paxia
No. 85: Crispy Pork Spare Ribs at Table Top
No. 84: Chips and Dip at Euclid Hall
No. 83: Chile Relleno Burrito at El Taco de Mexico
No. 82: Scallop Crudo at Stoic & Genuine
No. 81: Ceylon Curry Dosa at Khazana
No. 80: The Lambada Torta at La Torteria
No. 79: Pork Bulgogi at Dae Gee
No. 78: the Pulled Pork Pig Pen Sandwich at Boney's
No. 77: IPA Mac & Cheese at Hops & Pie
No. 76: Chiles en Nogada at Chili Verde
No. 75: Udon Noodle Bowl at Bones
No. 74: Cinnamon Rolls at the Duffeyroll Cafe
No. 73: Smoked Turkey Croque-Madame at Acorn
No. 72: Pickled Lake Michigan Perch at Trillium
No. 71: Oysters at Jax Fish House Glendale
No. 70: Venezuelan Tostadas at Empanada Express Grill
No. 69: Tahini Cauliflower from Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
No. 68: The Ham and Cheese Tartita from Maria Empanada
No. 67: Ronnie's Favorite from Rosenberg's Bagels and Deli
No. 66: Shoo-fly Pie from the Long i Pie Shop
No. 65: Czech Potato Pancakes at Sobo 151
No. 64: Fried Chicken at the Post Brewing Co.
No. 63: Braised Brisket Sandwich at Masterpiece Delicatessen
No. 62: The Scotch Egg from Argyll Whisky Beer
No. 61: Butternut Squash Ravioli at DiFranco's
No. 60: Sesame Balls at Vinh Xuong Bakery
No. 59: Curry Puffs at Suvipa Thai Food
No. 58: Diavola Pizza at Pizzeria Locale
No. 57: Chorizo Breakfast Stew at DJ's 9th Avenue Cafe
No. 56: The Rare Beast Sandwich at Salt & Grinder
No. 55: 48-Hour Short Ribs at Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery
No. 54: Marrow Bone Brulee at Mercantile Dining & Provision
No. 53: Prawns and Pork Belly at Blackbelly Market
No. 52: Belgian Waffles from Waffle Up
No. 51: Nashville Hot Chicken at Lou's Food Bar
No. 50: Breakfast Burrito from Chickee's Lil Kitchen
No. 49: Monkfish and Romanesco at TAG
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