100 Favorite Dishes: Cochinita Pibil at Work & Class

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No. 98 Cochinita Pibil at Work & Class 2500 Larimer Street 303-292-0700

It's possible that every menu item at Work & Class, the raucous but welcoming homage to American slow cooking -- with a healthy dose of Mexican flavors -- could make our 100 Favorite Dishes list. The kitchen's spoon bread is a moist and fluffy cloud of pleasure; the peppers five ways give chile heads five new ways to torture their tongues; even the creamy braised greens turn humble kale (or other greens, depending on the season) into another reason to fight the crowds for another bowlful. But Work & Class truly stands head and (pork) shoulders above the competition with its rendition of the Yucatecan marinated and braised pig specialty called cochinita pibil.

See also: Why does Work & Class seem so right now -- and so right?

Part of the restaurant's clamorous atmosphere comes from its construction; the building is pieced together from repurposed shipping containers. But a seat on the patio overlooking Larimer Street, Denver's hottest restaurant drag, will take you out of the throng. Whether you're seated indoors or out, though, the cochinita pibil will command your full attention. Sous-chef Vicente Sosa created the dish using traditional methods and ingredients; the pork is marinated in a mixture containing achiote, a paste that gives the meat a red-orange tint, and braised under banana leaves.

The result is tender and toothsome shreds of pork with mild chile warmth and a subtle citrus tang. Work & Class sells all of its meats by the pound, but most of them come with a side not mentioned on the menu. The cochinita pibil is partnered with fresh corn tortillas and a zingy cilantro-lime slaw for constructing the perfect tacos. Or you can just eat the succulent pork straight up and use the tortillas to mop up the remaining sauce and shreds.

Have you had cochinita pibil anywhere else in town? How does it compare to the Yucatan treasure from Work & Class?

In advance of the Best of Denver 2015, we're already loading our plates with contenders for the best dishes in the city. And over the next nine 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 cafe@westword.com.

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

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