100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes: Venezuelan Tostadas at Empanada Express Grill

No. 70 Venezuelan Tostadas at Empanada Express Grill 4301 West 44th Avenue 303-955-8362 We're fans of the namesake Venezuelan savory pastries from Empanada Express Grill; we also have a soft spot in our hearts for the mouthwatering arepas made with griddle-crisped corn flour. But it's a hybrid dish, not a traditional South American staple, that has us head-over-heels in love. The Venezuelan tostadas on the appetizer menu feature all the best of the tiny eatery's kitchen: fruity plantain, perfectly cooked black beans and succulent shredded beef piled together into an irresistible mess that looks at first glance to be nothing more than a quickly made salad.

See also: 100 Favorite Dishes of 2014

It starts with a flattened disk of green plantain, fried crisp on the exterior but just a little soft in the middle, like a thick, handmade tortilla. Flavorful black beans add creamy texture and heft. Next comes generous mounds of slow-cooked beef, the juices locked into the soft strands. The beef reveals a touch of heat in a complex blend of spices, brightened by just a hint of acidity. Mild white cheese and ripe avocado slices top everything for a creamy finish.

Tostadas, more of a Mexican thing, don't spring to mind when it comes to Venezuelan cuisine, but the tropical flavor of plantain suits this version well. At $8.50 for a plate of four, the dish makes a perfect appetizer for a group, but also works wonderfully as a well-balanced entree for one. The tostadas don't come with salsa, though, so be sure to ask for a side — either the tangy verde laced with cilantro or the slightly spicier roja, both creamier and milder than their Mexican counterparts.

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 [email protected]

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

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation