First Look

First Look: Adobo's First Stand-Alone Restaurant Is a Green Chile Lover's Dream

Adobo XO is the brand's first standalone restaurant.
Adobo XO is the brand's first standalone restaurant. Molly Martin
What: Adobo XO

Where: 3109 Federal Boulevard

When: Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

For more info: Visit adobodenver.com
click to enlarge The menu includes dishes inspired by Blaggao's upbringing in New Mexico and his Filipino grandmother. - MOLLY MARTIN
The menu includes dishes inspired by Blaggao's upbringing in New Mexico and his Filipino grandmother.
Molly Martin
What we saw: Adobo made a splash in its first iteration as a food truck, winning the top people's pick and the second-place judges' choice at Top Taco 2018, then snagging Best Food Truck honors in Westword's Best of Denver 2019. Since then, owner Blaine Baggao has continued to grow the business, opening an outpost inside First Draft in RiNo in 2020 and becoming one of the local food vendors at Meow Wolf's HELLOFOOD in 2021. Adobo also appeared in the Netflix series Fresh, Fried and Crispy, which touched on Baggao's journey to the food business following a head-on motorcycle accident — and made his lumpia "Netflix famous," he notes.

Over the last few weeks, he's slowly been introducing Adobo's latest move: its first stand-alone brick-and-mortar location. The building on Federal Boulevard has been home to a long list of restaurants over the years — "We spent weeks, months, just cleaning, organizing, remodeling, putting together a vision for this space," he says — and is now filled with the aroma of smoked carnitas and Filipino chicken adobo, a recipe inspired by Baggao's grandmother.

The large room has plenty of room for fans of Adobo's food, as well as for hosting community events, a driving force for Baggao. "I would much rather be a community center," he notes, adding that the spot has already hosted a fundraiser for someone battling brain cancer as well as a wake for a young woman who passed away unexpectedly. "You and your special moment where you need somebody to support you in the community, I'm there," he says.

As with the food truck, which is now available for private events, and Adobo at First Draft, this outpost's menu includes dishes inspired by Baggao's experience growing up in New Mexico as well as some based on his Filipino grandmother's recipes, including that lumpia and the chicken adobo. And a lot of the menu items — including fries, deviled eggs and cheese wontons — are smothered in one of the best takes on green chile in town.

"It's absolutely unique, different. Nobody else makes it like this," Baggao says. "I wanted to make a green chile that was satisfying as a sauce...but we can also make a bowl of green chile by smoking some potatoes, smashing and frying them and pouring green chile sauce over that. So it's a very hearty, almost stew-like thing."

It's also vegetarian and gluten-free, making it accessible to almost everyone. But those craving pork are also in luck: Adobo's other specialty is carnitas, "smoked for twelve hours over cherry wood. ... When we cook our carnitas, we do everything we can to not lose moisture or fat, so we confit our carnitas," Baggao explains, using the French term for cooking the meat in its own fat.
click to enlarge The green chile fries at Adobo are a filling meal. - MOLLY MARTIN
The green chile fries at Adobo are a filling meal.
Molly Martin
What surprised us: That carnitas saved Adobo. "I would have gone out of business if it wasn't for carnitas," Baggao recalls. "In March of 2020, we had all the momentum with the food truck...and then immediately went to zero. So we started smoking our carnitas and putting it into two-pound containers and delivering it to people's houses. We were driving, as a team, 350-plus miles."

Along with doing meals for health-care workers, those carnitas deliveries bolstered the business enough to not only help Adobo make it through the pandemic, but to actually grow. "I went from going out of business to doing my entire year's worth of revenue in two months," Baggao says. "The carnitas is the thing that people loved enough to keep us alive."

Now that the Adobo XO location is open, Baggao is focused on connecting with the community — and already has a couple of regulars. "I couldn't have picked better first guests," he recalls. "These two little old ladies just came over and got food and then came back the next day, and we were like, 'How did you even know we were here?' And they said, 'Oh, we've been watching.' So it's nice to know that the neighborhood is taking notice."
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin