But it's clearly a taco, not a burrito. The expansive tortilla constraining a heap of pinto beans, cecina (semi-dried slices of beef), nopales, avocado and crumbled queso fresco is made from corn masa, not wheat flour, and it's served folded, not rolled. The thing is so unwieldy it requires a foil wrap on one end — the way Greek gyros are often presented — and two hands to ferry it to your face.
This is the taco cecina, one of several versions of a taco placero — a street-market specialty of Puebla, Mexico — served at Antojitos La Poblanita.
For that you need to seek out Antojitos La Poblanita, owned and operated by Elizabeth Urrieta and her sister, Maria. The siblings hail from Puebla (the "Poblanita" in the restaurant's name is a giveaway), and after running a catering business for most of the past decade in Denver, they opened a restaurant several years ago.
As tricky as it is to track down comida poblana in Denver, finding "Eli" Urrieta's lonchera is even trickier. Don't bother with an online search for a website or social-media pages; you'll only find the wrong address. Yes, La Poblanita was once located at 3896 Morrison Road, but Urrieta moved from there a year ago. Locating the current address, 2970 West Barberry Place, doesn't provide much help, either; it's on a dead-end street off Federal Boulevard that leads to the back of a couple of warehouse-style buildings. But if you do manage to get that far, you'll be close enough to smell the frijoles simmering.
Urrieta moved her restaurant from the more visible spot on Morrison Road when the flea market's owner presented the opportunity and pointed out the guaranteed foot traffic from shoppers. The sisters say business is better at this new location and steadily growing, despite La Poblanita's hidden home.
There's also a more detailed menu at the order counter that includes prices. Don't be put off by the $9 price tag on the tacos; these aren't the dainty street tacos to which you've become accustomed. For a slightly cheaper but no less intimidating option, the taco acorasado (the "battleship" or "ironclad" taco) rings in at $6 and comes with potatoes, milanesa (like chicken-fried steak pounded super-thin) and a hard-boiled egg.
If you've heard people describe the flavor of cilantro as soapy (those people generally refuse to eat it, too), papalo embodies the flavor they're likely describing. It's the very essence of cilantro, magnified to the point that a mere whiff conjures a trip down the cleaning-products aisle at the supermarket. But it's also the most distinctly Pueblan part of the sandwich — many restaurants in the Mexican city boast bouquets of the herb at each table for customers to snip off and add to their food — and its bold pungency is tamed somewhat by the generous helping of cheese. Give the papalo a shot before you reject it entirely (La Poblanita will substitute cilantro); it's a flavor that grows on you — and will at the very least open a window onto the cuisine of Puebla and the nostalgic yearnings driving Urrieta's customers to seek her out.
More familiar mole poblano, enchiladas verdes, gorditas, huaraches and other Mexican classics are also available, and they're all good. One thing you won't find are the two-bite tacos sold in nearly every other taqueria around town. But if you've come this far, past growling backhoes moving mounds of dirt out on Federal Boulevard, past the flea market hawkers hoping for new customers, you'll experience something unique in Denver.
Go big with La Pobanita's big-time taco.
Antojitos La Poblanita is open daily from 11 a.m. until the Federal Flea Market closes at 6:30 p.m.; smaller versions of its tacos were featured at Tacolandia on August 17.