Atomic Tamale's vegetarian and vegan tamales are a south-of-the-border delight

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Although Denver has some of the best Mexican food in the country, vegetarians and vegans alike know it is not easy to find meat-free Mexican meals in this city -- and finding meat-and-cheese-free Mexican food is almost like seeking the Holy Grail. It might take you a couple of passes to locate Atomic Tamale at 649 Santa Fe Drive; it's actually inside La Muerte Apparel, a clothing-and-accessories store that, appropriately, carries Day of the Dead-themed attire, jewelry, purses and more, which is nice, because it gives you something to look at while you're waiting for your tamales. And we promise you this: These tamales are worth the wait.

It's a small kitchen with an equally small menu: Atomic Tamale sells vegetarian tamales (green chile and cheese), vegan tamales (red chile and soy meat) and falafel taquitos. Sorry, meat-lovers. When we stopped by on Sunday morning, Atomic Tamale was running a special: Three falafel taquitos and two tamales for $5. We went with it, ordering one vegan and one vegetarian tamale, which were thoughtfully served on separate plates. The meal was served up in a little cardboard tray with a plastic ramekin of salsa that the proprietor warned us was "hot." He wasn't joking -- and that's a good thing; too many "hot" salsas are actually mild-to-medium, so it was a pleasant surprise to feel the heat with the taquitos and tamales.

Here's another reason to stop by on a Sunday: Atomic Tamale serves free vegan menudo with every order on Sunday. Yes, free. (And, yes, vegan menudo -- we aren't sure how they do it, but we'll tell you this: Better menudo has never passed the lips of this Veggie Girl. Don't knock it till you try it, is all we're saying.) There was a little table with menudo fixings set up, including corn chips, lime wedges, fresh cilantro and shredded cabbage. The hominy was fluffy, the chunks of "meat" tender, and the broth to-die-for.

We were so impressed that we also took home a dozen vegan tamales for $18 -- and made fast work of those, too.

There are two small tables set out on the lawn for noshing; stop by and spend your lunch or dinner in the beautiful weather while it lasts. Atomic Tamale is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day but Monday -- and we'll definitely be back next Sunday for that menudo. And the Sunday after that. And probably the Sunday after that. Ad infinitum.

Call 303-955-2898 or visit www.facebook.com/pages/Atomic-Tamale/252552288100278.

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