Openings and Closings

Avanti Close-up: Kevin Morrison's Poco Torteria

Pinche Taqueria was an instant hit when chef-owner Kevin Morrison upgraded from a food truck to a full-fledged cantina in 2012. Tacos and tequila are the stars there, but happy-hour sliders also have their fans. Those sliders are the closest thing you'll find to tortas at Morrison's eateries (he opened a second in West Highland in 2013) — until now, that is. Following the formula of fun and bold takes on Mexican street food without slavish adherence to tradition, Morrison's Poco Torteria — one of seven eateries inside Avanti Food & Beverage, the innovative new food hall that opened on Monday in lower Highland — takes aim at the unwritten rules of street food.

Just like the tacos at Pinche, the tortas at Poco begin their journey in a traditional form — grilled sandwiches layered with meats, frijoles, avocado, sauces and veggies. But rather than such standard Mexican fillings as carnitas, carne al pastor or ham and Milanesa (pounded and breaded beef), these tortas take inspiration from a much wider geographical area. Built on pan Frances made to order for Poco by City Bakery (in a nod to vegetarians, there are no lard-based telera or bolillo rolls), options include grilled steak in the OG T, Italian-style porchetta, and chicken meatballs. 

"The Paris 1910 is Kevin's ode to the croque-madame," explains Vanessa Black, manager of business operations for Pinche and Poco. "It's part French, part Mexican and part American." The open-faced sandwich layers thick-cut ham, poblano bechamel and arugula atop a split roll, with twin fried eggs atop everything.

Morrison and his team explored the Denver torta scene before building recipes, she says, wanting to capture the essence of the Mexico City sandwich while bringing something a little new to the mix. So while Poco offers a version of the Milanesa and ham combo so common at other joints, Poco's take features a fried chicken cutlet instead — and then slathers on a layer of decidedly American pimento cheese spread. 

In addition to tortas, a couple of salads and desserts are also available, and the drinks list includes Mexican Coca-Cola, Jarritos sodas, horchata and aguas frescas (fresh-made, fruit-infused waters). If you still have questions, the Poco menu includes a WTF? section — typical of the irreverent style that nearly got Pinche banned from city streets a few years ago.

This week we're spotlighting the seven fast-casual food counters inside the brand new Avanti Food & Beverage building, which just opened on Monday. Here are our other Avanti close-ups:
Souk Shawarma from Jon Robbins of Bistro Barbes
Farmer Girl from Chef Tim Payne
Brava Pizzeria from Dave Bravdica

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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