The food of Central America is not easy to find in the heart of Denver; you have to drive along East Colfax Avenue toward Aurora before you see any Salvadoran, Guatemalan or Honduran restaurants. So the appearance of El Tazumal at 258 Santa Fe Drive, just south of the Art District on Santa Fe, was a pleasant surprise in a part of town where tacos and burritos are more the norm.
El Tazumal has been open since July, but only on Saturdays and Sundays as the owner and his daughters slowly tested the waters. Now, though, the place is open daily in the space that was once home to Mile High Vienna Stand (which moved a few doors north several years ago). The spot is tidy and modern, with a gray-and-yellow color scheme, star-shaped light fixtures and a few Salvadoran decorations on the walls. A case stocked with Jarritos, Sangrial, TopoChico and other soft drinks adds more color and brightness to the tiny dining room.
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Pupusas are the specialty of the house; they come in a few varieties, notably cheese and loroco (a tropical flower bud) and cheese and chicharrón (minced and seasoned pork, not the more familiar fried pork rind). Other menu options include Salvadoran versions of tamales (wrapped in banana leaf), enchiladas (served flat rather than rolled) and chicken criollo, presented as either an entree or a sandwich. Plantains and fried yuca also make appearances, the latter in a dessert fritter served with berry syrup.
If you're coming from Broadway or points east, cut through the Baker neighborhood and emerge onto northbound Santa Fe at Second Avenue. You'll soon see El Tazumal's vibrant outdoor mural depicting two women making and serving pupusas, with the restaurant's namesake Mayan temple in the background. There's no permanent sign yet, but a temporary banner that reads "Pupusas" helps guide the way.
El Tazumal is located at 258 Santa Fe Drive and open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. For more information, call 720-584-6068.