Eating Adventures

Exploring Arapahoe Road: Sabor's Simplicity Is Its Strength

Sabor's smothered burrito is only slightly smaller than a newborn.
Sabor's smothered burrito is only slightly smaller than a newborn. Maureen Witten
After spending a year eating my way up Havana Street in Aurora, I now realize that I took for granted all the wonderful mom-and-pop taquerias lining the street. But now that I'm exploring Arapahoe Road, I understand how incredibly spoiled I was, since down here, Chipotle and Qdoba are about as close as I get to quick (albeit sad) burritos and tacos. That is, until I heard about the family-owned and operated Sabor Mexican Grill. While new to me, Sabor has been in business for years, serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week to hungry laborers, DTC professionals, families with young children, and teens arriving in droves during high school lunch rushes. Everyone walking through the door has the same goal in mind: getting their fix of those fresh-made Mexican standards on the fly.

Walking up at lunchtime, I encountered a line out the door. I made a comment to the person ahead of me that the place must be good to command such a crowd in a shopping center with so many other food options — there's a Chipotle just across the street, after all. A customer seated at a table nearby immediately piped in, “Oh it IS amazing! The wait is well worth the food. You won’t be disappointed.”

click to enlarge The fish in these tacos is fried to order. - MAUREEN WITTEN
The fish in these tacos is fried to order.
Maureen Witten
And while I was happy to hear the news that I would enjoy my lunch, I braced myself for a long wait — yet got through the line in under four minutes.

When I arrived at the register with only my torta, I repeated to several different staff members that I’d also ordered a fish taco. They all nodded to acknowledge my comment and continued assembling food, as if to say,  “We got it lady, you’ll get your taco. Calm down.”

click to enlarge Sabor has been fueling Arapahoe County high school kids for years. - MAUREEN WITTEN
Sabor has been fueling Arapahoe County high school kids for years.
Maureen Witten
I didn’t realize it at the time, but quickly figured out that Sabor is a well-oiled machine in which everyone stationed on the line does their job efficiently and with care: grilling up savory meats, chopping fresh veggies, breading and frying fish, and serving piping-hot refried beans and rice. They all knew my fish taco was coming, and the last person I saw at the register assured me that they were frying the fish to order and she’d personally deliver it to my table. Only two minutes later, I received a neatly assembled taco that was as beautiful as it was tasty; a warm white-corn tortilla housing a briny beer-battered fish filet atop a pico de gallo-laced slaw and an artfully drizzled tangy dressing on top. Well worth the extra couple minutes of waiting and unnecessary stress I’d experienced thinking they’d forgotten it.

“How’s your torta?” asked a customer who’d sat down at the table next to me, nodding toward the six bites of sandwich I had left sitting on my plate. Until he interrupted my concentration, I was contemplating the risk/reward factor of polishing off the rest of my football-sized torta as I picked at the savory bits of pastor that’d fallen from the bread. He went on to tell me that he's a regular and comes in for both lunch and breakfast. “They know my order whenever I come," he noted. "Someday I'll surprise them and order something new — just not today.”

He laughed and pointed to his carne asada torta, which looked as delicious as mine. I was relieved that he didn’t know that I’d polished off a fish taco before starting on the sandwich, though something tells me that he would’ve understood; the food commands one bite after the next, leaving you baffled by an empty tray and already craving a return visit.

click to enlarge Tortas can be ordered with a choice of several meats; this one is filled with carne al pastor. - MAUREEN WITTEN
Tortas can be ordered with a choice of several meats; this one is filled with carne al pastor.
Maureen Witten
Breakfast burritos, served all day, are filled with egg, potato, cheese, rice, beans, green chile and your choice of bacon, chorizo or ham. Or you can skip the meat and order it vegetarian, with green chiles, bell pepper, potato, egg and cheese. Lunch burritos come stuffed with rice, beans, cheese, sour cream and either pastor, carne asada, carnitas or chicken. You can get them smothered or handheld, which approximates the sensation of cradling a swaddled infant in your hands. Items such as the cheese enchiladas, fish tacos or quesadillas will suit a vegetarian’s needs, while keto or low-carb dieters will find the fare suitable to their needs, since meats, salsas and guacamole are so flavor-filled and plentiful that a tortilla will not be missed.

The restaurant is simple and dark, with several tables that feel a bit close together when the restaurant is really packed. A straightforward menu with classic Mexican fare and a logo painted on the wall are the extent of the decorations. Yet Sabor is as packed as a burrito for both breakfast and lunch, proving that an unadorned eatery is of little concern to its customers when the food provides all the excitement. In fact, the simple backdrop serves as an ambassador for the palatable food at Sabor Mexican Grill. Whether you order a baby-sized burrito with crunchy carnitas, a torta with orange-hued pastor or a piquant carne asada taco, your meal is going to be succulent and bursting with vigor. Sabor, after all, means flavor in Spanish — and this place definitely lives up to the name.

Sabor is located at 12201 East Arapahoe Road in Centennial and is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can visit the restaurant's website to view the menu or call 303-790-1040 to inquire about catering or takeout orders.
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Denver native Maureen Witten is a suburban mom of two and online author who is unapologetically obsessed with all things food. Eating her way up major thoroughfares throughout metro Denver, she enjoys highlighting the gems hidden among the chain eateries.