Cafe Society

First look: El Chingon opens on Tennyson Street (finally!)

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In fact, says Lopez, many of the guests who braved today's frigid temps, were customers from the Arvada location, loyalists who love, as much as I do, the tacos, tostadas, burritos, sauces and salsas that had made El Chingon one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in the city.

And now it's even better -- and bigger. Whereas the old El Chingon did a brisk takeout business, the fistful of tables were few and far between, and the decor -- or lack of it -- wasn't particularly noteworthy.

But here, in these quarters, stand hand-crafted, dark-wooded tables; glossy hardwood floors; conversation-piece photographs, shot by a local photographer, depicting Mexico's heritage and an original painting of a rather regal chihuahua; an eye-catching chandelier; and a distressed wooden bar, behind which are shelves of nearly fifty tequilas, not to mention just about every other spirit imaginable, many of them distilled in Colorado.

And there's a cocktail syllabus, too, courtesy of Jesse Migchelbrink, who spent nearly six years with Dave Query's Big Red F restaurant group, mostly behind the bar at Jax, LoDo, a position he left earlier this year to work on this project. "I love Jax, I learned a lot while I was there, and I have a ton of respect for Dave Query, but I wanted to be somewhere smaller, an independent upstart; I wanted to work for the underdog," says Migchelbrink, adding that his cocktail list, which includes six tequilas-based drinks, and one -- the Otro Clava -- made with Hendrick's gin, pineapple, almond tincture, fresh lemon, Aperol and St. Germain, is designed to "support and complement the food." Are there elements of mixology weaved in? A few, but by and large, it's a craft-cocktail list that's definitely approachable and leans toward straightforward Mexican libations.

And the food that's delivered from the kitchen follows the same philosophy: simple, absent of flashy flourishes and devoted to the Mexican food that Lopez grew up eating.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson