Mister Oso Wash Park
103 South Odgen Street
Open 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 3 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
For more info:
What we saw:
The ceviche with yellowfin tuna is complex and flavorful.
Between last year's debut of A5, our 2022 pick for Best Steakhouse
, and upcoming projects that include a new bar in Cherry Creek and chef Carrie Baird's brunch eatery Fox and the Hen, restaurateur Juan Padró's Culinary Creative
group is on a roll.
The Latin-inspired arm of the group, headed up by chef Blake Edmunds, got its start in 2017 with the debut of Señor Bear in the Highland neighborhood. Two years later, little brother Mister Oso opened in RiNo. Now, just a few weeks after fast-casual offshoot Osito kicked off operations at new Arvada food hall Freedom Street Social
, a second Mr. Oso is welcoming guests near Wash Park, in the former Ogden Street South.
The new spot is much larger than the RiNo original, but it keeps the tropical vibes going, with greenery hanging from the ceiling and palm-covered wallpaper. Doors from the dining room open and merge with the front patio; both spaces were full on a weeknight visit shortly after the August 20 debut.
A number of staff members from the RiNo location have moved to the new outpost, bringing with them plenty of menu knowledge — most of the offerings are the same, and include some small plates and salads, happy hour offerings available from 3 to 6 p.m. daily, and the main event: tacos, served family style.
The happy hour lineup includes guac, queso and the Gordo Crunch.
The concise cocktail menu includes several styles of margaritas and, surprisingly, more rum-based drinks than those made with agave spirits. It's bolstered by a duo of agua frescas (which you can enjoy as is, or add your choice of booze) and two frozen options, served in honey bear-shaped vessels for a fun touch.
The real fun, though, lies in the food offerings, where even basic dishes get a boost of complex flavors. The guacamole ($11, or $9 during happy hour) is topped with a mix of pumpkin seeds, pistachios and sesame seeds for added crunch and nuttiness. Melted cheese is hard to beat, but a swirl of peanut salsa matcha takes the queso ($11/$6) to new levels of satisfaction. The only thing better than dragging a chip through the creamy cheese is doing the same with one of the small Gordo Crunch happy-hour tacos ($5).
While this would be a great spot for snacking and sipping margs with friends, going beyond the apps and happy hour brings even more culinary complexity. The ceviche (market price), which on our visit was made with yellowfin tuna, is light and bright, with some heat from thinly sliced chiles. Setting it apart is the use of tepache, a fermented pineapple beverage, and mayu, umami-rich black garlic.
While $18 may seem like a steep price for a tomato and avocado salad, this one is big enough to share with three to four people. It's made with a mix of peak summer tomato varieties surrounding a halved avocado that's swimming in a buttermilk dressing so good, you're tempted to sip it straight out of the shallow bowl. Once tomato season is over, though, this dish will go into hibernation.
The Pollo Frito tacos are only available at the Wash Park location.
The taco lineup ($12-$14) is filled with tempting options, from trendy birria to a super-tender coconut-braised mojo pork, but the can't-miss is the Pollo Frito. While it was on the menu in RiNo once before, the fryer capacity there made it a short-lived offering. Now it's back in full force in Wash Park. Fried chicken tacos can often be too heavy or one-note, but here the tender, crispy chicken comes doused in a nicely balanced bacon jam and smoked cascabel aioli with thin slices of tart green tomato on top. Each taco option comes piled on a platter with flour tortillas alongside to build your own taco, and this one was nearly impossible to put down.
The dessert menu is also deceptively simple and includes just three items: churros served with a brown butter caramel ($6); a play on the now-retired Choco Taco ($5), currently made with an anise-flavored ice cream and chocolate chips on top; and ice cream in flavors ranging from cotija to corn with blueberries — you won't find any plain vanilla here. You can also opt for the Pro Move ($10), which includes both churros and your choice of ice cream.
What surprised us:
Get the tomato and avocado salad while you can.
How buzzy the place already is. Mister Oso opened rather quietly in Washington Park, but it's big news in the neighborhood. Everyone who walked by commented on how they were coming in soon or had already been to the eatery. One woman walking her dog spotted a neighbor dining inside and stopped to chat about their mutual excitement over the new addition to the area. But while people kept filtering in and out nearly nonstop, nothing seemed chaotic.
Even in the midst of training new employees, the Mister Oso team was cool, calm and upbeat. The scene we encountered was the kind you'd expect to find at a place a few months old; if Mister Oso can keep that momentum going into fall, this spot is poised to become a neighborhood staple.