When we got wind that the León brothers -- Ignacio, Roberto and Ceasar -- were unleashing Paxia, a new Mexican restaurant in Sunnyside, we were overcome with fits and bursts of enthusiasm, hoots and hollers of joy, and an overwhelming urge to sling a sleeping bag over our shoulders and camp out the night before the doors opened. After all, the León clan owns three outposts of Los Carboncitos, which is one of our favorite taquerias in Denver.
Paxia, which opened today, is not Los Carboncitos. Not even close. Which is not to insinuate that it should be Los Carboncitos. But while sipping iced tea at the citified bar, its wood shiny and new, the tile sleek and shimmery, I was admittedly wistful -- wistful for the caddy of incendiary salsas that you get immediately at the taquerias; wistful for tacos al pastor, the desert-sunset-hued grease streaking my chin; wistful for an horchata and huaraches.
Paxia is the anti-Los Carboncitos, tricked out with lovely fabrics and wallpapers, conversation-piece walls studded with crosses, vintage Mexican posters and even flip-flops. The light fixtures are fancy enough to illuminate a palatial estate in the Polo grounds, the chairs -- some of which remind me of The Jetsons -- everything but plastic.
And the menu, which is served all day, is -- and I hate saying this -- stupid expensive for lunch. A seafood molcajete is $24.99; three flautas with guacamole will empty your wallet by $10.99; a fajita burrito is $8.99; carne asada is $16.99, and so are the shrimp fajitas. And if you're pining for carne asada tacos, served with a heap of undressed greens, chew on this: They're $13.99. I want this place to do well; in fact, I want it to thrive, but Christ on a crutch, when lunch -- in this case, camarones with mushrooms and flecks of guajillo flakes, a mound of rice, more leaves and an iced tea -- sets me back $23, including tip, I kinda freak the fuck out. Seriously?
The space is beautiful, the plates are artistic and the margaritas are potent, but is it worth it? You be the judge. In the meantime, here's a taste, in photos, of what you can expect.
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Tamales. The "cross" room, where, coincidentally, a priest was seated. Shredded beef flautas. Camarones flameados con ojuelas de guajillo. The bar.