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Second Helping

Although fast-casual Mex is all the rage today -- and with good reason, in the case of Tin Star -- there was a time not long ago when Denver was inundated with white-tablecloth Mexican joints. But they were still years behind Las Brisas, which opened in 1987 and has real linens on the table that are really white. It also has giant swordfish on the walls, and those high-backed white-wicker chairs that make anyone who sits in one feel like some sur de la frontera gringo ranch owner out on the screen porch overseeing the herd. The food is a combination of uppity Mexican standards (tacos, burritos and enchiladas) glamorized by fancy sauces, coastal resort food (mahi mahi in ginger-mango sauce, tortilla-crusted salmon and trout in shrimp bisque -- but no swordfish), and a little abuelita-style Tex-Mex that was so impressive I was able to forget the Tex part and concentrate on the Mex. Las Brisas does tableside guacamole (and was at it long before all those other joints), excellent carnitas, flat enchilada pies served in stoneware dishes, and chimichangas that are so bad for you they're like swallowing a cholesterol hand grenade, but so good that you don't care. And all of this is served in an environment that -- though slightly dated and starting to wear around the edges -- is comfortable, inviting, and friendly as all get-out. One caution: Despite its age, Las Brisas still packs 'em in during prime time, which can sometimes stress the service. So don't expect fast food when you come here, but be willing to wait a little while for the good stuff.

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