Taco Tuesday is essentially that, and in Denver, such early-week deals net formidable crowds at Mexican restaurants across the city. At most of these places, for a precious hour or two, traditional happy hour overlaps with discounted tacos, creating an orgy of frugality.
There are a number of places in Denver where it’s possible to partake in such seductive cost savings, but one of the newest is El Jefe, the Sunnyside farm-to-table Mexican restaurant from the owners of Lucky Pie, which unveiled its own take on Taco Tuesday about a month ago. Each Tuesday night, the restaurant offers a cast of four different $1 tacos, plus $5 Herradura margaritas. Come between 4 and 6 p.m., and you’ll also score access to the happy-hour menu, which lands you discounts on drinks and snacks; look for $4 house margaritas, $5 palomas and $3 cans of Tecate or Modelo on the beverage list, and $5 queso, $7 guacamole and an $8 chicken posole among food offerings. On days that are not Tuesday, there's also a special $3 happy-hour taco.
While we’re not exactly taco purists, we harbored initial deep skepticism toward the less traditional offerings here, especially the BLT, since the name immediately conjured a rather vile impression of iceberg sheets, tomato slices and mayo on a corn tortilla. That prejudice turned out to be misguided; the cheeky blend of crispy bacon strips, earthy black beans, tangy tomato and textured kale was the best of the lot. Similarly, the turnip potato salad, enhanced by a zip of smoky-tart chipotle aioli, read like an item at a stoner’s picnic, but it was just as munchable without the weed. Ironically, chicken posole was the weakest link. While the shredded chicken and firm chickpeas (instead of the standard hominy) had nice textural play, the mix was bland, imparting none of the pleasures of the rich stew.
If you miss the boat on happy hour, the $5 Herradura margarita is a nice additional all-night special. But between the hours of 4 and 6, save your buck and stick to the $4 house version. The latter made our list of the best margaritas in the city; the nicely balanced tart sipper is distinctive thanks to its salt-sugar rim, a boon for savory-sweet hounds.
Think twice about the chicharrones, though: The crispy puffs are a nice drinking snack, but they need more chili powder and salt to be truly addictive; that boost in seasoning would also cut the tongue-coating unctuousness of the pork fat. You’re unlikely to finish the small bowl — not a tragedy at $3, but you might as well spend your money on chips and a trio of salsas instead.
El Jefe's Taco Tuesday will probably catch on quickly, but for now, word doesn’t yet seem to be out, so it’s not hard to score a seat. That's a boon for people who hate lines; we know of far less appealing Taco Tuesdays that command long waits.