Second Helpings

Viva El Viva Villa

I was sad when Mee Yee Lin closed its first home, thrilled when it reopened in Aurora, then sad all over again when it closed a second time. And then a new operation moved into Mee Yee Lin's former spot at 2295 South Chambers: El Viva Villa, a shoestring family Mexican operation that started in Commerce City (the original is still going strong at 5411 Quebec Street) and is just now starting to expand. Was I happy about trading in an occasionally amazing Chinese dim sum restaurant for another Mexican joint in a neighborhood already full of pretty good ones? No. And for some time, I held a bit of a grudge — refusing to set foot in El Viva Villa because it had taken the place of a restaurant I'd loved.

But I couldn't hold out forever, and after visiting last week, I'm actually quite happy that Villa moved into my neighborhood. Somebody in this kitchen really knows his way around some al pastor. Initially I'd wanted a breakfast burrito ($2.75) but failed to notice the giant banner out front that announced they were only sold until 11 a.m. Still, my fallback option — an al pastor burrito — was excellent: deeply flavorful, charry-sweet, not gigantic but not skimpy, either, and significantly cheaper than a burrito from Chipotle across the street. I got some tacos as well — three al carbon, folded inside single corn tortillas, with fresh tomato, chopped onion, a little cilantro, beans, rice and fat slices of avocado laid on top. Nice.

El Viva Villa reaches for something a little finer when it comes to the seafood offerings (ceviche, tilapia mojarra frita, parrillada de mariscos and a gigantic siete mares) but sticks close to the bone everywhere else, making for a good Mexican three-a-day and a fine addition to the area. None of this means that I miss Mee Yee Lin any less, of course, but a good taco and a great burrito are better than an empty, darkened storefront any day.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan

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