Best Mexican food in Boulder and Denver

huevos rancheros casa alegre

Huevos rancheros at Casa Alegre in Louisville

 

Metro Denver seems to have a bit of a rough rep when it comes to great Mexican food, but there *are* some very good options around town…

 

Metro Boulder/Denver

Lafayette

Lunada Eatery & Cantina – Try the spicy chicken tacos and local craft beer on tap from Front Range Brewing.

Taqueria La Esperanza – Quick, authentic, and inexpensive – no frills.

Taco Wagon – Lafayette’s staple for breakfast burritos.

Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina – Quote from a local: “If I was allowed just one more meal, it would be Efrain’s Chili Verde.” (additional locations in Boulder and Longmont; Note: Per one of our readers – “Efrain’s locations in Boulder and Longmont are owned and operated by Efrain himself. The Lafayette location is owned/operated by another family member.”)

Santiago’s (25+ Colorado locations)

Louisville

Casa Alegre Mexican Restaurant – Huevos Rancheros are fantastic.

La Revolución Taqueria y Cantina (La Rev) – Locals love the mole sauce and house margarita.

Old Santa Fe Mexican Grille – New address @ 592 McCaslin Blvd.

Loco Hermanos – Regulars dig the huge burritos and green chile (aka chili).

Pica’s Mexican Taqueria (expected Spring, 2016 – see Boulder notes below)

Longmont

Antonio’s of Longmont – Excellent gluten-free and vegan options.

Las Palmeras Mexican Cuisine – Order the tasty refritos!

Comida Cantina – Exceptional street food, formerly available from a pink truck – now served from a brick/mortar cantina in Prospect.

photo of salsa verde, carrot habanero and pineapple habanero salsas

Three salsas at Comida in Longmont (see also The Source, Denver)

Erie

Azteca Family Mexican Restaurant – Sister restaurant to Casa Alegre in Louisville.

Broomfield

Ana’s Mexican Grill – Try the infused Tequila.

El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant – Looking for huge portions? You’ll find them at Tapatio.

La Casa Del Burrito – Traditional Mexican fare with a great burrito selection.

Tres (3) Margaritas (multiple Colorado locations)

Westminster

Tacos Y Salsas – Try the Machaca burrito.

Hacienda Colorado (four Denver locations)

Los Arcos Mexican Restaurant (three Denver locations)

 

Boulder

Agave Mexican Bistro & Tequila House – Upscale Mexican with a huge, awesome lounge upstairs.

Pica’s Mexican Taqueria – Try the pozole, tacos, burritos, or tortas paired with a lemon-lime-orange-juice margarita. New Louisville location to open in 2016.

La Choza Mexican Restaurant – One of Boulder’s most authentic Mexican spots (NoBo).

Sancho’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant – Formerly 100% Mexicano – thank goodness they’re back!

Tahona Tequila Bistro – The slow-cooked duck tacos are incredible.

Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (multiple Colorado locations)

 

Denver

Chili Verde Mexican Cuisine

D’Corazon Mexican Comfort Food – Visit the “D” for potent margaritas and the traditional style mole poblano.

El Chapultepec – Stop in for jazz and green chile (aka chili).

El Taco de Mexico

Los Chingones Mexican

Las Delicias

La Loma Mexican

Lola Mexican Fish House

Patzcuaro’s Mexican Restaurant

Rosa Linda’s Mexican Cafe

Tacos, Tequila & Whiskey (aka Pinche Tacos, Pinche Taqueria, Pinch) – Worth the trip just for the queso with salty/limey chips. Definitely try the Queso a la Plancha tacos.

Tamayo Modern Mexican Kitchen & Tequileria

 

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Azitra Restaurant – Indian Culinary Nirvana

Chana Masala

Chana Masala… Chickpeas + Diced Potatoes Cooked In Punjabi Style Sauce

I’ve been told, in no uncertain terms – by multiple folks, that the Indian food available in Boulder is nothing to write home about. Generally, people point to a few rough diamonds here and there, but for the most part, I’ve heard little aside from faint praise. So I went to Broomfield.

You’d be hard pressed to overhear, “Oh yeah… you want authentic Indian food? Head to Broomfield, Colorado!”

You’ve probably never heard that. Until now! 

Azitra is solid. The staff is awesome, the food is delish, and they have a decent selection of craft brews on tap and by the bottle. And I’m not kidding about the staff – we’ve received nothing but high-end service in five or six trips to Azitra.

Azitra lies just south of Flatiron Crossing. They have stunning views of the Front Range… and Walmart.

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Sarah and Sara – Besties in Boulder!

picture of Sarah and Sara

The Sara(h)s… about to show Boulder who’s boss…

Did somebody say Girls’ Weekend in Tropical Boulder? In March? Hells yeah. S&S are hitting the town, and I’m just sayin’… these are the places most loved by locals, so check ’em out. Have fun!

When money is no object

Black Cat
Frasca
L’Atelier
Pizzeria Locale

Most hoppin‘ & happenin’

The Med

For my favorite brunch

Brasserie Ten Ten

Vegetarian/vegan

Leaf

Best cocktails

Salt
Bitter Bar

Largest cocktails

Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace

Best sushi

Kasa Japanese Grill

Off Pearl Street, but not too far by cab or designated driver

Radda
Agave (happy hour in the upstairs bar from 7-10 p.m.)

All-day happy hour on Sunday

Aji Latin American Restaurant (food *and* drinks)

Boulder restaurant women seem to love most

Dushanbe Tea House

Cheese Importers – Artisan Cheese & Specialty Foods

the great wall of cheese, yeah

The Great Wall of “Cheese–Yeah”. Just one of many refrigerated, cheese-filled walls at Cheese Importers in Longmont

Cheese Importers' delectable olive/pepper/antipasto bar

also in Cheese Importers’ cooler is a delectable olive/pepper/antipasto bar… adding a sultry element to Longmont’s allure

Spanish cheese

I have yet to sample this particular Spanish “Capricho de Cabra”, but any cheese housed next to “Cockles from Spain” gets its own patch of real estate on the Unchained Eatery blog

spinach salad at Cheese Importers

Light spinach salad lunch at Cheese Importers’ European Cafe/Bistro was fantastic… the Cafe is conveniently attached to the cheese/specialty shop so you can refuel following what promises to be a spirited morning or afternoon of artisan cheese sampling.

Cheese Importers' Cafe counter

Cheese Importers’ Cafe counter made us feel as if we were in gay Par-ee… but alas… we were in Longmont.

French macarons

French macarons at Cheese Importers in Longmont. Dessert, anyone?

bought lots of cheese

We went a bit nuts on the cheese and chocolate purchasing… we followed it up with wine tasting at Boulder Creek Winery. I gotta say it was a good day.

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Kasa Japanese Grill & Bar

Snow Beauty sake at Kasa in Boulder

Pair your unfiltered sake with the best sushi in Boulder at Kasa

My best advice for your visit to Kasa in Boulder: Trust the sushi chef.

Your first step in dining at Kasa should be to return the warm greeting you received upon walking through the front doors from Mimi – the most enthusiastic and charming host in the universe. She makes you feel as though you’re a long-lost friend who just happened to wander into her home. If you’re feeling down, Mimi will brighten your day with a smile and a boatload of friendliness, so at least stop by and say hi.

Back to the sushi chef… after Mimi guides you to the best table in the house, she’ll hand you the nightly sushi features, which have been painstakingly scribed in colorful Sharpie-esque markers on a large, white dinner plate.

Kasa Sushi specials plate

Kasa Sushi specials plate

So here’s what to order: Ask the chef. Ask the chef to prepare whatever he has featured for the night, and you can’t go wrong. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know better than a sushi chef when it comes to ordering sushi. Unless you happen to also be a sushi chef, you will lose. This also means I can only suggest you consider trying whatever sashimi Kasa has on offer when you dine. If the sushi chef agrees you should try it, then go for it. Do not take my word for it. I’m not a sushi chef, nor am I a regular chef. I sometimes make a pickle/olive/cheese plate for dinner, so what the hell do I know?

Chefs, sushi and otherwise, are proud of their craft. Sushi chefs in particular, however, typically have closer interaction with customers than other chef-y types. If you’re sitting at the sushi bar, they’re typically standing right in front of you, waiting for your face to light up in moderate-to-full-blown ecstasy as you indulge in the fruits of their talent. Cooking – or not cooking, in sushi’s case – is their artwork, so feel free to take their word for it when it’s time to order.

you'll want to hug a sushi chef after trusting said chef with your order at Kasa

you’ll want to hug a sushi chef after trusting said chef with your meal at Kasa in Boulder

chef's choice of sashimi at Kasa in Boulder

Kasa’s sushi chef, per usual, delivered sashimi perfection.

marmalade cocktail

Kasa’s refreshing orange marmalade cocktail… one is all you’ll need.

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Pizzeria Locale

 

Pizzeria Locale bartender

Treat yourself to the Charcuterie plate and a handsome bartender at Pizzeria Locale in Boulder.

Pizzeria Locale dough tossing

The artisans at Locale in Boulder toss the dough before your eyes at a sushi-style pizza bar.

Pizzeria Locale Mais

If Locale’s sweet corn & prosciutto pie were a presidential candidate, it would win the electoral college by a gigantic landslide.

Pizzeria Locale dough toss

The Locale flour is flyin’ everywhere – behind the protective glass, of course.

Pizzeria Locale Ripieno Calzone

The basil/ricotta/prosciutto Ripieno is Locale’s answer to calzone, and, as my mom would say: “It’s to die for.”

Pizzeria Locale Basil Margherita

Locale’s Margherita pizza is topped with Perfect and served with a side of Awesome.

When the goods are this good, it’s wise to be economical with words. I’ll just say this…

Several weeks ago while indulging at Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, my friend Ryan turned to me – in mid-bite of his sweet-corn prosciutto pie – and said:

“I think they must use a secret ingredient in their crust that makes it taste better than any other pizza in the entire universe.”

There you have it.

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D’Corazon Mexican Comfort Food

There’s one place to go in Denver if you’re craving mole sauce: D’Corazon.

D’Corazon offers any and all traditional Mexican dishes – a la carte or combo style – but the main reason to seek out The D is to experience their mastery of the mole sauce. It’s the perfect balance of spicy, sweet-chocolate-y, and savory. My favorte combination is the Mole Poblano, Traditional Style (below).

D'Corazon's Traditional Style Chicken Mole in Denver

D’Corazon’s Traditional Style Chicken Mole topped with sesame seeds… Spicy goodness! Wash it down with a frozen mango margarita.

The great irony of D’Corazon is that it’s directly across the street from the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant on Blake in Lodo. There’s always a line out the door for the Rio, whereas it’s typically easy to find a table rather quickly at D’Corazon. And while the food at the Rio is occasionally decent, D’Corazon is the eatery of choice for quick, quality Mexican fare in Denver.

Further: there’s no question the Rio is the destination of choice if you’re looking to drink yourself into oblivion in a hurry. Rio margaritas are easy to drink – and easy to drink too much of before you realize how little time has passed. But if you’re in Lodo, and you’re hoping for stellar Mexican food, head east from the Rio – about 50 feet, and check out The D. It’s one of Denver’s lesser-known gems. Their $3 frozen mango margaritas are pretty tasty, too.

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100 Percent Mexicano – CLOSED

Boulder's best enchiladas @ 100% Mexicano

Best chicken enchiladas in Boulder at 100% Mexicano – $9. Oh yes.

UPDATE: Sadly, 100% Mexicano has closed… they’ll certainly be missed.

Without a doubt: This is the best Mexican food in Boulder. For all of you who’ve been patiently waiting for a replacement for our beloved Juanita’s, the search is over. In honor of this search finally concluding, I feel it necessary to enlist Survivor to really drive this point home:

What a tender offering. Thank you, Survivor.

So… several items to note about 100 Percent Mexicano:

– This is the best Mexican food I’ve ever had.

They even have an item made from pork throat on the menu. And I think we can all agree: it doesn’t get much more authentic than pork throat.

100 Percent Mexicano is perfect for your next night out in Boulder.

Allow me to plan your night for you:

  1. Between 5-6 p.m., drive to the strip mall where the DMV is in Boulder. Yes, that one. Yes, it’s in a strip mall at 28th & Iris.
  2. Are you still with me? Good. Park your car in the FREE parking lot (extremely rare in Boulder).
  3. Head toward the DMV, then happily stroll past their doors into 100 Percent Mexicano.
  4. Order a margarita or one of their authentic sippers, such as the Jamaican Flower Juice.
  5. Place your food order – my favorite is the chicken enchiladas with green sauce.
  6. Remove your jaw from the floor when you get the bill because it’s so cheap.
  7. Eat the free chips and awesome salsa they serve you.
  8. Prepare to eat the best meal you’ve had in ages.
  9. Savor your meal, then head to downtown Boulder after 7 p.m. By this point, you’re already fed, you’re not spending way too much money or standing in line for mediocre Rio food, you just had the best Mexican food in Boulder, AND parking is free because it’s after 7:00. Go do whatever you want now.

To be clear, 100 Percent Mexicano is several orders of magnitude better than Juanita’s. True, it doesn’t have the world’s most perfect atmosphere (read: strip mall), but it more than makes up for dim lighting and cheesy, sweaty drunk college kids with excellent food, smiling staff, free parking, a quaint outdoor patio, and a heap of value for the money. This place is a no-brainer, so enjoy!

Also, a note about 100%’s happy hour… check out Wednesday. This is some low-maintenance activity to get discounted quesadillas.

100% Mexicano Boulder - Loco Face happy hour

Make a crazy face for a cheap quesadilla? Sí!

 

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Basta – A Wood Fire Eatery + Pizzeria

asparagus soup and bacon salad

Basta lunch: chilled asparagus soup followed by a baby lettuce salad with dates, walnuts, blue cheese, and awesome, enormous chunks of bacon — plus a New Belgium Heavenly Feijoa Tripel

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta:

baked herbed ricotta

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta: house cheese – baked herbed ricotta, cherry tomato and sliced sunchoke

Basta Farro Salad

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta: Farro salad – pomegranate, butternut squash, kale, hazelnut, and Colorado goat cheese – paired with slightly less Hog heaven

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta: 24-hour slow-cooked, red-wine chuck flap, fingerling potato + root vegetable - paired with not much Hog Heaven left at all

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta: 24-hour slow-cooked, red-wine chuck flap, fingerling potato + root vegetable – paired with not much Hog Heaven left at all

Basta campfire vanilla ice cream

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta: homemade Basta campfire vanilla ice cream – paired with a local Boulder porter

Basta's all wood fire oven

Basta’s all wood fire oven with a reflection of my enormous hair in the protective glass

Basta wood fire vegetable salad

Pizzeria Basta – wood fire vegetable salad – radicchio, beets, croutons, wood fire balsamic, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes

Basta House red

House red at Pizzeria Basta in front of firewood used to stoke the oven

Basta Daisy Pizza

Basta Daisy Pizza – tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, olive oil – This pie rivals Pizzeria Locale’s Margherita. Exquisite!

Basta burnt caramel ice cream with sea salt

Pizzeria Basta dessert – burnt caramel ice cream with sea salt – Try it with a Porter!

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“Looking for authentic Asian food? Don’t go to Denver.”

banana wrap photo

Deep fried banana leaf meat (photo courtesy of Jared M.)

If you live in Colorado, you’ve likely heard this line more times than you care to recall. Happily, nothing could be further from the truth. While discovering a great restaurant can involve heaps of trial and error, there *is* a more efficient route: get someone else to do the legwork for you.

I feel lucky to have inadvertently surrounded myself with foodies. How did I pull this off? I have no idea. There’s no question I exude a heavy yuppie vibe – but as to whether this actually attracts fellow food snobs – I don’t know. I do know this: I have a slew of friends who are familiar with the “Federal Corridor” in Denver, and they’ve assured me that the following Asian restaurants are solid. So here’s what to look for:

for Dim Sum (Chinese):

Star Kitchen (open 7 days a week AND has a liquor license)

for Noodles/Vietnamese:

Vietnam Grill

Pho Duy

Saigon Bowl

 

for Thai:

J’s Noodles & Star Thai

So… having recommended these restaurants, I now have to actually go try them. Consequently, I’m putting enormous trust in my friends that the above eateries will live up to their billing. I have no doubt they will. So please call me, and I’ll meet you for some authentic Denver Asian fare. If you don’t love it, I’ll buy you a beer… unless I think you’re lying. Deal?

rice and curry bowls

Delectable rice, curries, etc. (photo courtesy of Jared M.)

Khow Thai Cafe

To a certain extent, apparently, I like spicy food. I like the kind of spice that sort of kicks your ass, but doesn’t continue to kick you while you’re down. It turns out I was kicked while down at the Khow Thai Cafe, but it was completely my own damn fault.

The server saw that I was struggling to make an ordering decision, so she said, “Do you like it spicy?

I, grinning like an idiot, said, “Of course!

She went on to recommend the “Pad Kee Mow”, which, in the Thai language means “Melty Hot Uranium in Your Mouth”.*

hot lava picture

Lava is typically a hot substance — of high temperature; it is boiling, hot, and generally the opposite of chilly.

 
*This is a complete fabrication and means nothing of the sort.

Quoting Khow Thai’s online menu, here are the Pad Kee Mow ingredients: Spicy Flat Noodles with Fresh Chili, Garlic, Bell Pepper, Basil Leaves, Tomato, Onion & Chinese Broccoli. Note also that this menu item had a tiny little pepper next to it, which means “Painfully Boiling Lava Hot, But You’ll Still Love It”, which I did. I will absolutely go back to this place. The food, while cooked with Satan’s palate in mind, was excellent. Next time, I’ll take care to specify that I do NOT like it spicy, because, as their menu states: you have your “Choice of Mild, Medium, American Hot or Thai Hot”. I’m not sure if I received American or Thai Hot, but I definitely got what I deserved.

Khow Thai is perfect for lunch, and parking is free, which is nearly unheard of in downtown Boulder.

Multiple thumbs up for Khow Thai. Thanks for kicking my mouth’s ass!

Khow Thai parking lot in Boulder

Khow Thai in Boulder has ample, free parking – a Boulder rarity

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Parisi Italian Market and Deli

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Parisi Denver menu

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Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizzeria

Read the full Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizzeria review here.

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Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza Denver menu

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Centro Latin Kitchen and Refreshment Palace

Full review coming soon!

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Centro Boulder menu

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The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

Full review coming soon!

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