Category Archives: Mexican and Tex-Mex

Centro’s Good Food but Poor Service

Perhaps an anomaly — or perhaps wait staff has gone downhill.

centro-logoI’m not much of a shopper, but I do my modest best to support local independent businesses on Small Business Saturday, an annual antidote to Black Friday frenzy. A downtown Boulder bead shop had the earring wires I needed, one bookstore always has good deals on calendars, another carried the Pam Houston book I wanted to read and one of the two arts coops had a jigsaw puzzle I had my eye on to bring as a host/ess gift to friends’ annual holiday open house.

Even that little shopping made my husband and me hungry (in our defense, we’d eaten tiny breakfasts and hadn’t had lunch). We decided on Centro Latin Kitchen, whose weekend brunch was still in effect. We took a table on the covered patio, ordered drinks and food. The drinks — mercifully strong enough to mellow the irritation that followed — were more or less promptly delivered, but when it came to food, we waited and waited and waited.  And did I mention that we waited? One adjacent table turned over completely, but our food was nowhere in sight — and neither was our server. Abducted by aliens?

We finally flagged down a runner and asked where out food might be.  That appeared to speed things up. When the waiter himself brought our order, he said he was “sorry” for the delay. I replied, “We’re even sorrier.” He offered to comp a dessert.

Shrimp a la plancha -- street taco size. The small corn tortilla was stuffed with shrimp4.5 corn tortilla, shredded cabbage, sliced carrot and jalapeño aioli
Shrimp a la plancha — street taco size. The small corn tortilla was stuffed with shrimp, shredded cabbage, sliced carrot and jalapeño aioli. It was a tasty mix.
Carnitas Benny is a Latin spin on eggs Benedict. On a base of a spicy smoked cheddar-green chile biscuit sit two poached eggs, slow- roasted pork and a really good roasted jalapeño hollandaise. Roasted potato chunks (called papas charros) are alongside.
Carnitas Benny is a Latin spin on eggs Benedict. On a base of a smoked cheddar-green chile biscuit sit two poached eggs, slow- roasted pork and a really good roasted jalapeño hollandaise. Roasted potato chunks (called papas charros) are alongside.

From the dessert menu, we selected tres leches cake, served cold so it should be delivered quickly — especially since by that time, the brunch crowd had gone. But again, we waited and we waited and we waited. Again, invisible waiter. This time, we flagged down a busser.

w single-0serve portion of this classic
Single-serve portion of this classic “three milk” cake sat in a milk pool and topped with whipped cream and apple-cherry preserve.

Again, I expressed my/our frustration at the disappointing service. The waiter offered to get the manager, who seemed able to determine from the register tape that we weren’t blowing smoke about our long waits. He gave us some reasons, and I said that it might have been nice it the waiter has stopped by our table with a work of explanation or at least apology. He agreed and offered to comp all the food.

For what it’s worth, Centro’s nom de cuisine is the ponderous Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace, which no one uses. Not ever,

Price check: At weekend brunch, small plates, $3-$8; tacos, $4.5; specialties (i.e., entrees), $7-$18; sides, $1-$5; desserts, $3-$6.

Centro is at 950 Pearl Street, Boulder; 303-442-7771.

Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Adios, Deli Cioso

Bidding farewell to long-time Longmont Mexican restaurant.

001When my husband, a fan of Mexican favorites, worked on the IBM campus in northeast Boulder, he occasionally drove to Longmont for lunch — and then often to Deli Cioso. I had only been there once before (click here for my write-up). I enjoyed the funky laid-back ambiance then and appreciated it again.

A sunny corner table.
A sunny window table.

Saturday will be the restaurant’s last day, so my husband and I went there for a farewell lunch. It is the antithesis of the excessively sanitized chain restaurant. People either love or detest the food. Ditto for the service. The owner is retiring and Boulder’s Gondolier is setting up a second location there.

Chips and a liquid-y salsa to start.
Chips and a liquid-y salsa to start.
Deli Cioso boasts about its burritos, so I had a one with chicken smothered in chile sauce. Unlike chains that overfill the tortillas with rice, Del Cioso uses just tender chicken chunks in a nice sauce, wraps them in a flour tortilla and smothers the assemblage in green chile..
Deli Cioso boasts about its burritos, so I had a one with chicken. Unlike chains that overfill the tortillas with rice, Del Cioso uses just tender chicken chunks in a nice sauce, wraps them in a flour tortilla and smothers the assemblage in green chile..
My husband favors combo plates. At Deli Cioso, he especially likes the crisp chile relleno. Also on the plate, an enchilada and beans -- and something that I can't recall.
My husband favors combo plates. At Deli Cioso, he especially likes the crisp chile relleno. Also on the plate, an enchilada and beans — and something that I can’t recall.
When the Gondolier takes over. I wonder whether the faux Mexican entrance will be changed or somehow adapted to faux Italian.
When the Gondolier takes over. I wonder whether the faux Mexican entrance will be changed or somehow adapted to faux Italian.

It is located at 1217 South Main Street, Longmont. Hurry. Only a couple of days left.

Hot Start to Mild Mexican

Classic favorites on Old Santa Fe Grille menu.

001The chips and salsa were the first things delivered to the table when my husband, two friends and I sat down for lunch at the Old Santa Fe Mexican Grille in Louisville. I dipped a large chip into the dish of salsa, bit into it, swallowed and started coughing as soon as it hit my throat. I like hot and spicy, but there must of been some ingredient in that salsa that got to me. No water had been delivered yet, and no waiter or busser was in sight, so it was a while before our waiter appeared and brought some relief in the form of tall plastic glasses filled with water. No one else was affected the way I was.

French baskets of big crisp chips were replaced whenever the neared emptiness.
FresWe were thereh baskets of big crisp chips were replaced whenever the neared emptiness.

The food when it came was standard-issue, comfortable Mexican — the usual dishes and combination plates — which is to say that there was shredded iceberg lettuce,  chunked tomato and shredded cheese.  I can only identify what my husband and I ate, but here are all four plates:

Combo plate of beef taco, smothered chile relleno and enchilada with no rice but double beans.
Combo plate of beef taco, smothered chile relleno and enchilada with no rice but double beans.

004

Spinach enchiladas smothered in green chili with rice and pintos alongside.
A pair or spinach enchiladas smothered in green chili with rice and pintos alongside.

005

When the waiter overheard that we were there to celebrate one friend's birthday, he brought a basket of sopapillas with one squeeze bottle of honey (common) and one of caramel (unusual).
When the waiter overheard that we were there to celebrate one friend’s birthday, he brought a basket of sopapillas with one squeeze bottle of honey (common) and one of caramel (unusual).

Price check: The cheapest items on the menu are some apps for $7.99; the most espensive, an order of steak, pork sausages and more, $19.99.

592 McCaslin Blvd. (physically just behind the McDonald’s),  Louisville; 720-890-8456
Old Santa Fe Mexican Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Top Taco Fest Coming to Denver

Restaurants vie for honors in four categories of Colorado favorite.

TopTaco-logoWe may think of tacos as being cheap, filling and casual food. Hole-in-the-wall taquerias, food trucks and upscale restaurants helmed by gifted chefs crank out this favorite food type, as do such disspiriting mainstream  chains as Taco Bell and Taco .

Top Taco on Thursday, June 23  from 6:30 to 9:30 is a competition where a panel of judges determines the best tacos in three categories (traditional, creative and vegetarian, plus tequila cocktail) . It also provides an opportunity for taco gluttony.  Guests get unlimited taco tastes and also some 100 unique tequila samples from more than 40 brands,  beer, wine and live music from Sambadente.

The event on the Auraria campus is pricy, with general admission tix at $69 and VIP admission for $90 .

2016 Beard Awards to Grandin, Chimayo & Miller

Temple Grandin Colorado’s sole honoree; Chimayo also cited..

BeardAwardNo Colorado chefs or restaurants were James Beard Award winners at a glittering ceremony in Chicago last night, but the remarkable Dr. Temple Grandin, an animal rights expert and advocate at  Colorado State University, was named to 2016 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America,  an honor roll of major influencers. Click here for the entire list of 2016 honorees.

Media awards are presented separately, and one Coloradan is coming home with one. Toni Tipton-Martin of Centennial was honored in the reference and scholarship category for The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African-American Cookbooks. The history of American-American food books appears to be a mini-niche in Denver. Historian Adrian Miller for his book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.

P1090352Also recognized was Rancho de Chimayó Restaurante and owner Florence Jaramillo as being one of the 2016 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics honoree as a long-running heritage. As it happens, I ate at this sprawling half-century-old restaurant just last week as part of a day tour from Santa Fe.

Chimayo is famous for its chile-centric dishes, and this restaurant uses almost the entire annual crop. It accommodates groups in a large garden extension in the back and small individual parties in the front, which is the original ranch house. Note the similarities between the settings and the chairs.

A table set for group meals.
A table set for group meals.
Restaurant in the old ranch house.
Restaurant in the old ranch house.
Classic NM combo of a protein, beans and greens.
Classic NM combo of a protein, beans and greens.
Chile relleno with customary New Mexican accompaniments.
Chile relleno with customary New Mexican accompaniments  calabacitas (squash), rice beans and greens. The chile is either a poblano or an Anaheim. Chimayo chiles are too small to be stuffed with cheese.
Silky vanilla pudding with whipped cream and a crisp cookie.
Silky vanilla pudding with whipped cream and a crisp cookie.

300 Juan Medina Rd. (Santa Fe County Road 98), Chimayo, New Mexico 87522; 505 351-4444 or 505-984-2100.

Rancho de Chimayó Restauranté Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe Pasqual’s in the Morning

Santa Fe favorite creates breakfast entrées.

P1090156On previous visits to Santa Fe, lunch or dinner at Cafe Pasqual ‘s has been on the food docket. I always enjoy this cheery eatery a couple of short blocks from The Plaza. The breakfast items are unusual, with flavorful versions of popular New Mexican favorites plus items I’ve never seen before.

Mexican cut paper flags and ristras hang from the high ceiling.
Mexican cut paper flags (a folk art form called papa piccada) and ristras of dried chiles hang from the high ceiling. They’ve been there long enough so that some are a bit tattered — the papa piccada, not the ristras.
Well-foamed cappuccino comes in a large, handle-free bowl.
Well-foamed cappuccino comes in a large, handle-free bowl.
Breakfast tortilla is a griddled whole wheat tortilla, melted Jack cheese, guacamole, eggs and salsa. This is a single. Doubles are also available.
Breakfast tortilla is a griddled whole wheat tortilla, melted Jack cheese, guacamole, eggs and salsa. This is a single. Doubles are also available.
Julia's wild salmon gravlax, a Scandinavian salmon dish. Line-caught, Cognac-cured salmon, Gruyére potato cake, watercress, chives and créme fraîche.
Julia’s wild salmon gravlax, a Scandinavian salmon dish. Line-caught, Cognac-cured salmon, Gruyére potato cake, watercress, chives and créme fraîche.

Price check, breakfast entrées, $9.75-$17.75.

121 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe; 505-983-9340.

Cafe Pasqual's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Southwestern Fare with Flair in Boulder

Small plates shine at happy hour at Boulder’s Zolo.

013Late yesterday afternoon, my husband and I went to Changes in Latitude to shop for maps and books for an upcoming trip. While we were at The Village shopping center, we heeded the siren call of Zolo Grill‘s happy hour. By the time we left around 6, it seems that every table and every barstool has been taken.

Ceiling design recalls the latillas of traditional ceilings in the Southwest.
Ceiling design recalls the latillas of traditional ceilings in the Southwest.
The signature solarita is not a particularly pretty drink, especially without salt on the rim of the glass, but it is a tall, tasty marg.
The signature zolarita is not a particularly pretty drink, especially without salt on the rim of the glass, but it is a tall, tasty marg.
A pair of pork belly confit sliders with pickled vegetable and ancho chile barbecue sauce, plus ramekin of a cooling dipping sauce.
A pair of pork belly confit sliders with
pickled vegetable and ancho chile barbecue sauce, plus ramekin of a cooling aioli.
My favorite is Zolo Grill's blue corn-fried oysters on the halfshell with crunch house slaw. jalapeño aioli
My favorite is Zolo Grill’s blue corn-fried oysters on the halfshell with crunch house slaw. and jalapeño aioli.
The tamale, a soft masa topped with julienned, steamed winter squash, is seasonal and will soon be replaced with another version.
Jalapeno relleno with Haystack Mountan goat cheese.
The tamale's soft masa is topped with julienned, steamed winter squash. This seasonal tamale will soon be replaced with another version.
e tamale’s soft masa is topped with julienned, steamed winter squash is seasonal will soon be replaced with another version.
The special chile cheesecake was not on the happy hour menu, but we shared a slice. The chile was subtly in the topping. Alongside, cinnamon crunch, slied strawberries and shaved dark chocolate.
The special chile cheesecake was not on the happy hour menu, but we shared a slice. The chile was subtly in the topping. Alongside, cinnamon crunch, sliced strawberries and shaved dark chocolate, plus caramel sauce and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar..

Price check: At happy hour, drinks, $3-$5 plus $8 for a beer and a shot. “Eats,” $2-$5.

Zolo Grill is on the Araphoe Avenue side (that is, the south side) of The Village, whose street address is 2525 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder.

Zolo Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato