When Mezcal opened in late 2003, it brought Mexican sizzle to East Colfax, a stretch that was not, to put it kindly, oversupplied with appealing restaurants where gifted chefs prepared interesting, seasonal food. Mezcal was bright and colorful, with appealing décor that was something of a play on south-of-the-border cantina kitsch. It was fun, it was popular and it served good food. Over the years, as ownership and chefs changed, and the kitchen saw a lot of hard use, it was time for a makeover.
After several years living the expat life in Buenos Aires, owners Chris Swank and his wife, Loris Inez Venegas, are back running Mezcal — this time without additional partners. The restaurant was closed for three months while the dining room was refreshed, the bar expanded and most important, the kitchen was renewed. The couple also brought in the well-credentialed Chris Douglas as consulting chef to update the menu and chef Juan Ramirez to continue executing the dishes after Douglas’s gig is up. They’ve been tinkering with some dishes and bringing back some old standbys that they thought were history. Things have settled down sufficiently for Mezcal to invite some media for an early evening tasting. Here’s what we tried — in my case, along with delicious and potent margaritas:
Olathe Sweet Corn (capitalized because it is a trademarked brand name) was a little late this year due to all the spring rain. Now it is finally back in a slightly delayed season, and Jeff Bolton, the Kachina Southwestern Grill’s executive chef, is featuring it in several dishes, including the Quinoa Corn Pudding that accompanies the Smoked Bison Meatloaf and in the Corn Salsa, served with both the Chipotle Shrimp + Waffles (blue corn, last time I looked) and the Ruby Red Trout.
But the most distinctive part of the corn season at Kachina Grill, located immediately adjacent to the Westin Westminster, is the restaurant’s “Corn on the Cart.” A waitperson pilots the cart throughout the restaurant to deliver delicious grilled cornto each table.
Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen is a memorable contemporary restaurant in downtown Durango, replacing a most unmemorable Chinese one. Michael Lutfy, whose culinary career took him from Pennsylvania to California (including eight years as executive chef for the Andretti Green Racing Team) and his wife Birgitte, a chef and designer who was born in Denmark and shared chef duties with Andretti, run Chimayo, namesake of a northern New Mexico town where the Chimayo heirloom chile (another namesake) is cultivated. Chef Lutfy uses its chile powder in many wonderful dishes and condiments.
Price check: At dinner, “smaller” plates, $8.50-$12 (plus optional add-ons, $1.50-$7); “larger” plates, $21.50-$26 (plus optional add-ons, $5.50-$7); stone-fired pizzas, $12.50-$19; small plates and sandwiches, $14-$16.50.
I took my son to Gazpacho’s Restaurant a number of years ago — perhaps when he was still a student at Fort Lewis College. He’s been out on his own for years but still living in Durango, and for some reason, it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten there. He my husband and I went for dinner on Friday when we arrived for a weekend visit to Durango.
The restaurant is a charming spot a block off Main Street on the south end of downtown Durango — a combination of convenience and quiet. On a busy summer Friday evening, there was a wait for tables in the dining rooms, so we took a small table at the bar.
The margs were killer. Not surprising, because they buy Herradura tequila by the barrel. The food was good and filling, from chips and a thin, spicy salsa to puffy sopapillas with butter and honey at the end. I accidentally left my camera on its “sunset” setting, so my pix are all red and not worth posting. I will have to return.
Turn from Aspen’s Hyman Avenue Mall into a small alley. Go down a flight of stairs into a corner of Mexico. Atmospheric lighting recalls Mexico after dark rather than blinding sunshine. Sit back and contemplate the interesting and unusual menu. While waiting for the food to arrive, look around at the bright folk art.
The food, which is flavorful and beautifully presented, echoes Oaxaca, the southern Mexico city known for culture and cuisine. It is the city where mole was born. What better Mexican food cred?
Calvillo’s in Alamosa popular with locals and convenient for visitors.
I understand that there’s one white-tablecloth Italian restaurant in Alamosa. Just about everyplace else appears to be either a fast food chain or Mexican. A group of 10 of us met for Saturday dinner at this large edge-of-downtown eatery. A couple played and sang Mexican melodies, servers bustled about and people ate and chatted and laughed. It was a merry scene, and it all but ended by 8:30 on a Saturday. This is ironic, because the southern part of the enormous San Luis Valley is the most Spanish/Mexican part of Colorado. But it is also a rural and agricultural area, and farmers and farm workers keep early hours.
Southwestern restaurant next to a mall that is becoming a mega-church.
Lafayette’s Flatirons Community Church has been making headlines for its huge congregation (10,000 members) and its expansion into the Lafayette Marketplace, which used to have several restaurants. The church bought the mall from Jim Quinlan, owner of Jax Mercantile, which anchors the mall. On Saturday, we were scheduled to do volunteer tree planting at the Wild Animal Sanctuary, and we were told to expect mud. It was indirectly because of Jax Ranch Supply, where I went to buy rubber boots, so we discovered A) the location of the headline-making church and B) Lunada. It is one of the few remaining restaurants there.
Price check: Soups, Salads and Stew, $4-$8.99; Para la Mesa (shareable food “for the table”), $2.99-$7.50; Char-Grllled Burgers, $8.50-$10.99; Los Tacos, $8.49-$12/49 (incl ranchero beans and rice); Las Enchiladas, $9.50-$12.
Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.