Category Archives: Mexican and Tex-Mex

Chi-Mex in Loveland

Casual taqueria has surprising Midwestern roots.

005Taqueria Los Comales in a strip shopping center on the fringes of central Loveland has all the earmarks of a  real Mexican spot — a salsa bar with eight salsas and four other items, an absence of combination plates and menudo on the menu. The space seems to have been repurposed from something that wasn’t always Mexican. The black Styrofoam take-out boxes are labeled Church’s Fried Chicken.

I like the promise on the back of a waitress's T-shirt.
I like the promise on the back of a waitress’s T-shirt.

I didn’t grab a plasticized menu, and there were no paper take-out ones, so I went on-line and was surprised that Taqueria Los Comales was born in Chicago and still has restaurants there, as well as in northern Colorado and elsewhere. The graphics and menus are identical, but there is no obvious ownership or franchise link between the Midwestern taquerias and the outliers.

Multi-item salsa bar. Guests may take as much and as many little portions as they wish. The tortilla chips brought to the table are double-thick and crisp.
Multi-item salsa bar. Guests may take as much and as many little portions as they wish. The tortilla chips brought to the table are double-thick and crisp.
The fajitas come in a hot cast-iron pan, but there the resemblance to typical Colorado fajitas ends. The meat and vegetables are chopped, cooked and topped with white cheese.
The fajitas come in a hot cast-iron pan, but there the resemblance to typical Colorado fajitas ends. The meat and vegetables are chopped, cooked and topped with white cheese. Two huge flour tortillas, rice, shredded yellow cheese and mashed refried beans come on the side.
The veggie burrito contained rice, onions, peppers and a bit of tomato wrapped in a flour tortilla. Too bad it was barely lukewarm. Smothered burritos are, of course, an option.
The veggie burrito contained rice, onions, peppers and a bit of tomato wrapped in a flour tortilla. Too bad it was barely lukewarm. Smothered burritos are, of course, an option.

Price check: Tacos, $1.75 or 3 for $7.99; tortas, $5.25; burritos, $5.85; dinners, $11.99.

1518 Madison Avenue, Loveland; 970-667-9998.

Taqueria Los Comales Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mezcal After a Subtle Facelift

Cantina vibe on Colfax + new kitchen.

001 - CopyWhen 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:

Sensational queso fundido with roasted poblano peppers and a topping of chorizo jam.
Sensational queso fundido with roasted poblano peppers and a topping of chorizo jam.
Pozole rojo, a local fave featuring pork and hominy in a red chile broth, garnished with fresh cabbage, onion, radish and cilantro.
Pozole rojo, a local fave featuring pork and hominy in a red chile broth, garnished with fresh cabbage, onion, radish and cilantro.

Continue reading Mezcal After a Subtle Facelift

Kachina Grill’s Seasonal Corn Cart

Westin Westminster restaurant’s fall feature.

Kachina-logoOlathe 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.

Excessively glamorous corn cart girl, but the grilled sweet corn is definitely down-home. Photo: Kachina Grill publicity photo)
Excessively glamorous corn cart girl, but the grilled sweet corn is definitely down-home. (Photo: Kachina Southwestern Grill)

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 corn to each table.

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Chimayo’s Southwestern Charms

Durango restaurant’s style and sizzle.

012Chimayo 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.

photo by Duffy Brook
The pair of ovens reflected in the restaurant’s full name. (Chimayo  photo by Duffy Brook)
A sharable appetizer of fresh mozzarella and prosciutto.
A sharable appetizer of fresh burrara mozzarella and prosciutto, oven-dried tomatoes and EVOO framed in a  lacy Balsamic vinegar reduction.
“Baseball cut” of top sirloin with herb butter and gorgeous asparagus and potato wedges.
Poblano chile stuffed with a mixture of zucchini, mushroom, corn and a tres quesos filling with a delicate pepita (pumpkin seed) crust. Ribbons of Chimayo red pepper sauce and crema decorate the top. On the side, black beans, saffron rice and cole slaw.
Poblano chile stuffed with a mixture of zucchini, mushroom, corn and a tres quesos filling with a delicate pepita (pumpkin seed) crust. Ribbons of Chimayo red pepper sauce and crema decorate the top. On the side, black beans, saffron rice and cole slaw.
Bacon, poblano and cheddar burger made with house-ground meat on a brioche bun. On the side, potato wedges.
Bacon, poblano and cheddar burger made with house-ground meat on a brioche bun with guajillo aioli, pickled jalapenos and onions. On the side, potato wedges.

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.

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Good Grub at Gazpacho

Mexican charmer in downtown Durango .

P1040228I 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.

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Zocalito: Oaxaca in the Mountains

Bright & tasty Mexican regional fare in Aspen.

P1030770Turn 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.

Colorful folk art from Oaxaca occupies a prominant corner of Zocalito's front room.
Colorful folk art from Oaxaca occupies a prominant corner of Zocalito’s front room.

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?

Chips and an unusual salsa makes a shareable starter. It is called pico de gallo on the menu, but is unlike any I've had before. Smoky chipotle sauce with the addition of corn kernels, chopped tomatoes and intriguing flavors topped with sou cream and guac.
Chips and an unusual salsa makes a shareable starter. It is called pico de gallo on the menu, but is unlike any I’ve had before. Smoky chipotle sauce with the addition of corn kernels, chopped tomatoes and intriguing flavors topped with sou cream and guac.
Steamed mussels in a spicy sauce of tomatoes, red onion and a Guatemalan-inspired achiote sauce
Steamed mussels in a spicy sauce of tomatoes, red onion and a Guatemalan-inspired achiote sauce.

Continue reading Zocalito: Oaxaca in the Mountains

Mexican Dinner Buffet & Fresh Tortillas

Calvillo’s in Alamosa popular with locals and convenient for visitors.

CalvillosSignI 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.

This couple with the guitars and good voices is stationed near the bar and plays Mexican songs -- at least on Saturday evenings.
This couple with the guitars and good voices is stationed near the bar and plays Mexican songs — at least on Saturday evenings.
A rainbow of margarita flavors is available.
A rainbow of margarita flavors is available.
The menu is large, but I opted for the grande buffet with its constantly restocked hot and cold items -- and its small complement of desserts.
The menu is large, but I opted for the grande buffet with its constantly restocked hot and cold items — and its small complement of desserts. Shown here, a portion f the cold table.
Tortillas are hand-made at Calvillo's, and here's the maker.
Tortillas are hand-made at Calvillo’s, and here’s the maker.

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