I've never met a person on this planet that doesn't enjoy that fine piece of culinary brilliance created by our neighbors to the south - the taco.
Even standard tacos with little to no imagination are generally delicious. Tortilla, meat, cheese, lettuce and salsa and voila - a practically flawless food that you can eat with your hands, which makes it even better.
Kevin Morrison, of Pinche Tacos in Denver (the English translation isn't fit to print, so Google it), however, has taken the taco and made it a gourmet concoction of foodie bliss - as in blow your mind good, like rave about it good and post obnoxious close-up taco pictures on Facebook just to brag to your friends that nothing they're eating is as good as what you're eating.
Yes, I'm that excited about a taco, and it's all thanks to this fairly new little gem (it opened last Halloween) off Colfax and York Streets that I found while researching new foodie spots to try in the city. There's also a Pinche Taco food truck, and a new deal for a second permanent location in the Highlands, at 3300 W. 32 Avenue, was just announced.
When I stumbled across it on a list of the 10 best tacos in America, on epicurious.com, I became intrigued.
There it was again as a "best new restaurant" in both 5280 and the Denver Westword, yet none of my foodie friends had ever heard of the place when I asked them about it (except for my ultra-critical friend Kati who has eaten just about everywhere in Denver, and even she approves of this place.)
At Pinche Tacos (the Taqueria politically correct name is Tacos Tequila Whiskey, which is the name you can see from the street since the city wouldn't allow the establishment to put "Pinche Tacos" on their outdoor sign) they're taking ingredients like pork belly and scallops and turning them into some of the most spectacular Mexican street food around - all for about $3-$4.50 a pop.
At that price, you'd expect a couple of slivers of meat, but no - they're loading it on so thick you need two corn tortillas to hold it all up. And they're also not skimping on the salsas and sauces, and certainly not the guacamole.
When I went on a recent Tuesday afternoon with my boyfriend in his massive Dodge diesel pickup, we initially couldn't find a place to park the beast so he dropped me off to run in and get a few tacos to go. I sat at the bar and was immediately saddened while reading the menu because I had to choose only a few (tacos don't typically hold up so good when taken to-go).
I tried to control my urge to order everything on the menu (there are 11 taco options and a few appetizers). I picked four, but moments before the order was ready Ryan walked in after having found a big enough parking space. I was overjoyed.
"Can I please have the menu again," I asked the bartender.
Our first round arrived seconds later - five beautiful tacos on a plate that looked more like a work of art.
The pork belly "agridulce," with a generous hunk of sweet and sour-braised pork belly, a candied garlic clove, cabbage and cilantro slaw and braising jus served on the side, was out of control good.
I took one bite and looked at Ryan in amazement.
"Are you kidding me," I said, dumbfounded by its perfection - it was pinche good.
On to the pescado taco next, which is made with a luscious piece of chipotle and beer battered fish, slaw, avocado and pineapple guacamole, topped off with beautiful pickled red onions and lime. It had everything you want in a taco - fresh flavors and texture.
Then we tried the shrimp and scallop "xnic-pec," a taco with Yucatan pico de gallo, avocado cream and lime. And the carnitas taco was next - oh, the carnitas taco, filled with succulent pork roasted to a crisp served with pickled red onions and avocado cream.
A mandatory food stop
For any normal eater, this order would have sufficed, but being that it was all so good and we're not in Denver that often, we ordered more.
The lengua taco turned out to be a standout, too, with its triple-cooked Colorado beef tongue with avocado, diced onion and cilantro, roasted tomatillo salsa, guajillo honey mayonnaise. Beef tongue can often be tough, but not here - this stuff was so tender and soft that you could almost go without even chewing it.
The pollo a la crema and the asada were fantastic, too - but at this point we had already eaten too much. It didn't stop us from ordering the chorizo sliders on the happy hour menu, though, called Sloppy "Jose's." Think Sloppy Joe slider but with spicy chorizo sausage. Genius.
And as we sat near the open kitchen and watched the cooks pour fresh batter into the fryer that they later turned into plates of crispy churros, we had to order those, too.
Served with a rich cinnamon chocolate sauce on the side, these Mexican-style donuts were the perfect way to end the meal. Needless to say, Pinche Tacos just made it to the top of my list of mandatory food stops in Denver. Oh yeah - and the margaritas are phenomenal, too.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.