On our plate: Mexican favorites in Boulder, Southern dishes at a new upscale spot in Lone Tree and Calypso-inspired fare in Capitol Hill
CENTRO MEXIAN KITCHEN
Longing for a trip to Mexico? Take a seat with Centro Mexican Kitchen’s new chef de cocina, Johnny Curiel, and you’ll quickly feel like you’re south of the border. “We have great tacos, tortas and other classic Mexican dishes, but I really want to showcase other regions—with a Front Range filter,” says Curiel, who was born in Guadalajara, grew up in Breckenridge and traveled throughout Mexico for three years to learn every state’s local cuisine. “There are a lot of stories on the menu. For example, the slow-roasted lamb tacos are what I grew up eating every Sunday after church, and the pork collar is inspired by my time in Yucatán.”
Curiel, who previously worked with Richard Sandoval and Troy Guard, updated Centro’s entire menu (brunch, lunch, din- ner and cocktails) to reflect a truly Mexican experience in Boulder. “There’s one thing we always have, which is the avocado salsa,” he says. “Everything else is new.”
Highlights, served on colorful plates: vegan Mole Verde, $5, made with watercress, pepitas and sunflower seeds and served with fresh corn tortillas; Achiote Pork Collar, $20.75, slow-roasted for eight hours and finished with flavor-packed char marks and a habañero pumpkin seed dip; vegan Jackfruit Chorizo Tacos, $4.25, that will satisfy every diet at the table; Esquites sweet corn side salad, $4, with lime aioli, dehydrated mole negro and cotija cheese that makes even out-of-season kernels taste just right and Grilled Seabream Zarandeado, $24.75, whole fish quick-fried and then cooked while being turned 100 times until it’s so tender, the meat falls off the bone.
If it’s a warm day, sit at the indoor/ outdoor bar, where you can people-watch on Pearl Street and spot dishes getting delivered to tables inside (and pick your plate accordingly). Finish your meal with mezcal (ask your server for the chef ’s favorite), a smooth white Sangria or house-made horchata and Tres Leches chiffon cake, $5, complete, around the holidays, with mezcal eggnog. Then make plans for your next visit: With Curiel tweaking the menu seasonally, there will be new dishes to explore year-round.—Kendall Kostelic
950 Pearl St. Boulder, 303.442.7771
Upscale wood-fired kitchen
If you’ve driven along Ridgegate Parkway near I-25 in Lone Tree the past several months, you’ve noticed the construction of the enormous building now neighboring Cabela’s. You’ve also likely read the rave social media reviews from locals declaring Sierra, which opened in mid- January, their “New Favorite!”
Putting my curiosity to rest on a busy recent Friday, my group snagged a spot at the horseshoe bar for a cocktail (note to self: return in the spring for happy hour on the expansive patio), where the bartender told us Sierra is from the creators of Denver’s La Loma, and the margaritas, $12 each, are “really what we are known for.” Now I know why. Later, seated at a table beside the floor-to-ceiling windows offering gorgeous views of twinkling city lights, we kicked things off with a tasty rendition of Handmade Guaca- mole and Salsa, $12, a savory sampler of Grilled Ribeye Street Tacos, $16, and the excellent Rotisserie Chicken Tortilla Soup, $9. Featuring regional Southern influences from chef Gerry Castro, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, fans of La Loma will recognize some familiar flavors with favorites such as Rotisserie Chicken Enchiladas, $16; the Famous Green Chili, $10; Chili Rellenos, $16; and the fiery Shrimp Fajitas, $24. The Cajun connoisseur at our table tested the heat of the Louisiana Killer Shrimp, $24, and was pleased.
If you’ve saved room, the Joaquin Valley Strawberry Shortcake or Texas Chocolate Cake, $9 each, may help bring your palate back to neutral after all that Southern heat. Our take on this new sub- urban hot spot? Definitely worth the wait. —Kristin N. Miller
10680 Cabela Drive, Lone Tree, 303.662.8800
BANG UP TO THE ELEPHANT
Not gonna lie: The name of this new Capitol Hill restaurant? Pretty weird. But, after visiting the quirky space, with its colorful Plexiglas panels, array of 864 plants, Calypso-inspired dishes and tropical cocktails served in coconuts? I’m rethinking “weird” to just a whole lot of fun.
Open since late January and from the team behind Beatrice & Woodsley, the name, it turns out, references Victorian-era slang meaning “complete, perfect and properly done.” And, after a preview, we’d say its “Caribbean beach-shack fare” description is, in fact, pretty perfect. Exec chef Travis Messervey’s menu features takes on dishes you might find in Trinidad and Tobago such as Buss Up Shut, $12, with spicy curried channa, rice and roasted peppers; Pimento Wood-Smoked Jerk Chicken, $13; and Bake and Shark, $10, a yummy fried spiny dogfish sandwich served on crisp flatbread—try it with a slice of Macaroni Pie (a mac and cheese wedge), $5, or Callaloo (a creamy mix of kale and collard greens), $5.
In a rush? There’s a cafe in front for coffee, doughnuts and grab-and-go items. Just in it for the drinks (we can’t blame you)? Try the Nose Ender, $10, that comes in a coconut filled with tequila and cream of coconut, or the Under & Over, $10, firey-red, worm salt-rimmed and made with tequila infused with Andy Capp’s Hot Fries. Bottom line: The live music (this was, after all, the site of the Mercury Café, before the building sat vacant for nearly 30 years), festive cocktails and spicy menu will have you on island time in no time. Nothing weird about any of that.—Lesley Kennedy
1310 Pearl St., 303.792.4949