Mexican food with a twist, a popular food truck’s Southern-tinged new home and Basque-influenced farm-to-table fare.
Seventeen years—that’s how long this Richard Sandoval restaurant has stood at the corner of Larimer Square, challenging the American definition of Mexican food. Time flies when you’re making culinary waves. These days, Tamayo has a new executive chef, Oscar Padilla, who is putting authentic flavor and a lot of heart into his recipes. “My food comes from my grandma, who taught me how to cook,” says the L.A. native, who spent most of his years in Mexico City before going to work with Sandoval at Maya six years ago. “I want people to love being at the table, like I do with my family. When you sit down with them for a meal, it’s a party, even if it’s a Wednesday and there’s nothing to celebrate.”
And celebrate—for three sun-soaked hours on the rooftop patio—is what my friends and I did, starting with the appetizers: Ceviche de Molcajete ($13), fish topped with a refreshing cucumber tomatillo broth, and Aguachile ($12), which pairs sliced Panamanian cobia fish with passion fruit, local micro veggies and some heat. But the (un-fried) Chile Relleno ($13), with shrimp and gouda inside, was the table favorite. Next came the Calabacitas Salad ($11), a beautiful plate of heirloom tomatoes and raw zucchini from Oaxaca with a great crunch that we’d eat for lunch every day if we could, and one of Padilla’s favorites, the equally delicious Ensalada de Betabel ($12), with beets two ways, micro beet leaves and a lemon white balsamic. For the main event, we took thirds of Sandoval’s signature Pork Carnitas ($25), made citrusy with mandarin orange slices and all piled on top of housemade blue corn tortillas. There’s also the Oaxacan Salmon ($25), complete with a complex spiced dark mole, sauteed calabacitas, hoja santa, baby radishes and pepitas.
We had no choice but to make room for dessert: Sorbete y Helado ($10). “There are four scoops,” says Padillo, “cucumber margarita with a taste of tequila, hibiscus raspberry, pineapple chipotle and a creamy, slightly salty queso fresco ice cream.” A sweet cookie was the cherry on top. Tamayo’s banana empanadas ($9) are heavenly, too. To wash it all down: prickly pear margaritas ($11). ¡Salud! —Kendall Kostelic
1400 Larimer St.
J STREET KITCHEN
Innovative Southern eats
You might already recognize the name J Street. Since its creation in 2016, the Denver food truck has earned high praise for its wild experimentation and culturally diverse menu. This summer, chef Jason Bray is bringing his innovative spirit to J Street Kitchen, a brick-and-mortar operation housed inside RiNo’s whiskey-forward craft cocktail bar American Bonded.
The menu’s flagship dish, the Chicken and Waffles ($15), features chicken brined for three full days (the first 24 hours in a soy-citrus mix and the next 48 in buttermilk), dredged in a spice mixture Bray calls “crack seasoning,” fried and served with home- made brown butter syrup and house-fermented hot sauce. Another menu highlight, the “Hangover” ($14), is a wonderfully over-the-top combination of french fries, green chile gravy, cheddar cheese, cotija cheese and sour cream, topped with a short rib beef patty and an over- easy egg. For a lighter option, there’s the Salmon Country Toast ($10), a crispy slice of home- made sourdough bread topped with beet-cured salmon, tomato-caper-cucumber relish, fried shallots and farmer’s cheese. The drinks, mixed by the experts at American Bonded, are no less impressive. Complement your brunch with an Ab Spritz, a light combination of cider and Aperol. Or, if you like it spicy, the house Bloody Mary, crafted with premium mix from Denver’s The Real Dill, is not to be missed. —Andrew Weaver
2706 Larimer St.
If you like knowing the origins of your food, Acreage in Lafayette should be at the top of your summer list. Conceived by Stem Ciders and housed in the same space as the cidery’s new production facility, Acreage offers the full array of Stem products in flights and full pours, as well as a menu of sustainable farm-to-table dishes that highlight a deep connection between our food, small American family farms and the land around us.
Chef Daniel Asher envisions the eatery as an American version of a sagardotegi, a Basque cider house, and while the menu does adhere to a Basque Country theme, it also features some inspired improvisations, like the Cast Iron Cornbread, $4, with house-made pimento cheese, and the Illegal Poutine, $10—a nod to Asher’s native Montreal—with cheddar curds, shitake gravy and roasted pueblo chiles. Some other standouts include the Ember Beet Salad, $6, with sheep’s milk cheese and sherry vinegar molasses; the Saltspring Muscles, $14, cooked in a cider and coconut milk broth; and the Smoked Pork Spare Ribs, $22 for 6, tender racks of local pork, dry-rubbed and slow-braised, smothered in an apple-cranberry barbecue sauce.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Acreage is the kitchen itself, which uses no stoves or ov- ens. Everything is cooked over a live fire, fed with American white oak, hickory and other ethi- cally sourced cuts of wood. The building sits on 12 acres of land that will soon be used to grow vegetables, harvest honey, raise livestock and host events in an outdoor concert space. —A.W.
1380 Horizon Ave., Unit A, Lafayette