Three homegrown Mexican chains get new siblings

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Lori Midson
Los Carboncitos

After spending the past week biting off more than I could chew at a bunch of new restaurants with "sustainable," "organic" and "seasonal" jargon littering their menus, I was ready for my Mexican food fix.

I get a yearning at least once a week, and if it's not fulfilled, I turn into a complete bitch. So I stopped at the newest outpost of Los Carboncitos, a decision I wasn't all that sure about, considering it had just gone noon and there wasn't a soul in the joint save for one cook, a server, a guy who appeared to be the owner and one straggler who'd popped in to pick up a take-out order.

This third location of Los Carboncitos opened last month at 15210 East Sixth Avenue in Aurora, in a small, stripped-down mall with zero curb appeal. But unlike its neighbor (the small sign next door simply says "Intervention"), Los Carboncitos is all about advertising: Its windows are painted with goofy orange and yellow flames and blood red lettering announcing its name, and two neon "open" signs let you know there's a crew inside who wouldn't mind seeing a few butts in the glossy wooden chairs that line the space like dominoes.

The menu doesn't detour from that at the other two locations (720 Sheridan Boulevard and 3757 Pecos Street), and while the frijoles charros were too soupy, the alambres and huaraches were just as good, if not better, than those at their seasoned siblings. Those siblings don't serve chips or cerveza, but here, ribbons of fried corn tortillas arrive in a red basket with a caddy of terrific salsas, and the beer list includes several Mexican labels, all of which come with a heap of lime wedges and a frosted glass rimmed with salt.

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Lori Midson
Bubba Chinos
After hitting up Los Carboncitos, I cruised through North Park Hill to check out the new Bubba Chinos #5 (there are four other locations scattered throughout the metro area), which is creating an entire theme around flames at 5151 East 28th Avenue. You can't miss it--the exterior is painted canary yellow and candy-apple red and emblazoned with the the slogan "Taste the Heat" -- a rallying tease that extends to the dining room, where the jet black walls are splashed with flashes of orange and yellow and the same "Taste the Heat" catchphrase. The dining room is still under construction, but I'm told it should be open by early next week. Until then, you can order a hefty shredded beef burrito smothered in spicy green chile from the take-out window.
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Lori Midson
Tacos Y Salsas
Which is exactly what I did before heading over to Federal Boulevard to Tacos Y Salsas at 1201 South Federal, just three blocks from the Tacos Y Salsas at 910 South Federal Boulevard. Two taquerias with the same name, from the same owner, within spitting distance of one another? Why not? Especially when the newest Tacos Y Salsas has a drive-thru window that stays open until at 3 a.m.

And the soft corn tacos? Absolutely amazing. I tried chorizo, carnitas, pastor and barbacoa and then loaded them up with garnishes -- sliced radishes, lime wedges and chopped onions and cilantro -- and salsas from the killer condiment bar.

That salsa bar is a mainstay at all five Tacos Y Salsas, which also has locations at 2284 South Chambers, 9103 East Colfax and 6895 East 72nd Avenue.

There's one near you.

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