Tacos Junior deserves senior status on Federal
In A Federal Case, I'll be eating my way up Federal Boulevard - south to north - within Denver city limits. I'll be skipping the national chains and per-scoop Chinese joints, but otherwise I'll report from every vinyl booth, walk-up window and bar stool where food is served. Here's the report on this week's stop...
There's a restaurant on Federal that's close enough to my house that I can make it home -- on foot -- with a stack of heavy, straining Styrofoam boxes before the steam even begins to condense on the undersides of the lids. It's open for a crazy number of hours every day and is situated in a strip mall with way more parking spaces than customers. You order at the counter and your food, cooked to order, is ready in a few minutes. The menu is huge, but the options are relatively simple. It's fast and casual. Jealous?
- Rico Pollo won't fly on Federal, but San Antonio Mexican Bakery raises above the fray
- Cafe Chihuahua is pregnant with possibilities
- Andy's Kitchen Asian Express is worth a risky left on Federal
You probably should be, because the food at Tacos Junior is addictive and satisfying in a way that transcends concerns about sustainability, local sourcing, organic ingredients or any of the other buzzwords that so many fast-casual restaurants employ to enhance credibility.
But when you're seated before a sizzling mound of seared goodness featuring three kinds of meat (pastor, carne asada and ham), molten cheese, peppers and onions, your only thought will be to thank me for cluing you into the menu item known as alambres mixtos, which is Spanish for "fried leftovers" (unless you choose to believe the notion that the dish evolved from grilled meats and vegetables skewered on alambres, or "wires").
As you spoon the fatty, salty mess onto warm corn tortillas, you may also wonder if you should have instead ordered the ranchero version so that you could enjoy the textural oddity of nopales (green bean- like strands of cactus) and cubes of queso fresco together with beef, onions and tomatoes.
Or maybe you should have ordered this combination atop a huarache or a tlacoyo. If you're not sure, order it, anyway. You won't find anything much more exotic than the names themselves in the many variations on corn masa: from the basic, soft and tender sope, to the chewy and substantial huarache, and onward yet to the bean-stuffed tlacoyo.