Viva Burrito and Rico Pollo: You already know how this will end

Categories: A Federal Case

viva04.jpg
Mark Antonation
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...

I mentioned early on in my trek up Federal Boulevard that I'm not a restaurant critic; my goal is not to objectively judge or critique the finer points of dining at any establishment. Rather, I'm simply looking for good food -- food that I like -- while learning and sharing what I've found at each stop along the way. It's easy when every item on the menu beckons with quality ingredients, expert preparation and a proud staff that stands behind its food. Even many of the less-than-polished grottos and pit stops somewhere in the back of a poorly paved shoppette usually have one or two items worth risking a flat tire for. Sometimes I'll stick with the house special to ensure a good meal; other times I'll order the kind of food I know I'll like, even if it's buried in a list of more popular dishes. Rarely am I left in the position of choosing from the lesser of evils.

So at the end of the line, with the Adams County frontier within tamale-tossing distance, I stood in the parking lot withViva Burrito to my left and Rico Pollo to my right and some tough decisions to make about exactly what to eat.

See also: Rico Pollo won't fly on Federal, but San Antonio Mexican Bakery rises above the fray

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Mark Antonation
Some folks call it a flauta, Viva calls it a rolled taco.
I could have easily come up with excuses to skip both places. After all, I've already eaten at the southern outpost of Rico Pollo, while Viva Burrito's roots are actually in Arizona, making it technically outside my self-imposed rule of sticking only to local chains and independent restaurants. But I felt I owed it to myself to finish out my explorations by pushing to the very limit of the City and County of Denver, an invisible political fence that separates a roast-chicken shack from its neighboring fireworks shop.

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Mark Antonation
Machaca breakfast burrito that I artfully ripped apart to expose the contents.
And so I stepped into the stark white and deathly silent dining room of Viva Burrito, knowing only that I wanted breakfast, even at the dinner hour. The menu at Viva encompasses a broad range of land-locked Mexican fare, skipping the Den-Mex staple of pork-imbued green chile in favor of small sides of zippy salsa verde, which in retrospect ended up being the best thing on my cafeteria tray. Amy, with me until the bitter finale, chose a platter of rolled tacos (usually called flautas outside of Phoenix and perhaps San Diego) stuffed with shredded beef -- while I clung to the notion that if a food product is in the name of the restaurant, you should probably order it.

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Mark Antonation
Fries should be darker than the inside of a potato.
My machaca burrito was a little bland, but the salsa verde added an extra pop to the spiced shredded beef and egg filling. A plate of carne asada fries, however, could not be rescued by any amount of salsa, so limp and pale were the fries. Underseasoned bits of steak and condiment-style guacamole added only sadness to the plate. With some minor fixes, this could easily be excellent drunk party food -- but there was no party and I was far from drunk. I wanted to stand on the table, brandishing my breakfast grenade, and shout "Viva! Burrito," but all I could muster was a shrug.

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Mark Antonation
On a clear day, you can see Adams County.
A day later, I returned to this farthest north enclave of cheap Mexican food to give Rico Pollo another go. I wasn't very happy with the chicken options on my visit to its southern sibling, so this time -- in order to compare similar menu options from Viva next door -- I ordered chicken flautas and a smothered burrito. While waiting for my order, I distracted myself from the depressing dining room by burying my head in my iPhone. I tried to put aside thoughts that I was ordering food surrounded by an open kitchen crusted with burnt chicken juices, intermittent coughing and sniffling from customers and employees alike, and an oily film on every surface -- floor, seating, and tables.

Keep reading for another taste of Federal Boulevard.

Location Info

Viva Burrito Company

5165 Federal Blvd., Arvada, CO

Category: Restaurant


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28 comments
DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

What drunken fool would go to a place that specializes in Grilled Chicken and order some  lame tacos and burritos?


What next? ... ordering spaghetti at a Steakhouse?


Carol Allen
Carol Allen

Please add one more: Saigon Grill at 76th & federal (by Safeway). Their pho rivals that of many places much farther south. SERIOUSLY!

K194
K194

I've eaten at both of the Rico Pollo locations you went to. Alameda is nasty for their bad food and small portions. Federal is dirty (though it was good a couple of years ago when they first remodeled) but the chicken can be good if the timing is right. I know it's not on Federal, but try the Northglenn location - it's clean and the chicken is consistently good.


I would also love to hear about other places that make good pollo asado - I love that stuff! 


Derek Reese
Derek Reese

Viva across from Casa wasn't too bad. Lived off that shit for 6 months haha

Dominic Cardoza
Dominic Cardoza

Viva on w colfax rocks.....but make sure your stomach is strong

cschaefer72
cschaefer72

I have an idea for your next story. Please do a roundup of the Mexican joints on Colfax. There are so many and they are really hit or miss. I need your guidance! 

Jay Cismaru
Jay Cismaru

Cafe chihuahua the absolute worst on federal the name says it all

James S. Neff
James S. Neff

I love viva but that one is by far the worst

Rocio Salazar
Rocio Salazar

Rico pollo in Thornton is amazing, their chicken is fresh and delicious, rice and beans,mmm!! don't know about the other stuff

Jim Mayes
Jim Mayes

That north federal Viva Burrito has shitty service too!

Dave Shuck
Dave Shuck

It sounds like it REALLY ends when that Rico Pollo leaks haphazardly out your other end. I commend your bravery in taking upon such a task as eating your way up Federal. You, sir, truly deserve a medal for your gastro-intestinal bravery.

wheeler.mary05
wheeler.mary05

You ordered the wrong thing at Rico pollo. If you get their fresh grilled chicken plates...they are extremely good!

wheeler.mary05
wheeler.mary05

If you go to Rico pollo and get their chicken freshly grilled...it's amazing, and the only thing I eat there....so you ordered the wrong thing!

cwangelin
cwangelin

Two things: 

1) Chile Verde in it's new location at 23rd & Fed is awesome. Pricy, especially the specialty drinks, but the food and service are spot on.

2) Consider Mighty Edgewater for your next review area. We have a bunch of new places and a great vibe in our little town.

bondad_prevalece
bondad_prevalece

Viva Burrito is good drunk food for when there is no shame left to be had at the end of the night as you scarf down a greasy chimichanga and refried beans before passing out on the floor. I totally don't speak from experience.

davebarnes
davebarnes topcommenter

Return to Chili Verde and you will feel better.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay  A drunken fool who (as stated in the article) tried the chicken at the southern location and was not impressed.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

@wheeler.mary05  You may have missed the part where I tried the chicken parts at their other location, with similar results. 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@cwangelin  


Edgewater, at little more than 1/2 a square mile, would be reviewed faster than a Taco Veloz burrito runs through your alimentary canal.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

@cwangelin  I've always loved Edgewater. I'm a sucker for the Howdy Special at the Edgewater Inn. I remember when they used to have an appetizer that was just a bowl of pepperoni slices and a stack of saltine crackers.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Mantonat ... because obviously -- to a drunkard -- if the chicken wasn't impressive at one location, it must suck at all the other locations.


Next time you're at an Asian restaurant, try the children's hot dog or grilled cheese.

K194
K194

@Mantonat

I like Rico Pollo but the Alameda location has never been good.

@wheeler.mary05is right - if you get fresh grilled chicken, it is very good!

cwangelin
cwangelin

Clueless donkey is clueless. 


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