Toasting Federal Boulevard with a Pay Day Loan at the Federal

Categories: A Federal Case

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Mark Antonation
The scene of the shakedown.
Unusual, earthy, minty: that's how Chris Mohaupt, owner of the Federal Bar and Grill, described the bouquet of purple shiso I'd brought into his bar. He and bartender Jeremy Johnson rubbed the thick, fuzzy leaves between their fingers, sniffed, bit off bitter nibbles in their attempts to pinpoint the complex flavor and aroma of the herb, also known as perilla in some parts of the world and tía tô in Vietnam, where it perfumes steaming bowls of noodle soups and adds raw bite to salads and lettuce wraps. "Definitely cinnamon and anise," Amy added. So what were we doing with a grocery bag of shiso, Vietnamese mint and a fist-sized knob of fresh ginger at an American bar and grill better known for burgers and beers than anything approaching Asian cuisine?

See also: The twelve days of Christmas on Federal Boulevard

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Triple header: The three newest restaurants on Federal Boulevard

Categories: A Federal Case

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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...

Last week I ate at the northernmost restaurant on Federal Boulevard within Denver city limits, thus completing my stated mission of eating my way from south to north at every restaurant on the street. New restaurants opened in my wake, though, and as I glanced at their signs in my rearview mirror I realized it wouldn't feel right unless I went back and covered those, too. Plus, I was still hungry. So, like the snake eating its tail, I circled back to the beginning -- the less-than-auspicious moment where I couldn't even get a burrito at the long-gone Bubba Chinos at 3000 South Federal. The newest member of the neighborhood club, Boost Burger, has taken the place of the garish and graffitied green chile garage with a cool blue color scheme and a gearhead theme to attract a new customer base. This, along with the now popular Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant and the up-and-coming Pho Market, would punctuate the final sentence in my year-and-half-long West Side story.

See also:
The twelve days of Christmas on Federal Boulevard


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

Categories: A Federal Case

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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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Pigging out at La Torteria

Categories: A Federal Case

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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...

When expectations are low, one of two things can happen: You can either get sucked into a vortex of disappointment or you can be buoyed on a wave of surprise at the simple pleasures found in the least likely of places. I certainly wasn't expecting much from La Torteria, wedged as it was among a row of shabby storefronts cluttered with abandoned shopping carts, weathered tables that were never intended for outdoor use, and dusty windows obscured by hand-lettered signs. Still, Thai Bao just a few doors down had provided a delightful lunch in a well-run and friendly atmosphere, so I wasn't in a hurry to cast a quick judgment on this little Mexican sandwich shop.

See also: Carnitas Estilo Michoacan: Take the chilaquiles and run

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Don't be fooled: Thai Bao is pure Vietnamese

Categories: A Federal Case

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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 may have previously commented on the generally run-down condition of strip malls and shopping centers along Federal Boulevard. I may have even pointed out what I considered, at the time, the most derelict and depressing. Even Brentwood Plaza at Evans and Federal, one of the more spiffed-up rows, currently features a children's dental clinic with a fractured façade propped up by two-by-fours, on the verge of collapse with a jagged crevice in the stucco awning, as if after a low-grade temblor. So it is not without careful consideration that I state that the Regis Square plaza is definitely the gloomiest, loneliest, most sad-sack and abandoned row of storefronts along the entire nine-mile drag that spans Denver city limits. What better place, then, to find a hidden gem like Thai Bao Vietnamese Restaurant? Because, after all, I'm not searching for the best parking lots or the most dazzling architecture; I'm just looking for some good food.

See also:Golden Pho & Grill is a newcomer, but fits right in on Federal

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Flavor revolves around carne al pastor at El Taco Veloz

Categories: A Federal Case

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Mark Antonation
Blue skies mean a take-out order.
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...

This week found me at the second El Taco Veloz on Federal (or I suppose it could be the first, for anyone eating their way down the boulevard from north to south) in what was a purely accidental stop. My plan was to take friends to another nearby restaurant, which happened to be closed. Taco Veloz was the nearest appealing alternative and one I knew wouldn't disappoint, so we found ourselves circling the parking lot to avoid a tow truck removing an abandoned vehicle, dodging epic potholes, and finally parking in what seemed somewhat like a parking space, considering the lack of painted stripes.

See also: Pay attention to the signs at El Taco Veloz


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Time and gravy stand still at McCoy's

Categories: A Federal Case

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Mark Antonation
Cocktails and typos.
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...

The three things I immediately noticed about the bright yellow McCoy's trio of signs hovering in tight formation above the 1-70 on-ramp at Federal Boulevard: the apostrophe is missing in "McCoys" on the top sign, there's an "s" at the end of "Family Restaurants" on the second sign -- implying that there may be more than one restaurant -- and the word "cocktails" in the lowest of the three is as big as my car. What this meant to me was that despite a lack of attention to lettering, cocktails seemed important enough to merit a big mention in swooping cursive to all who sped by. That alone gave me hope for an enjoyable night on the far side of the highway frontier that generally marks my northernmost dining boundary. There may be a couple of blocks left in what is still technically Denver city limits, but the motels, gas stations and fast-food outlets signify mostly a region of transition and quick getaways, not of destination restaurants.

See also: Federal may be busy, but brunch is never hurried at Newbarry's


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The ghost of Howard Johnson still haunts El Padrino

Categories: A Federal Case

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Mark Antonation
A ghost on the highway.
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...

A cup of coffee at a diner is a contract with the waitress: Like the harried private detective in a film noir, you get your cup and the implied promise of frequent refills in exchange for your tacit agreement to not be a tightwad when it comes time to tip, even if the brown stuff in the mug is day-old sludge, even if you only got one scalding sip before you had to slap down some money and bolt for an exit -- the side door if it's the cops piling in through the front, or else just the quickest route back to your car if you're answering a frantic call from the broad who hired you to find her missing brother. The shambolic, linked dining spaces of El Padrino serve many purposes: Mexican restaurant, late-night dance club, truck stop. But it's all centered around what at some point in history was a classic diner with a wide-open kitchen passthrough, a ticket wheel, and the constant clatter and chatter of cooks and their spatulas.

See also: The Taco House keeps the flavors -- and aura -- of 1958 alive


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La Norteña, and a trip to the sunny side of Federal

Categories: A Federal Case

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Mark Antonation
Always look on the bright side...
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...

If I were a city planner, I would put a taqueria on virtually every block of each major thoroughfare. Neighbors would come together, traffic would decrease, pedestrians and cyclists would set forth in waves at the merest hint of sunny skies and the beckoning aroma of sizzling pork. Everyone loves tacos and their accompanying menu items: tortas, sopes, enchiladas, burritos; a new era of civic harmony would come to fruition in the warm and comforting embrace of the corn tortilla. Harsh reality sets in, though, even in the most carefully planned visions. People use roads to get to those inconvenient things called jobs so they can make money to buy more tacos. Criminals lead cop cars on high-speed chases through neighborhoods where folks would otherwise be out and about in carefree fashion. Time, or the lack of it, bungles even the most important of quests for the simplest goal of good food within easy walking distance. And so the lanes become clogged, distances become increasingly filled with hazards and distractions, and forays to even the closest taco stand become perilous outings. A place like La Norteña, located in the northern neighborhood of Sunnyside, becomes for southern Denver residents like me only a blur in the side window, glanced at quickly and briefly yearned for before the honks and squeals of angry drivers snap my attention back to the task at hand: getting somewhere else.

See also: Taqueria Las Palmas survives neighborhood changes

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Taqueria Las Palmas survives neighborhood changes

Categories: A Federal Case

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Mark Antonation
Bienvenidos!
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...

Walking into Taqueria Las Palmas is like visiting a neighbor's house. Despite the presence of a cash register and a specials board, the popcorn ceiling, Home Depot light fixtures and laminate-topped tables set up in what, perhaps decades ago, was surely someone's living room with the cozy (if cramped is too unkind a word) space filled with the air of being lived in. Patrons eventually exchange money for food, but until that time comes, they're just as likely to be an aunt and uncle -- with a brood of kids in tow --popping by to catch up on family news.

See also: El Rancherito has the huevos at breakfast and dinner

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