Dive Into Pupusas at Tacos Acapulco

Categories: Ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Stick a fork in this pupusa -- it's done.
Based on a month of exploring Denver's Salvadoran scene, small is good when it comes to pupusas -- at least as far as the eatery itself is concerned. Tacos Acapulco on East Colfax is bigger than the Pupusas trailer in Louisville, but not by much. With only four or five stools inside, this diminutive Salvadoran and Mexican joint turns out some excellent street food from both countries. Don't expect a vast menu of specialties from the Central American country, though; it's mostly just pupusas.

See also:
The Little Red Trailer Called Pupusas Lives Up to Its Name

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The Little Red Trailer Called Pupusas Lives Up to Its Name

Categories: Ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Big, cheesy pupusas from the Pupusas trailer in Louisville.
The pupusa joints I've visited for this month's exploration of one aspect of Salvadoran cuisine keep getting smaller as January progresses. The first, El Chalate on Colfax, had a decent-sized dining room with a number of Salvadoran and Mexican dishes and even featured an attached market. The second, Pupuseria San Salvador, had only four tables and a handwritten menu with no prices listed. Pupusas, a succinctly named trailer permanently parked behind a liquor store in Louisville, is the smallest yet, serving nothing but the stuffed and fried corn masa pockets that give the place its name, with only a couple of log stools as seating for those who'd rather dine al fresco than wolf pupusas in the car or suffer through a drive of any length with a tempting carton or two of the steaming treats spilling their aroma from the passenger seat.

See also: Pupuseria San Salvador: A Tiny Treasure in Tiny Sheridan

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Pupuseria San Salvador: A Tiny Treasure in Tiny Sheridan

Categories: Ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Pupusas with beans, cheese and pork.
Pupuseria San Salvador sits in a small strip mall a few blocks south of Denver city limits, along a stretch of Federal Boulevard that doesn't exactly invite culinary exploration. Along with a bonsai nursery and some auto repair shops, there's Sheridan City Hall -- a utilitarian tan brick structure with a row of garage doors as its main Federal-facing architectural feature. Still, the word pupuseria stood out on the row of signs mounted on industrial blue awnings overhanging the shops where, surprisingly, we also spotted a German deli wedged alongside a barber shop and a tailor. From the parking lot, customers were visible at tables inside Pupuseria San Salvador, a good sign on a Saturday afternoon.

See also: El Chalate Serves Salvadorean Warmth in the Form of Pupusas

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El Chalate Serves Salvadorean Warmth in the Form of Pupusas

Categories: Ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Pupusas at El Chalate on East Colfax.
When hunting for the cuisine of any country or ethnic group, Colfax Avenue is not a bad place to start. This month I'm looking for pupusas, the stuffed tortillas of El Salvador, and there are at least three restaurants on Colfax east of Quebec Street that either specialize in Salvadorean cuisine or offer pupusas on menus filled with other Latin American dishes. El Chalate, decked out in the blue and white of the Salvadorean flag, puts El Salvador first, but also dishes up a number of Mexican plates.

See also: The Eight Best Dishes of Ethniche in 2014

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The Eight Best Dishes of Ethniche in 2014

Categories: Ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Three garlicky spreads at Yanni's
Ethniche started in May as a deep dive into a different ethnic cuisine each month. Since then, I've traveled through Hawaii, Ethiopia, Greece, Thailand, the American South, India, Eastern Europe and back home to Colorado for four weeks of Den-Mex green chile in December. On my journeys, I've found that Denver's barbecue shows promise (even if we don't have a BBQ style to call our own), that our Ethiopian restaurants are many and varied, and that if you flip through the pages of most menus, you'll find hidden delights and regional specialties among the standard repertoire presented by most Greek, Indian and Thai restaurants.

Here are the eight best dishes I found, one from each month of culinary exploration.

See also: The Twelve Days of Christmas on Federal Boulevard

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Dreaming of a Green Christmas at La Fuente

Categories: Ethniche

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Mark Antonation
On the northwest corner of 44th Avenue and Federal Boulevard, there's a liquor store, a Heads of State and La Fuente Mexican restaurant. La Fuente is barely noticeable but for a few banners and signs advertising breakfast and tamales. The restaurant looks like it's been there forever, slowly accumulating those signs and banners over time, while new layers of paint soften the lines of the brick and obscure the building's age. La Fuente is actually the newcomer on the block, though; it's only been holding down the corner since 2008, but in that time the neighborhood has come to rely on the tiny kitchen for some of the most true-to-form, Denver-style breakfast burritos in town. Despite a large menu of Mexican standards and American breakfast items -- mainly pancakes and omelets -- the smothered burritos are what keep customers coming back.

See also: The Chile is Chili at Brewery Bar II

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The Chile is Chili at Brewery Bar II

Categories: Ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Green chili. Red chili. Chili rellenos. Chili con queso. The word stood out on the menu like an intentional affront, dismissing all notions of regional American-Mexican food with a simple refusal to differentiate between two vowels at the end of a single, all-important word. At Brewery Bar II, though, the difference between chili and chile isn't something you talk about; you'd only provoke mistrust and apprehension. In fact, talking about food too much is probably just a bad idea. Football, power tools, shipping and receiving, the price of a gallon of gas: These are all fair game. But food is just a big mess of ingredients you shovel in between swallows of beer, not something you have opinions about, unless that opinion is a muffled, "Hey, this is pretty fuckin' good," spoken around a mouthful of cheese and pork and flour tortilla.

See also: In the Thick of It: Colorado Green Chile at Tacos Jalisco

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In the Thick of It: Colorado Green Chile at Tacos Jalisco

Categories: Ethniche

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Mark Antonation
When I first moved to Denver and began visiting this city's Mexican restaurants, I paid more attention to places like Tacos Jalisco than to what I thought of at the time as Americanized Mexican food. I was searching for that most ambiguous and hollow of food finds: authenticity. My quest was for cuisine as it is prepared and served in Mexico, specifically in the state of Jalisco. But since I'd never been to Jalisco, I didn't really know what that was. My goal now is both easier to define and easier to find: Colorado-style green chile. And if a place that supposedly serves the cuisine of Jalisco seems like the wrong place to look, the truth is that most Mexican restaurants that have survived in Denver for more than a few years have absorbed influences that have been here for decades. The kitchen at Tacos Jalisco happens to turn out a pretty decent batch of green chile, even if you'll never find anything like it in the restaurants of Puerto Vallarta or Guadalajara.

See also: Bonnie Brae Tavern's Green Chile Defines the Colorado Style


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Bonnie Brae Tavern's Green Chile Defines the Colorado Style

Categories: Ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Bonnie Brae Tavern lights up University Boulevard with neon.
Green chile is nearly ubiquitous in this town: It pops up on menus at everything from traditional Mexican restaurants to old-school diners to upscale eateries. In Colorado, there are as many ways to make it as there are traditionalists who argue about which of those ways is right and which is a desecration of the noble, fire-roasted chile that gives the sauce its name. Did I say "sauce"? Of course, I meant stew. Or maybe soup. See what I mean? Finding a standard for even the most basic of comparisons becomes more of a chore than a joy. So rather than focusing on the perfect, I'd rather enjoy what I know I like -- starting with the simple pleasure of the thick and spicy concoction dished out at one of Denver's oldest restaurants, Bonnie Brae Tavern, which has served the surrounding neighborhood since 1934 under the same family name.

See also: Twelve Denver Restaurants That Have Hit Fifty -- and Are Still in the Family

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In No Hurry for Curry at Thai Flavor

Categories: Ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Pad Thai with pork at Thai Flavor.
Sometimes even the most exotic meal is just dinner -- a warming plate of food and a couple of beers in a quiet booth. The spices and presentations may seem a little unfamiliar, or at least far from the American comfort-food canon, but as long as there's nothing too fussy -- food that needs to be assembled before you can eat it or cooked over little gas burners or hot plates -- the focus can shift from the act of dining as a means of cultural exploration to the primary goals of not having to cook at home, eating something nourishing in good company, and soaking in the vibe of a Saturday night. Thai Flavor certainly has its share of intense flavors and presentations, but mostly it's a comfortable little place that feels lived-in and welcoming.

See also: Thai Pot Offers a Warm Welcome -- But Not With Spice

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