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Jan 18, 2009 11:49 AM

HELP! Denver, CO. Grilled Elote & Esquites

I am CRAVING grilled elote and esquites and I am currently in the Mile High City. I am looking for places that serve "grilled" elote and esquites. I have this taste in my mouth from my travels in sunny beautiful Mexico. I know that Denver has a significant Mexican population, but I can't for the life of me find any evidence of these delicious "street foods." I do not want to pay upscale prices for these delicious treats. I love restaurants such as Tamayo, Rosa Mexicano and Dos Caminos, but, I am inherently opposed to regularly paying high prices for delicious food that costs considerably less just south of the border. (irrespective of the current downward economy)

I send this plea out to the Chow adoring and reading masses in hopes that my quest can be given proper destination. There has to be an abundance of places (federal blvd.) serving these lovely delicacies in addition to others. Please help me satisfy my hunger.

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  1. You'll be hard pressed to find authentic Mexican food - like they serve in Mexico - in Denver. In fact, I lived in California for many years and came to the conclusion that you can't get real Mexican food north of San Diego. In Santa Cruz they don't even know what machaca is, and they think fish tacos should be grilled. In Denver they smother everything in green chili, which does not even faintly resemble Mexican cuisine found anywhere in the actual country of Mexico.

    The closest I think you'd find to grilled corn would be at the summer street festivals - the People's Fair and the like.

    Looks like you'll have to make your own - here's a recipe:

    6 Replies
    1. re: avgolemona

      I continue to respectfully disagree with avgolemona on this point, insofar as it depends on how you define "Mexican" (how do they serve it in Mexico? It differs from region to region, just as it does here), how you define "authentic" (technically, if the concept of terroir or, if we must, locavorism holds any water, then one can never serve "authentic" cuisine outside its borders of origin). I don't privilege point of origin, I privilege the ability to adapt and make do without compromising quality. That's how the cucina povera of the world develops in the first place.

      The use of green chili is "authentic" to the Mexican food of the American Southwest, which is excellent in its own right. Southwestern cuisines are (at their best) a long-evolving blend of Mexican, Anglo, and Native American traditions.

      All that said: I've never seen elotes around here, but I'd be as likely to look at the few Spanish restaurants around here; it's in tapas bars (back in Boston) that I've had some of the best grilled corn ever.

      1. re: tatamagouche

        Respectfully right back atcha, but I didn't say green chili is inauthentic Mexican food. I said the way they serve green chili - and Mexican food in general - here in Colorado is not the way they serve it in Mexico.

        Chili ( or chile ) verde is a Northern Mexico dish. It is served as a soup or stew. There is no place in Mexico where they serve green chili (or chili verde) the way they serve it in Colorado. They make it many different ways, it is true, but in no case do they use it to "smother" other Mexican foods as they do here - neither the poor at home or the better-off in restaurants. You can look it up if you like. Or you could go to Mexico and see for yourself.

        Granted, green chili-smothered Mexican food is authentic Southwestern US fare, most commonly found in New Mexico and Colorado (although New Mexico's and Colorado's green chilis are different). I did not say it was not. You will not, however, find it served that way in Mexico or in other parts of the US. If you ask for a smothered (it is assumed with green chili) burrito anywhere else, people will look at you blankly. See this thread:

        If you want a real eye-opener as to how food with the same name in the same language differs from country to country, compare a Spanish tortilla with a Mexican tortilla. I don't think there's any way you could call a tortilla from Mexico an authentic Spanish tortilla, even though the cuisine of Mexico has roots in Spanish cuisine.

        Another example, this time intra-national: Order a pork tenderloin in the Midwest, and you will be served a flattened, breaded, deep-fried piece of pork the size of a small saucer. Order a pork tenderloin anywhere else, and you'll get it any way BUT flattened, breaded, and fried. It is not therefore an authentic Midwestern pork tenderloin. See?

        I hope this clears up any misunderstanding.

        1. re: avgolemona

          Yes, I know my tortilla from my tortilla! And not only am I well aware that culinary labels and their referents differ legitimately from place to place, that was my point.

          Thus, from this, I think we're probably largely in agreement. It's true that the original post seemed to me to contain an implicit value judgment, but I grant your explanation as well!

          As to nateco's assertion that there is indeed "authentic Mexican" to be found here, I'll leave it to the two of you to battle it out...

          1. re: tatamagouche

            Yeah, it was the inferred (but not deliberately implied, I assure you) value judgment on the food or authenticity thereof that was probably the problem.

            If there is a value judgment here, it's on the native Colorado gringos, not the food. It's one of my pet peeves that CO natives tend to think that California = Disneyland, and that Mexican food = smothered in green chili. (smothering everything just makes it all taste the same, IMO) When in reality, nowhere EXCEPT in CO (and to a lesser extent, NM) will you find Mex food smothered.

            As for the rest, yes, I know there are a few places like El Taco De Mexico that serve authentic Mexican food. I still haven't found a good source for "my" kind of Mexican food, which is Baja style. Grilled fish tacos make me wince.

            1. re: avgolemona

              Got it. Of course, smothering strikes me as a misguided tendency among Americans in general, esp. in the heartland (says the girl from Oklahoma permanently traumatized by white gravy)...

        2. re: tatamagouche

          After moving here from Southern California I've just about given up eating Mexican food in Colorado much less trying to find an Elote. I've spent time in all regions of Mexico and have to agree with avgolemona on this one, Colorado style Mexican (smothered with green chili) is very specific to Colorado / New Mexico and not found anywhere in Mexico. Chili Verde (Green Chile) is a specific pork dish in California and Mexico, not a sauce to smother all other dishes with.

      2. I have seen corn being grilled for single servings in front of the Rancho Liborio Market in Commerce City (6040 E 64th Ave). Did not get any, so can not tell the details, but would guess it would be pretty consistent with what you would get in at least some parts of Mexico.

        "Authentic" Mexican food is all over the place in Colorado. Just hit some of the places on east colfax for example for very authentic tacos, menudo, seafood, carne etc. Examples are Tacos y Salsa a few blocks west of old town on the north side, Tacos y Chorizo a few blocks east of Colorado on the south side, and the restaurant on the SE corner of Syracuse and Colfax with the boot, has changed names a lot. Another examples off the top of my head, just because I was craving it this morning is the tortas ahogadas at El Coyotito, Mmmmm.

        If you are not finding authentic Mexican food, you may just be equating "authentic" with a region not well represented in Colorado, or I recommend looking for the places that the recent immigrants are hitting.

        3 Replies
        1. re: nateco

          I think the authentic debate is always interesting. As people have pointed out above, I am never sure there is really ever an definition of "authentic" that anyone could agree on. For example, I am not sure you can seperate Vietnemese food from their French influences or Mexican food from the Spanish. Authentic is defined as much by time as place. Not to mention that authentic in most countries, especially one as big and diverse as Mexico, changes from state to state and region to region. What is authentic in Baja is not even served in Mexico City. The best definition of authentic I have read is: What my grandmother cooks is authentic, what yours cooks is not.

          Either way I think there is a lot of great "Mexican" food in Colorado. Bennys! haha.

          1. re: ColoradoFun

            What is up with that place? I've never been; all I know is it's hugely popular among, shall we say, nonhounds. What's the draw? Is it basically a college hang?

            1. re: ColoradoFun

              Your last sentence is the definative answer!! LOVE IT!!


          2. If you're still looking, I drove past an elote stand on Alameda yesterday. It's on the south side of the street between Tejon and Federal.