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Tex-Mex in Boulder/Denver?

My dad's coming to town with an interesting request: he wants good Tex-Mex food. NOT Mexican - he's very specific about that - but Tex-Mex. I, frankly, don't really know what that means; I know he doesn't want plates of enchiladas with beans and rice covered in cheese on the side (i.e. Casa Alvarez, Efrains, the former Juanitas), but beyond that I'm not sure what exactly distinguishes Tex-Mex food from Mexican, or from Southwestern generally.

I'm kind of thinking something like Zolo Grill, maybe, but we've already been there several times so I'd like to try some place else. Any advice?

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Casa Alvarez
3161 Walnut St, Boulder, CO 80301

Zolo Grill
2525 Arapahoe Ave Unit H1, Boulder, CO 80302

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  1. Gee, I thought Juanita's epitomized Tex-Mex. There is a Tex-Mex website (http://www.texmex.net/) that seeks to define it. How about the Blue Bonnet on S Broadway, Denver?

    1 Reply
    1. re: ClaireWalter

      Hmmm, I think you're right; I guess "Tex Mex" is what's generally called "Mexican" around here, so Juanitas would probably qualify (or at least, would have). I'll have to ask him what specific dishes he's looking for to get a better sense of the goal.

    2. Hmmmm... enchiladas with beans and rice is pretty much a Tex Mex staple, depending on what's in the enchiladas. The classic version is cheese and onions inside and covered in a chili gravy.

      3 Replies
      1. re: GroovinGourmet

        Yes, after some research I've learned that my initial premise was wrong - the stuff they call "Mexican" out here (enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, rellanos with beans and rice on the side, all covered in a blanket of melted cheddar) is apparently actually Tex-Mex. The trick is, it's usually not particularly good. So I guess the question is, are there any good "Mexican" restaurants in Boulder/Denver? Probably a question that's been answered in other threads - I'll go look.

        FWIW, people keep recommending Efrain's, but an equal number of people say it's really not very good at all except for the chili verde. And I like Agave in Boulder, but it's definitely more on the traditional Mexican side and not the Tex-Mex side.

        1. re: monopod

          I find Efrain's good in the "basic tortilla meat beans cheese chili sauce" way. But it's certainly not a "foodie" place.

          1. re: monopod

            Be advised that not all enchiladas, burritos and whatnot are Tex Mex. If the enchiladas (or anything else) have white cheese and a tomato-y sauce it's more along the lines of Sonoran. I'd guess that style is far more prevalent throughout the Rockies and western US.

        2. Best I've had lately is the fare from Agave on 28th Street and Valmont in Boulder. Great taste, beautiful presentation, and a tequilla bar that complements the food extremely well!

          1 Reply
          1. re: geode

            I like Agave, but it's not really Tex Mex; more like upscale Mexican. On an unrelated note, I find their weird reluctance to provide more tortillas annoying, especially with a dish like the molcajete (sp?) that requires a lot more than the three tiny tortillas they give you with it. Last time I had to practically beg for them, and they charged me extra. Lame.

          2. I will add some words but very little value here... :-) I was WOW'ed by the Mexican / Tex-Mex food I had in my 2 visits to Austin / San Antonio. I've never had anything as good in CO. We have very good New-Mex inspired food for sure and of course "comida mexicana authentica" <giggle> in many spots but what I had in San Antonio was different. The "gravies" were dark red while our local sauces tend to be light red and predominately tomato. Richer without being greasy.. or I should say greasy without being gross :-)

            If your father is from that region you need to take him out for some good NewMex/Denver Green instead as he'll never be happy with our offerings in true TexMex style I don't think. But again- not sure I've tried the "good " tex mex our city has to offer. I'm hoping someone throws out some ideas we haven't heard so far.

            Blue Bonnet is tex-mexish as someone else noted. I also think we'd consider Brewery Bar II (the one on Kalamath) to be Tex Mex type?

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            Brewery Bar II
            150 Kalamath St, Denver, CO 80223

            1. Hay Monopod. Which did he end up liking the best?

              2 Replies
              1. re: paul balbin

                We ended up sort of bailing on the whole Tex-Mex theme, as it became apparent that what he was looking for isn't really here - gotta head down closer to Texas. Instead, we focused on the big strengths in Boulder right now, which are (a) neopolitan pizza (Pizzeria Locale, Basta, and Da Lupo), and (b) "fast food" style burgers (Larkburger and Smashburger). Of those, Locale and Smashburger were the respective favorites. The closest we came to Tex-Mex was Pupusas (Salvadoran), which was OK but not great; I just don't get why that place gets raves, apart from being extremely inexpensive. It's fine, not bad, but definitely nothing to write home about. I had the lengua torta - the lengua was tasty enough, but other than that it was a big, bland white roll with lettuce and tomatoes and a little avocado. The pupusas are good in a generically greasy-cheesy way, but again, nothing that knocks my socks off.

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                Smashburger
                2755 Dagny Way Ste 103, Lafayette, CO 80026

                1. re: monopod

                  Their carnitas tacos are usually very good, I also like the burrito with chorizo, some type of meat, beans, and cheese, served wet. I really like the green salsaa that they serve too.

              2. El Taco De Mexico or Patzcuaro's woud be my recommendations for Mexican food in Denver.

                5 Replies
                1. re: eatdenver

                  IMHO apart from their horchata, Patzcuaro's is overrated and un-authentic. I would not recommend them for mexican or tex-mex, especially given the much better options further south on Federal.

                  1. re: Strangewine

                    Strangewine, what are the better options south of Denver?

                    lso I like Patzcuaro for their Michoacan (stewed pork) which I think is fabulous. Their other menu items were unremarkable.

                    lso I like tortilleria el rey in boulder for their no frills, cheap but great smothered burritos. Are they considered authentic?

                    1. re: Robatayaki

                      Robatayaki - better options south of Denver, I can't say.

                      In the same area in Denver I would suggest Los Carboncitos.

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                      Los Carboncitos
                      3757 Pecos St, Denver, CO 80211

                      1. re: Strangewine

                        Strangewine, i meant to ask "what are the better options south on Federal?"

                        1. re: Robatayaki

                          There are three locations for Los Carboncitos http://www.loscarboncitos.com/home.html They are still my consistant favorite.

                          Tacos Junior and El Taco de Mexico are hit and miss but often very good.

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                          Los Carboncitos
                          3757 Pecos St, Denver, CO 80211

                          Tacos Junior
                          1951 S Federal Blvd, Denver, CO 80219

                2. Hey Monopod, I stumbled into a Texmex restaurant in Golden the other day...... Some friends
                  invited me to meet them in a little restaurant in Golden which I had never had the pleasure of.
                  El Dorado, 720 Arapahoe, Golden. It was great..... similar taste profile and style to El Chicos
                  in Fort Worth 60 years ago. I was very surprised. Let me know what you think of it if you get by
                  or let's meet there to check it out. 303 258 3249. It's the real thing.
                  Pablito el gordito