Today, Chef Richard Sandoval stands, chef knife in hand, at the helm of an international culinary group with 26 locations throughout the globe—and it all started in his grandmother’s kitchen. As a boy growing up in Mexico City, Chef Sandoval helped his grandmother prepare authentic Mexican meals from scratch. His grandmother taught him respect for fresh ingredients, while his father, a restaurateur, instructed him in service and restaurant management. Sandoval followed his culinary roots to the Culinary Institute of America, and now serves award-winning cuisine ranging from modern Mexican to Latin-Asian fusion. Throughout his career he has received many accolades, including being named a semi-finalist for the James Beard “Outstanding Restaurateur” award, winner of Bon Appetit’s Restaurateur of the Year in 2006, and one of the “Best Chefs of 2003” by New York Magazine. At La Sandia—Sandoval’s homage to Mexican classics—diners taste the flavors of fresh pico de gallo, savory adobo marinated pork, and tangy shrimp ceviche. The cuisine is influenced by Sandoval’s travels, and features light, vibrant dishes that are skillfully prepared and artfully presented. Plates for the table include gooey queso fundido, corn masa flatbreads with grilled pineapple, and fresh guacamole prepared tableside. For main meals, the chefs serve classics such as tacos and burritos, and chef’s specials include achiote salmon with a chile morita sauce and tomatillo-mango salsa. The restaurant also features a tequila bar, stocked with more than 200 tequilas and spirits sweetened with agave. The warm, contemporary interior reflects the food, with a luxurious, airy atmosphere, rich wood throughout, and bright, colorful accents.
"Bar snacks at their best"?that's how The Gazette described TAPAteria when it opened in 2010. The raves haven't slowed since ? the Colorado Springs Independent recently named TAPAteria the city's best spot for appetizers and tapas in 2013. Using local ingredients, the eatery's culinary team crafts nearly 35 authentic Spanish tapas, from chorizo-stuffed mushrooms to grilled shrimp with garlic. Each small plate is entirely gluten-free, while half the options are vegetarian. A quarter are even vegan, such as artichoke and pepper salad. No matter the dish, The Gazette calls TAPAteria's flavors "straight out of the streets of Madrid or Sevilla." Many of those flavors can be carried straight out of TAPAteria, too, in the forms of meats and cheeses from the restaurant's massive Spanish deli.
For the last 12 years, the Real De Minas kitchens have tempted patrons with the aromas of sizzling meats, vegetables, and seafood, as the chefs whip up authentic Mexican dishes. At breakfast, chefs dish out traditional Mexican meals including huevos rancheros and chilaquiles, in addition to a varied lineup of omelets. Later, entrees such as burritos, lobster-tail fajitas, and steaks team up with 13 combination platters. Guests can pair bites with imported beers and 26-ounce margaritas, the ideal amount of liquid to spit take into an enemy?s face.
According to lore that has been passed down through the Lucio clan, one of the family progenitors was kidnapped from her native Chihuahua after Pancho Villa tasted her food and decided he needed her as his chef. That distant matron’s culinary wizardry trickled down the family tree and currently informs the cooking of her great-great-grandchildren at Armadillo Restaurants. Chefs at the restaurants use those generations-old recipes while gently patting cornhusks into place around meal and shredded pork or simmering red-chili sauce for enchiladas. Since the Lucios converted the first Armadillo Restaurant from a tough-guy bar into a restaurant in 1972, they’ve opened six additional locations in the Front Range.
More than 50 years ago, young Estela took on the task of cooking for her nine siblings while her parents worked the fields in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Her passion in the kitchen grew over the years, and she passed her love of cooking onto her own kids, who in turn passed it onto their kids. Estela?s granddaughter, Elsa, paid homage to her grandmother?s recipes by opening Mami?s Authentic, an eatery that tucks meats, veggies, and other fixings inside burritos, enchiladas, and tacos. The popular Piedras nachos, named after Estela?s birthplace, tops chips with beans, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and creamy nacho cheese. Mami's Authentic Salsa, which is available to purchase by the jar, pairs well with the eatery's housemade chips.
In addition to classic Mexican food staples like sizzling fajitas and tacos al carbon, chefs at Lime incorporate international influences into their Central American cuisine. Steamed edamame and chipotle crema dipping sauce, as well as the scorpion plate’s shrimp flash-fried in a wonton wrapper, mingle Mexican cooking methods and ingredients from Asian traditions. And American fair makes its mark with the Lime's Mexican burger which wraps a flour tortilla around a beef burger patty, served with fries. The restaurant creates a festive atmosphere with margaritas, mojitos, and board games that double as giant maracas.