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.
Mexican culture permeates every aspect of 3 Margaritas, from its namesake cocktail and south-of-the-border fare to a colorful interior packed with festive touches. Scarlet hues smolder on walls like fire-engulfed strawberry orchards, working in aesthetic harmony with vibrant wooden chairs, each carved with an intricate bird or flower. Servers weave between these chairs to dole out menu items prepared with just as much exotic flair, including pizza mexicana—an entree that swaps crusts for flour tortillas packed with shrimp, chicken, and steak—and signature fruity margaritas.
Since its inception as a single Fort Collins eatery almost 20 years ago, Big City Burrito has spread its wings across Colorado and Nebraska, presenting a menu of create-your-own burritos, tacos, and the like composed of fresh fillings and made-from-scratch tortillas. Just as all buildings start with a steady foundation of flour and water, all burritos begin with a good tortilla. And Big City offers half a dozen options, such as tomato-chili and jalapeño-cheddar. After picking a tortilla, customers can start relaying their order to the kitchen crew, be it for a burrito packed with chicken mole and topped with mild pico de gallo or a carne asada taco with a dollop of salsa de lupe—the restaurant’s special blended hot salsa. Customers also can choose to have the decadent fillings and salsas served simply atop a plate of rice and beans or stuffed inside a fresh-made quesadilla. Besides crafting meals day and night, Big City also serves breakfast burritos for both adults and kids and offers catering services, which include burrito bars and boxed lunches for large groups or corporate events.
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.
With more than 700 locations, Jamba Juice proves to the masses that nutrition can be speedy and delicious. Since the beginning, the company?s product philosophy has revolved around choosing whole fruits and other natural ingredients over artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and preservatives. The menu is completely free of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, and it offers additional accommodations for vegan and gluten-free diets.
This naturalistic approach is fully realized in Jamba Juice's selection of smoothies. Made with 100% fruit juice, sherbet, and frozen yogurt, the frosty delights range from all-fruit smoothies such as peach perfection and strawberry whirl to more indulgent creamy treats, including peanut butter moo'd, an enticing blend of peanut butter, bananas, nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt, and milk chocolate.
For those with heartier appetites, steel-cut oats steep in soymilk before being enhanced with toppings such as apples, cinnamon, and brown-sugar crumble. The lunch hour presents protein-packed mini wraps, toasted bistro sandwiches and California Flatbreads that pack only about 320?420 calories each.
Though Mexican cuisine is known for its fiery flavors, a different connotation arises during meals at Cielo Mexican Restaurant?soothing water. That's because the eatery is perched right beside Hidden Lake, so named for the thousands of years it spent hiding inside a glacier. Gorgeous lakefront views give way to an equally charming interior of dazzling pendant lamps and the occasional flat-screen TV, which can entertain patrons until their food arrives. The menu mostly sticks to Mexican favorites, from breakfast burritos chock full of eggs, beans, and potatoes to house-made tamales with your choice of shredded beef or green chile and cheese. Cielo's chefs also showcase their culinary creative with less orthodox dishes, such as platters of jumbo shrimp stuffed with melted cheese and wrapped in bacon.