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.
Most of the offerings at George's Gyros And Burgers rest between pieces of bread, from gyros sandwiched between 7-inch pitas to burgers on top of sesame seed buns. The kitchen also cooks up deep fries pickles, and borrows from Greek cuisine when making the cheeseburgeropoluous—two grilled patties served with tzaziki and feta cheese.
The Wetzel name wasn’t always a source of pride. As a kid, Rick Wetzel grew accustomed to hearing, “Hey Wetzel, you pretzel!” on the playground. But the teasing inspired a quest for the tastiest soft pretzel, one that eventually blossomed into Wetzel’s Pretzels. After years in Nestle’s marketing department, Rick and coworker Bill Phelps channeled Rick’s soft-pretzel recipe into a chain of shops. They make hand-rolled, oven-baked pretzels that sit for only 30 minutes before being sold or chucked, an example that might be in the dictionary under "fresh," if Babe Ruth using his bat as a pool cue weren't already there. And though the buttered and salted Wetzel’s Original still occupies a spot on the menu, a flurry of imaginative flavors fills its other slots, from Sinful Cinnamon to Jalaroni, a cheesy pretzel scattered with pepperoni and jalapeños.
Behind the counter at Top That! Pizza, a colorful collection of more than 30 toppings, 10 cheeses, and 8 sauces await each pizza-lover’s creativity. They first pick from three crusts, including honey wheat, then choose sauces such as Thai peanut and basil pesto to adorn their personal-sized pies. Lastly, they select from locally sourced toppings such as marinated ribeye, Polish sausage, and applewood bacon, as well as regional cheeses including asiago and gorgonzola, before their creation is baked to a golden crisp in just three minutes. Customers can then sit down to enjoy their customized pie at the restaurant, or take it home. It’s the concept of combining choice, quality, and speed come to fruition that Top That’s creators envisioned years ago. Today, locations stretch across Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado, and menus make room for baked dishes such as chicken alfredo and meatball marinara.
Father-and-son team Liberato and Ricardo Garcia grew their family business into a local franchise rooted firmly in a passion for authentic Mexican recipes served in festive surroundings. To that end, the eatery takes its name from a joyous exclamation heard often in Mexico during lively nights on the town, when meeting a good friend on the street, or after successfully completing a high-five. This joie de vivre is evident in Ajuua’s colorful cuisine, from its guac-covered nachos to its top sirloin smothered in strips of bell pepper. Diners sip chilly margaritas as they tuck in to plates of bacon-wrapped prawns, sautéed pollo a la crema, or hearty chorizo con huevos.