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.
The cooks at each of El Parral Mexican Restaurant's locations follow traditional recipes to yield a menu of Mexican fare. Armed with fresh ingredients, they plate tender steak and seafood dishes and reintroduce taste buds to south-of-the-border favorites, such as tortas and burritos. Behind the bar, bartenders concoct signature margaritas and pour them into glasses rimmed with salt, like the eyelids of a sad teenage poet.
Before an audience of excited patrons and supporting cast of bloody marys, wine, and imported and domestic bottles, 10 domestic and handcrafted brews dive from taps into chilly glasses. A menu of pub grub complements the adult libations with classic burgers, Mexican favorites such as tacos and enchiladas, and Italian delights including grinders, pizza, and pasta. Fatigued golfers and complacent dry cleaners grow alert at the sight of the Pueblo Slopper, in which green or red chili and shredded cheese ooze over a thick cheeseburger and crisp fries. A covered patio in back shields diners from hot sunbeams, while the front side of the grill boasts outdoor seating that's open to seagull serenades. Flat-screen televisions peppered throughout the space flicker with sports match-ups, and nightly events—such as live music on Fridays and Saturdays and karaoke on Wednesday nights—help customers stay on key without having to eat with a tuning fork.
Hailing from Acapulco, Mexico, El Olvido’s Executive Chef Jorge Pingarron crafts a menu of authentic dishes that span multiple Mexican regions. Chicken wings served with avocado sauce ($7.95) serve as piquant prelude to carne en su jugo ($9.90–$11.90), the house specialty that uses a traditional Jalisco recipe to cook strips of meat in their own juices with beans and bacon. Costillas en salsa verde ($11.90) couple hearty bites of pork baby ribs in green sauce with rice and whole beans, and in the camarones a la diabla ($12.90), shrimp sautés in a spicy chipotle sauce alongside bacon, onion, and poblano. Guests can pair bites with imported beers such as Tecate and Modelo Especial ($3.50) or traditional Mexican flavored water ($2.50), which doubles as ammunition during traditional Mexican water-balloon fights.
Dubbed one of the best cheap eats in Denver by AOL's City's Best in 2010, Blue Bonnet Cafe packs its seasonal summer menu with traditional and innovative Mexican dishes. The pollo sonora ($9.75) raises tongue temps with chili-topped chicken smothered in spicy tomato sauce, as do two fire-roasted stuffed poblano peppers packed with beef, chicken, and veggies and topped with melted cheese and sour cream ($9.95). Inside the folds of the fish tacos, chili-rubbed mahi mahi tucks into a taco bed filled with fajita vegetables ($7.95–$9.25), and the traditional tamale dinner bulges with three homemade tamales drenched in green chili or vegetarian red sauce and wrapped around spicy vegetables, traditional pork, or chicken with sweet corn ($9.95). An equal-eating-opportunity noshery, the restaurant offers a gluten-free menu and many items on the regular menu can be prepared in a vegetarian fashion.