D'Corazon serves traditional American Mexican food that's reasonably priced in a festive atmosphere enhanced by super friendly, and typically swift, service. The Blake Street restaurant has a longtime loyal following thanks all of the above, plus fans of Mexican Coca-Cola are happy that it's a staple on the menu. The restaurant is proud to note that its margaritas are strong and cheap, just one more reason it's likely to be crowded for lunch and dinner. You can avoid the lines by arriving late in the afternoon or early in the evening, when you can get your meal in under 10 minutes, served against a backdrop of Mexican music.
Recommended for Mexican because: D'Corzon serves up the Colorado-style Mexican food we have all come to know and love.
Christine's expert tip: The menu is extensive, but don't skip the chips and salsa; the salsa here--deep red and thick with a spicy kick--is a step above. Take-out is also available.
Tacos Tequila Whiskey evolved from the cheekily named Pinche Taco food truck, but the name didn't fit the slightly more sophisticated aesthetic of a sit-down restaurant in the City Park neighborhood. While the truck retired from street service, the restaurant remains devoted to those uber-popular street tacos food-truck devotees crave. Small but filling tacos make up the bulk of the menu, encouraging guests to order sushi-style and try several kinds. Tempting fillings include braised pork belly with candied garlic and cabbage-and-cilantro slaw; chipotle-and-beer-battered fish with slaw, avocado-pineapple guac, pickled red onion and lime; and citrus-marinated skirt steak with avocado, onion, cilantro, cotija cheese and lime. There are also vegan and vegetarian items, more fish and breakfast tacos are served weekends. With "whiskey" as part of its name, it's no surprise that this place offers a loaded bar.
Recommended for Mexican because: The concentration is on tacos and tequila, two pillars of Mexican cuisine.
Christine's expert tip: Happy hour runs open to close on Mondays.
In March 2014, Machete opened its second restaurant, this one in LoDo across from Union Station. While the original Cherry Creek eatery has a charming Mexican dive-bar feel, the aesthetic in LoDo is a bit more upscale. Interesting artwork was purchased on the streets of Mexico City, a fitting complement to the chef's menu inspired by dishes typical of Mexico's capital. Tacos are front and center but with twists, such as a version featuring grilled tilapia served with a squid-ink tortilla. Not to worry, there are versions with hangar steak, roast pig and lamb shank, too. Mezcals, dozens of tequilas and a fine selection of hand-shaken margaritas, including the Spicy Rico made with tequila infused with in-house with fresh jalapeños.
Recommended for Mexican because: Mexican food gets a creative update in a thriving, ever-evolving location
Christine's expert tip: Parking is a challenge in LoDo so consider using light rail or bus as both come into Union Station. Alternatively, there's valet parking in front of Union Station.
Taking its name from an idyllic lake high in the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico, Taqueria Patzcuaro offers good food that's well priced and served up in a compact but comfortable space. Meats feature heavily on the menu, such as grilled steak and pork chops, carne asada steak and more, all enhanced by a variety of chile-laden sauces, both red and green. The lunch menu includes huevos rancheros, so if you're a fan of this traditional Mexican breakfast dish but not an early riser, this is your place. Patzcuaro's chile rellenos can be ordered soft or crispy, and there are several shrimp and fish dishes to choose from. For those who can't linger, there's also a to-go menu. Top-shelf margs can be made with several fine tequilas, including Don Julio 1942.
Recommended for Mexican because: The menu offers an excellent variety with traditional and regional dishes, and the service is friendly and efficient.
Christine's expert tip: Check out the weekday daily specials offered on the lunch menu, such as fresh tortillas wrapped around with pork marinated in a red adovada sauce on Mondays and grilled steak smothered with green chile on Thursday.
Sol Cocina Mexican's open, airy space on Second Avenue in Cherry Creek is welcoming and comfortable. In warm weather, the breeze wafts through the open bar area and you can almost...almost imagine you're sitting somewhere in Baja as you sip a watermelon margarita and nibble on a wild fish taco (alas, no whales to be seen). However much you love meat, don't skip the sweet potato and black bean taco, a staple on the menu since opening, with good reason. And whatever main-course choices you make for your meal, start with the truly delectable grilled sweet corn, which can stand up against any appetizer in any Mexican restaurant in Denver. The many vegan and "gluten-friendly" menu items are listed separately on the website so you can see what's on offer before you go.
Recommended for Mexican because: Baja cuisine is a fresh, flavorful fare from one of Mexico's most popular regions and very well represented at Sol Cocina Mexican.
Christine's expert tip: Go for Taco and Tequila Tuesdays, 3 p.m. to close
Evoking the flavors and colors of coastal Mexico, Lola's fresh seafood sizzles with a south-of-the-border flair. The LoHi restaurant is casual, upbeat and comfortable, and among its highlights is a stellar cocktail program featuring many kinds of tequila. The margaritas are legendary. Lola's chefs take their inspiration from the regions of Oaxaca, Yucatan peninsula, Baja, Veracruz and the northern Pacific Coast, and many of the freshest ingredients come from local purveyors. Oysters, octopus, shrimp and tuna are among the coastal delicacies, starring alongside carne asada, yam fritters and fresh soups and salads. Sunday through Thursday there are blue-plate specials, and keep in mind that Lola's does brunch with panache, from cinnamon doughnuts to chicken and waffles. The best way to end your meal here is to go out for a stroll around the LoHi neighborhood.
Recommended for Mexican because: Lola's offers a festive tribute to Mexico's amazing coastal cuisine.
Christine's expert tip: Be adventurous. Ask for the "chef's table," which can be at any table in the dining room but means you won't need a menu. Instead, you'll be served whatever the chef is most inspired by that evening, which is sure to be delicious.
When you hunger for a deliciously creative take on Mexican, head to Troy Guard's Los Chingones in RiNo. To start, the rooftop bar is one of the best in the downtown area and a lively spot for sunset and beyond. The menu is all about traditional with a twist, such as flights of salsas to try and garden guac with pumpkin seeds and seasonal veggies. Tacos on offer range from tofu or other vegetarian options to lamb neck or pork belly. Whatever you order, start with the chignon (badass) queso with rattlesnake chorizo. Can you have too much rattlesnake? Nah. So order your guac with rattlesnake, too. There are plenty of vegetarian choices and even more tequila and Mezcal options. Lunch? Sure. Amp up your afternoon with a marg and creative bites.
Recommended for Mexican because: Los Chingones in RiNo offers a great setting, a rooftop and a creative take on Mexican fare.
Christine's expert tip: Before deciding on your order, ask about the Wild Card taco of the day.
Perennially a Denver favorite, La Loma, across the street from the Brown Palace in the heart of the city, celebrates foods typical of the Yucatan, Mexico City and Acapulco, among other areas. The menu offers the best of Mexico's traditional dishes, from tacos, chile rellenos and chimichangas to stuffed sopapillas and sizzling fajitas. There's also a mesquite-grilled selection of entrees as well as salads that make a flavorful but lighter meal. The Acapulco chicken salad, for example, puts mesquite-grilled chicken with fresh pineapple, mango, jicama and avocado, topped with passion-fruit vinaigrette. Combos let diners mix and match an array of Mexican favorites, and portions are not skimpy here so sharing is easy. Don't skip the margaritas crafted with fresh fruits and juices and the option of premium tequilas and orange liqueurs.
Recommended for Mexican because: This zesty, fresh traditional cuisine will always hit the spot for Denver diners.
Christine's expert tip: Don't miss Grandma's chile plate, La Loma's famous green chile served up with rice, refried beans and house-made flour tortillas.
You heard right; Garibaldi Mexican Bistro is located in a gas station on South Broadway. And not one of those evolved gas-station-turned-retro-hip eateries. Nope, this is a working Conoco gas station so you can fill up yourself and your car in one stop. While the exterior and interior defy any logic in calling this place a bistro, the food tells a very different story. This isn't Tex-Mex, though the familiar items are all there, from tacos and enchiladas to burritos and churros. But there's also a menu of dishes derived from the Aztec tradition, as well as specialties that don't appear on most Mexican menus in the United States. If you're a fan of cactus, and you should be, it's served in several variations, along with huaraches and quekas (highly recommended). You can order out, but you won't find friendlier service anywhere if you decide to eat in.
Recommended for Mexican because: Garibaldi Mexican Bistro is the poster restaurant for that hole-in-the-wall place that offers fantastic food and excellent service.
Christine's expert tip: The restaurant does a bustling take-out business for those who don't want to eat in a gas station.
This gem in the Berkeley neighborhood serves fresh food in an intimate setting. The tagline is "fine dining with a warm welcome" and that describes El Chingon perfectly. The menu offers traditional dishes along with less expected options. Fresh fish is done very well here and the menu includes an excellent selection of salads and soups. Behind the bar, cocktails are meticulously crafted and change seasonally. While many feature traditional tequila and fresh-squeezed citrus, there's likely something for those who like bourbon and rye as well. The chilaquiles on the weekend brunch menu may be Denver's best. Come warm weather, the back patio is the place to be. This is a small space, so make a reservation.
Recommended for Mexican because: It's the whole package: Excellent food, creative cocktails and a charming setting (the chandelier, dark wood accents and chihuahua painting make the space).
Christine's expert tip: It's usually possible to find parking on the side streets