Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

El Olvido: A Q&A with Denver on a Spit

Every so often, Denver on a Spit & I, along with our adorable significant others, meet up to chow down & chew the fat. Since we last met at Red Tango & Silla, Mr. & Mr. Spit have been rather preoccupied by the arrival of twins, but we finally got the chance to reunite & meet the equally adorable tots over a mellow lunch at Jaliscan newcomer El Olvido. What follows is his take on the experience; for my take, click here.

Set the scene—what’d you think of the atmosphere?
I would think referring to anything going on in El Olvido that lonely Saturday afternoon an “atmosphere” would be stretching it, but if I had to describe it in a word, it would unfortunately have to be “desolate.” That being said, the lone server/host was incredibly friendly & helpful, and I was glad to see a couple kids running around as we decided to bring our boys.

That being said, we were there in the middle of a day on a Saturday at a place named after a famous mariachi song about drowning one’s sorrows in tequila & listening to mariachi. Maybe we should go back when the sun is setting & open up a bottle of tequila on the patio. Maybe they even have Mariachis. They should.

Drinking has a way of enhancing the ambiance for sure. Can you explain the difference between what you were drinking & what I was drinking?
Michelada is beer served with a concentrated, fresh-squeezed lime juice. Your Michelada roja also has things like Clamato, a clam-based tomato drink (and the only tomato drink with its own reaggeton song). Sometimes there are even oysters floating in them. [Hot damn!—Denveater] I am a beer lover who is not afraid to admit that I love my beer with ice, juice or clams. It is most refreshing while swinging on a hammock under the hot sun & listening to waves lap on the shore of a white-sand beach, but it’s also good for an early summer brunch on South Broadway, I suppose. Another bonus is that they have a couple Mexican lagers on tap—Dos Equis & Dos Equis Amber on that day.

Tell me about your huge salad. In particular, how was the dressing?

I love that they have a Caesar salad on the menu. I always find it funny that so many Italian restaurants have this salad on the menu, effectively laying claim to a Mexican invention. It was actually very good, rather eggy, & its enormity was a nice prep for my huge plate of carne en su jugo.

And what was your take on that?
Carne en su jugo? All dishes should have such great, simple & descriptive names: meat in its juice.

I have to admit that I don’t have much experience with this dish. It is a traditional dish of Jalisco (sticking with the tequila & mariachi theme), although in my native Chicago there are so many Tapatíos that it is pretty commonplace there. In Denver, El Olvido is the only place I know that serves it. Again, I don’t have a gold standard to compare it to, but I wished for something a little richer and thicker. That being said, after a sprinkle of salt I absolutely devoured my large order without a problem.

Likewise. What about your fair lady’s tacos?
Fish tacos of battered & deep-fried red snapper. It was an interesting, fusion-type plate, topped with ranch dressing of all things. They were actually quite good.

Overall, what’d you like/dislike about the place?
I liked the carne en su jugo, & I appreciate what the chef is trying to do here: focus on a few specialties & not worry about the menu-for-the-masses. There are no enchilada-burrito-chile-relleno combo platters here. I didn’t dislike anything, although the interior is a little drab. The unfortunate part is that the lack of patrons does not bode well for the staying power of El Olvido. Hopefully they will make it.

Hear, hear.

El Olvido on Urbanspoon

Chili Verde’s Pueblan Pleasures

Though Eder Yañez-Mota moved to Denver in 1999, his brother Hanzel and father Andreas are much more recent transplants from Puebla, an hour southeast of Mexico City. Together the trio and their crew recreate old family recipes at Chili Verde, which has electrified the corner of a quiet residential block in the Highlands with its bright green trim outside & in—and its superb regional Mexican repertoire.

What distinguishes Pueblan cuisine is its French influence, according to Eder; after all, he points out, Cinco de Mayo does not celebrate Mexico’s independence from Spain, as many Americans believe, but from the Napoleonic empire. Hence the presence on the menu of crêpes—and hence, in his view, the unusual incorporation of fruit (raisins, peaches, plantains, apples) into the ground beef that fills the signature chile relleno (relleno, of course, means “stuffed”).

Perish the thought of anything even remotely like a jalapeño popper, which Tex Mex–style chiles rellenos tend to resemble. This dish is complex, elegant, and devoid of the thick breading in which your average sports bar coats and deep-fries the poor things. “Where we’re from,” Eder explains, “it’s quite expensive because it’s a seasonal dish, served from October to December.” Even here, where it’s served year round, the kitchen sometimes runs out of the pomegranates whose seeds are usually sprinkled on top; then, he admits, “we have to use red berries just to give it some color.”

Actually, when I had it recently, there was no fruit topping at all. But the fact that it didn’t therefore fly all the colors of the Mexican flag—green, white and red, as is traditional—didn’t make it any less emblematic of the regional cookery. As striking as the filling is, it’s the creamy nut sauce that’s most novel for those used to a smothering of chile, cheese, and little else. Tasting it, I had a strange vision of carrot cake, convinced I detected nutmeg. Wrong, Eder corrects me: it contains “Mexican sour cream, sugar, and nuts” (primarily walnuts). That’s it. And clearly, that’s enough.

You can also get the chile filled with asadero cheese—“like mozzarella,” says Eder—instead of beef. But whatever you do, don’t ignore the chips and salsa that arrive at your table first thing. They’re no token gesture; the salsa macha in particular (below right) is wonderful.

“It’s pretty much olive oil and straight-up roasted serrano peppers. We make it every day—it’s a pain,” Eder laughs. Maybe for him; for me, it’s blistering bliss on a tortilla triangle.

Mexican ceviche or cebiche (citrus-marinated fish/shellfish) tends to be chopped a lot finer than the chunky Peruvian version (which may or may not contain corn &/or sweet potato, a nifty twist). That’s neither here nor there in terms of quality; I like it all so long as it’s cold & tangy, with fresh/firm seafood & a little spice.

Confessedly, I am not a fish taco aficionado—I dunno, too much mild whiteness, they just kinda bore me. But as they go, these are A-OK, with ripe avocado & a drizzle of chile aioli, a proper dollop of curtido, & the best part, excellent refritos with a sprinkle of queso mexicano.

In a word, encantador.

Chili Verde: 3700 Tejon St.; 303.477.1377; Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat.; $7-$13.

Chili Verde on Urbanspoon

Socorro’s Super Tortas & the Best Green Chile You Haven’t Tried

***This post originally appeared in my Gorging Global column for Denver Magazine. So far as I know, I’m not beholden to any confidentiality agreement following its demise, which means THE TRUTH CAN BE TOLD: I was all set to single out Socorro’s green chile as the best you haven’t tried in an upcoming issue.

Now, that’s not necessarily intended to be a factual statement as much as a deliberately provocative one, meant to shed deserved light on a dark horse contender. Still, I became convinced I wasn’t far off the mark after watching the Director—who remains fiercely loyal to El Taco de Mexico after 20 years spent scouring this town’s trucks and taco huts—basically do the butter dance with one bite. Relatively thin, with a richness that derives not from adulterating cornstarch but visible chunks of pork fat, it’s speckled with, of all things, bits of carrot—which only highlight the purity of the whole, roasty, electrically vegetal, &, yes, cough-inducingly spicy.

Onto the post.***

“Why aren’t you open?!” reads the graffiti on the door of Socorro’s. It’s a fair question: after a year in business, the tiny New Mexican–themed snackeria just off South Broadway in the Baker District still seems to be working out some logistical kinks. An ink-&-paper sign displays revised winter hours. Prices on the blackboard show an increase from the take-out menu I picked up only a couple of months ago. Don’t get your heart set on a particular agua fresca: the flavor you choose may or may not be available at any given time. And if you take the claim that the bread for the tortas, the Mexican sandwiches I came for, is “baked fresh daily” to mean that it’s made in house, well, you know what they say about assuming. It isn’t.

Despite or because of its slapdash operating procedures, however, I can’t help but get a kick out of Socorro’s. With all of 9 stools lining the counters, the space is bright & cheery, its red & yellow walls bedecked with license plates & road signs from the Land of Enchantment. Beneath them, a lone employee with a moustache as shiny as his gold teeth keeps asking me questions in Spanglish I can’t understand. No matter. The grin on his face is permanent & gentle, and his movements are mesmerizing; I’ve never seen sandwiches assembled with such forethought. He even uses two different knives to halve them: one to make the initial cut, the other to complete it.

The care he puts into them is, of course, inversely proportional to their all-out sloppiness — but it shows in their total deliciousness.

After it’s buttered and grilled, the bread is slathered with mayo & refried beans, then piled with admirably fresh, parsley-&-jalapeno-spiked pico de gallo; chopped iceberg; & your choice of six fillings. The slow-roasted, coarse-chopped beef (barbacoa), for example, is moist and & simply but deeply flavorful; the marinated, cumin-scented chunks of pork spilling from the torta al pastor (a/k/a “The 505,” named for New Mexico’s area code) are mixed with juicy chunks of fresh pineapple. At some point I realized I was squeezing the whole mess the way a child would a rag doll: with extra-stupid love.

At $7.25 apiece, Socorro’s tortas are relatively expensive (as are its other specialties: street-style tacos go for $2 a pop, & a deluxe burrito will run you as much as $7). But I say they’re worth it — especially since they come with a broad, sweet smile.

Socorro's Street Tacos on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: The Jaxx at Jack-n-Grill

Getting a bunless burger at Jack-n-Grill makes about as much sense as that old joke about the girl who leaves the cherry off the hot fudge sundae because she’s on a diet. Nevertheless, it was the least I could do to forestall an anyeurism as I eyeballed the burial piles of chow on tables around me & my pal Rebecca (author of From Argentina with Love) at the Littleton branch—surprisingly festive & warm given the soulless strip-mall location—especially considering that those were the “normal” portions. The fact that, according to the server in the photo, fully 15 fellow diners had ordered the 7-pound burrito tackled by Adam Richman on Man Vs. Food back in 2009 BEFORE 1 PM was more than even my relatively insatiable appetite could bear. Who wakes up in the morning & thinks, I want to pack on 24,500 calories’ worth of extra fat by bedtime?!

So anyway, I asked for The Jaxx sans bun, & it was still hilarious. Somewhere under the chopped green chile, bacon slices, American cheese, ketchup & mustard; over the guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, tomato & red onion; & alongside a mess of onion rings was a 10 oz. patty of ground chuck.

Was it awesome? Not from a legitimately critical standpoint—the burger kinda gristly & medium-well; the “guacamole” just unseasoned, roughly mashed avocado; the thought of 7 condiments at once (not counting the veggie garnishes) as unappealing as it was appealing. But somehow the combination was addictive in a trashy way, each questionable element compensating for another to equal an answer, the answer being hell yes! As for the onion rings, how often do they really suck? Generally speaking I like my breading looser, lighter, & fresher à la Rodney’s, but here it slid off the sweet & slippery onion flesh in grease-spurting crunches I couldn’t say no to.

That said, the red chile on Rebecca’s bean “sopaipilla” (the pen’s for size comparison) was flat-out excellent—pure-tasting, full of that smoky, slightly bitter savor of roasted pepper skin. As far as I’m concerned, New Mexico having always been my second home, no sopaipilla should be so stretched so thin that it’s bursting at the seams—it should be a pocket unto itself—but once again the dish as a whole came together as it should have, a mosaic of textures & funky flavors.

Jack-n-Grill’s an institution for a reason. A reason that’s grotesque in the literary sense—”combining ugliness & ornament, the bizarre & the ridiculous, the excessive & the unreal”—but a reason nonetheless.

Jack-n-Grill on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: Chicken Fried Steak with Sweet Potato–Chorizo Hash, Lola

Chicken-fried steak: just a swastika on a plate.

At least that’s how it looked to me as a Jewish kid growing up in Oklahoma. When it was served in the school cafeteria, everyone but me seemed to know & find comfort in it; thus the yellow-gray slab of gristle stood a symbol of my outsiderliness, & the fact that it likely derives from the weinerschnitzel German immigrants brought with them to Texas only confirmed my suspicions. Help, help, I’m being repressed by Aryan edibles!

Now that I’m a slightly less touchy adult, breaded, fried steak doesn’t seem so ominous; in fact, it’s right up my gut-busting alley, especially as made fresh at Lola—with chorizo cream gravy, sweet potato-chorizo hash & pickled onions.

Granted, even here it’s not exactly a delicacy; you don’t go pounding & battering filet mignon into oblivion, but rather a cheaper, tougher cut. So it’s a little chewy, a little greasy—but that’s all to the good of a brunchtime hangover cure, easing the throb with its deep, dark savor & crunch.

Still, the rich, peppery sauce & roasty, toasty, earthy-sweet & salty hash are what keep it interesting beyond the 1st few bites, especially when alternated with the excellent salsa sampler.

Of the 4—tomatillo–green apple, grilled chipotle–tomato, chile verde & signature muñoz—the first 2 really stood out, the 1 tart & refreshing, the other smoky & tangy on warm tortilla chips.

For a full report on brunch at Lola, click here. Or file your own—at the time of this posting, you’ll still have 2 1/2 hours to experience for yourself some sopapillas with lavender honey & house-cured salmon benedict (which, granted, could use a bit more salmon; but the yellow tomatoes add zing).

Green Chile Slow-Burn Showdown: Sam’s No. 3 vs. El Taco de Mexico

Oh, sure, in some ways it's a no-brainer. El Tac's the ultimate in hyperlocal go-tos for straight-up, hardcore Mexican grub, no frills & no BS. Sam's No. 3…isn't.

What it is is your average Greek-run urban diner: it’s been around, in 1 form or another, run by one family member or another, for 80 years. It’s downtown Denver’s only answer to the crowded, clattering, chattering, clanking, cranky diners of New York, with their phosphates & blue plates, cheap coffee & bagels, souvlaki & hash. And for that it's to be commended: every city needs at least one.

Being, however, in this particular city, it must needs delve into comida as well. It does so with no more or less aplomb than it does anything else: okay. But the Kickin' Pork Green Chile really is pretty kickin.' And porky. And chile-y. Not so green, granted, presumably containing fewer actual chiles & more tomatoes than some versions (which is wholly legit; there's no one correct, "authentic" recipe). 

Sam'sMexbrek
That's it in the bowl, in the center of the Mexican Breakfast, between the dry chorizo, jalapeño & jack omelet with tomatoes & onions, the stale flour tortillas & the slightly crispy refried beans—which are actually pretty decent. Still, the chile's the best thing on the plate by far—startlingly spicy but not merely spicy, & neither too thin nor too thick.  

(It's also better than the Greek salad—which isn't bad; but even considering that the platonic ideal of a diner salad is precisely "not bad"—if it were memorably sumptuous it would be incongruous—the gryo meat on my recent order was less than fresh. The veggies were crisp, however, & I liked the fluffy pita & the basic, thick tzatziki.

 Sam'ssalad

As for the squishy, blah French toast, anything's better than that.)

Sam'sFrenchtoast
All that said, I'd be a fool to say the green chile's better than El Tac's, not least for reasons of context: at the bright yellow long-timer on Santa Fe, it's in its element & its purest form. 

The notoriously stone-faced—but quietly polite—ladies who run the open kitchen make both pork & vegetarian green chile, the former as a stew, the latter as a sauce. Said sauce, is, as you can see, much thinner & greener than Sam's—& much more about the flavor profile of roasted chiles per se; they are, after all, vegetables (actually, botanically speaking, they're fruit, but who's counting), not just heat-seeking missiles.

EDTMbrekburrito 

That there's the breakast burrito, chock-full

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of scrambled eggs, Spanish-style rice, refried beans & chorizo & topped with cheese. I like to add a few spoonfuls of the soupy red salsa on the side. Then I like to stuff myself silly. Then I like to bitch & moan about how I full I am until my next meal. 

Of course, there is one ugly blotch on El Tac's stellar rep: no booze. On that score, then, Sam's sweeps: it makes a cheap & killer, in every sense of the word, loaded bloody mary. 

Sam'sbloody

That & a bowl of the green chile would be a meal in itself. And by meal I mean a satisfyingly masochistic scorch-&-burn siege on your whole digestive system.

Sam's No. 3 on Urbanspoon

Hail Satan! El Diablo

After all the behind-the-scenes hoopla about the cojones on Jesse Morreale & Sean Yontz for launching a project so ambitious in scope, I walked into El Diablo fully expecting to experience the Waterworld of Mexican dining, overblown & underperforming. Instead it played out like a date-night blockbuster (just replace the popcorn with tortilla chips): free-wheeling & raunchy, yet full of soul. 

The devil really is in the details—which, in a place this big & bustling, could easily have been sacrificed at the altar of volume.  But no: care was apparent from start to finish, even in the things I wasn't gung-ho about.

Take the cocktails:

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on the left, the Picoso with tequila blanco, muddled jalapeños & lime juice; on the right, the Melon Loco with rum, watermelon, cucumber, mint & lime. I've been really digging the bumper crop of chiles in cocktails—see recent kudos for Kelly Liken's Clementine Kicker & Beatrice & Woodsley's Cucupeña—& the Picoso's no exception, plenty spicy but smoothed out by just enough simple syrup (I'm guessing) & cooling citrus. And the quencher on the right wasn't the least bit too fruity, just fresh & clean. Impressive.

Equally fresh & clean, if not quite as impressive as those at Chili Verde, were the greaseless chips & 3 salsas: going clockwise, tomatillo-avocado, habañero & chipotle-based morita.

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Neither the fact that I couldn't go near the habañero version without seizing nor the fact that the green one tasted above all of lime juice is damning; they were well-made, just not to my taste. The smoky-sweet chipotle salsa, however, I could've snorted.

Likewise, though the dish I was most looking forward to—the quesadilla de huitlacoche—was the one I was most disappointed in, I'm not inclined to fault the kitchen.

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Since El Diablo purports to skew Guadalajaran, I Googled "Guadalajara quesadilla" to find out if the regional variant is empanada-like, to no avail. But that's what this evoked. Again, the execution was solid—rich but not doughy, atop superb refried black beans—but if I'm going to snarf corn smut, I want to go down in flames tasting it. The mellow filling didn't absolutely reek of the earthiness I was looking for—just offered a brief whiff. Granted, that means mold-fearers might actually give it a whirl, for which I applaud it.

I've said many times that appetizers usually appeal to me far more than entrees: smaller plates at smaller prices allow for greater risk-taking on the part of the chef, for the obvious reason that they allow for greater risk-taking on the part of the paying customer. So it tends to be the case that the appetizer section features funkier flavors in bolder combinations. El Diablo's selection of entrees mark an exception to that rule: they flat-out rocked. Meats & the sauces that accompany them are clearly the forté here, cooked & spiced with a love & confidence that ensures each complements the other while shining on its own. 

So it was with the enchiladas con carne I absolutely hearted, stuffed with melting (but not mushy) beef cheeks, spinach & potatoes over a pipián rojo whose creaminess reminded me of vodka sauce, though they share nada in common ingredient-wise (pipián is distinguished by the use of chicken stock & sesame or pumpkin seeds).

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So it was with the Director's molé negro, its classic bittersweet-cocoa smokiness made all the funkier over black beans, all the sweeter by slices of fried plantain and Mission fig—none of it upstaging the gorgeous duck meat.

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So it was with the puerco pibil ordered by friend K (who writes the supercheeky Raging Lardon), wrapped in banana leaves, tended for 24 hours (as its tenderness attests), tinged with achiote (aka annato),  & served with a riot of root veggies.

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And so it was with the carnitas—although in my eyes, the real stars on the plate were the full-throttle, cotija-sprinkled frijoles charros.

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Cameos by pickled red onion added a ticklish flourish to the meal as a whole. 

To paraphrase Johnny Depp's Agent Sands in—speaking of rollicking action flicks—Once Upon a Time in Mexico, there are Mexi-cans & Mexi-can'ts. So far, El Diablo is a Mexi-can-do. 

El Diablo on Urbanspoon

The Salad Series: Making Do at Casa Grande, Estes Park

I was hot, cranky & hungry when I met the Director in downtown Estes Park. We had dinner plans up at our cabin in a few hours, so lunch needed to be quick, light, simple. Anywhere would do.

Anywhere turned out to be Casa Grande, which turned out to be fine. If you’re looking for better than fine, you’ve come to the wrong place. It’s cute, though, in an Arriba, arriba! Olé, olé! kinda way.

IMG_0055_800x600 pic swiped from website

The chicken fiesta salad included bacon & black beans, a little shredded cheese, guac & sour cream & pico de gallo. It wasn’t a party in my mouth, but it wasn’t drudgery either. Just a little get-together among the usual suspects.
CGsalad

The Director’s tacos de carnitas came as a slightly bigger surprise, given that the outer tortillas seemed to have been griddled with an unnecessary dusting of cheese. They came with decent refritos, rice that barely registered on the Richter scale of flavor. The meat was a touch tough.

CGtacos
An uninspired post for an uninspiring meal. Can’t win ’em all. Take it for what it’s worth if you’re cruising the EP strip in search of sustenance.

Sucking Eggs at Red Rocks Grill

A large, liberal American in the Whitmanian sense, with a bloodlust to contradict my bleeding heart, I can never help but marvel how a good collection of wall-mounted hunting trophies really ties a room together into some sort of cheerfully morbid petting zoo. And since the Director, the Constant Watcher & I happened to be hashing out our plans for MORRISSEYTOWN—an amusement park (or, as we like to think of it, dejection park) based entirely around the lyrical death throes of everybody’s fave frontman of phantasmironica—just as we entered the Red Rocks Grill in Morrison (coincidence? think not), we were pretty sure we’d come to the right place. Its furry decor

RRG2 RRG1

at once inspired a brainstorm for our own Life Is a Pigsty dead-petting zoo & made for an ideal setting in which to sketch out the details of the Meat Is Murder concession stand. (Not to mention a fitting pitstop before catching Jaws up at Film on the Rocks.)

But we were wrong. Foodwise, it was not the right place. That much became clear with a glance at the menu, one of those faux-newspaper inserts listing such “Red Rocks Originals” as a BLT & a Monte Cristo (what dictionary did they get their definition of “original” from?), a Santa Fe pasta with chicken, green chili & cheddar startlingly served with a flour tortilla, & a teriyaki chicken dinner dolefully described as “two 6 oz. breast [sic] drenched in teriyaki sauce”—maybe one of the exceptions to the guarantee that “most of our food is homemade”?

Certainly I’ll eat crow (could probably just pull one down off the wall) if the dinosaur eggs weren’t the finest becrumbed, cream-cheese-product-injected jalapeno-like objects ever to roll off an assembly line out & out of a box.

Poppers

As for the “special jalapeno jelly” it comes with—I’m thinking raspberry from a jar with a drop of hot sauce in it?

The rest was neither here nor there. There was nothing particularly wrong with the Director’s combo plate #4, for instance—a steak-&-bean burrito with green chile plus two shredded beef tacos. When I asked him how it was, he shrugged. The bite or two I took revealed a fairly mild green chile & not much else of note.

Comboplatter

My taco salad with chicken was likewise just fine, with more lettuce under there than you’d think. If the salsa was made in-house, though, it did an amazing impression of Pace.

Salad

I think you must have to be pretty darn sharp to catch the sorts of nuances that would distinguish the Constant Watcher’s Mexican burger from, say, a beef burrito, unless it’s just the fries on the side. My own powers of observation weren’t up to the task. I’m open to enlightenment on this one.

Mexburger

Either way I don’t plan on coming back here to taste the difference for myself. One too many Mexican burgers and the next thing you know you’re starring in Morrisseytown’s Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others burlesque revue.

Red Rocks Grill on Urbanspoon

“I don’t know where I is”: Bewilderment at Brewery Bar II

It took me a good 5 minutes, scanning Yelpers’ reviews of this crumbly old watering hole on S. Kalamath & trying to make sense of the raves, to realize the phrase in the title was a reference to the original location & not some tribute to lolcat lingo.

Which only goes to show how muddled I was by my own experience there, as in

Funny-pictures-kitten-is-going-to-be-confused-later-in-life .

The discombobulation began at the door, as the Whistler, the Mad Russian (both of whom you may remember from, say, here), the Director & I walked in to find not the dark, drowsy Mexihonky tonk I was counting on but a bright, bustling borderline–family joint. It continued via a server so loquacious I wondered if you can get high off the fumes of frying frijoles; for every 3 seconds she spent serving, she tacked on 3 minutes sharing enough of her life story we could probably fill in the missing details ourselves (likes Kid Rock; dreams of one day owning a classy salon; wears panties with the days of the week stitched on them. That’s my guess). But it ended with cooking so dumbed-down that, considering all the odes to its authenticity out there (albeit composed, it seems, mainly my fellow gringos), it occurred to me we might be in the wrong Brewery Bar altogether.

Let’s put aside the storebought chips & salsa & take the “minnies,”

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a name that bears the symbol of a registered trademark, which is funny, because I didn’t know you could get your own trademark for a product that already exists,

namely 042800005809 .

These supposed chile rellenitos amounted to dollops of processed cheese encased in stale crust, of no victual value whatsoever except as vehicles for that cup of green chile.

Granted, it’s the green chile, not the La Choy frozen egg rolls or whatever they were, that garner 90% of the kudos this place gets. And the green chile is good—simple, full of honesty (just look at that pork chunk) &, yes, spicy. Spicy. Not five-alarm, not lip-blistering, not infernal. Look, I’m still riding on capsaicin training wheels, & I could take it. Not to suggest that “scorching” is automatically synonymous with “superior”—but since many a Southwesterner suggests otherwise, it’s worth noting.

The same goes for the red chile on my shredded pork tamale.

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The Director frowned on the inclusion of ground pork—red chile, he sniffed, should be meatless—but I loved that sort of Mexican bolognese seeping into my steamed, shredded pork–filled masa casing.

The refritos, on the other hand, were as tasteless as could be & still be made of food. I love me some lard, but I didn’t want some beans with that.

The Mad Russian’s burrito was like a weeknight in the middle of nowhere—uneventful.

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Ditto the Director’s combo platter of enchiladas, 1 of which included some juicy-looking lumps of chicken—points for which the beef in another, he sniffed anew (he was doing a lot of sniffing—dude, it’s not a vertical Château Latour tasting), cancelled out, being ground.

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Ditto, ditto, the Whistler’s combo plate—actually 2 plates, containing 1 chicken enchilada, 1 beef burrito & 1 beef taco.

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What more is there to say? Mediocre’s mediocre. Medioculo’s half-assed. And Brewery Bar II might as well be Brewery Bar I, III, IV, or LXXVI for all it distinguishes itself from any other dive.

Brewery Bar II on Urbanspoon