Where to Find the Best Mexican Food in Denver
These taquerias and restaurants are serving up Denver’s best tacos, spicy margaritas, nachos, burritos, and more.
Denver has a long history of loving Mexican food, but the past year has taken our devotion to chiles and tortillas to another level. From our first pozoleria to, yes, more tacos, James Beard-nominated Mexican chefs are really elevating Denver’s culinary scene. Of course, we still have our green chile go-tos, Colorado-Mex, and enchiladas galore, but shake up Taco Tuesday with some costras, pozole, and moles, too. Check out our picks for the most essential Mexican restaurants in Denver.
Chef Manuel (Manny) Barella is bringing Denver the kind of Mexican food he grew up eating in Monterrey. That means tacos loaded up with house-made chorizo, ribeye, Chihuahua cheese, and salsa verde, or the fungi-heavy mushroom al pastor with king trumpets and charred pineapple. The pro move is to go with friends and order the taco flight, where you get one each of the seven tacos on Bellota’s menu. Dining alone? Sure, you could narrow it down to two or three, but it’s not like your life is going to be worse for having seven delicious tacos in front of you.
La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal
Denver’s first pozoleria is not to be missed; especially because the long-simmered stews are created by James Beard Award finalist Jose Avila. The man knows his way around hominy and broth, but in addition to the five types of pozole (rojo, blanco, verde, negro, and vegan) the tacos and costras—griddled cheese “tortillas” wrapped around meaty fillings—are pretty darn comforting, too. Go super savory with the beef birria and bone barrow version, or tropical with the red snapper, pineapple butter, and citrus slaw taco or costra.
Yes, there’s definitely a lot for you to love about Dana Rodriguez’s (Work & Class, Super Mega Bien) Mexico City street food eatery if you’re hungry: Charcoal Tempura Cactus; Queso Fundido; Barbacoa Tacos; and Al Pastor Colorado Lamb. But perhaps more importantly, there’s a whole lot to love about Cantina Loca if you’re thirsty. Sip on the palomas and margs on draft. Feeling fancy? Order the tiki-ish Agua de Nopal with prickly pear, pineapple, and cachaca, or the Higo Borracho with fig-infused sotol (the Mexican spirit you should probably be drinking more of), amaro, and grapefruit liqueur. Whatever your mood, there’s a good, stiff drink to be had.
Tarasco's New Latino Cuisine
You’ll find solid tacos and burritos at this tiny Federal Boulevard strip mall spot, but what you should really be ordering are the harder-to-find Latin dishes. Take the excellent Seven Chile Mole, a velvety stew of chile, garlic, cumin, and more, served with your choice of meat or veggie, where every single note hits your palate in exactly the right spot. Or the Sweet Corn Tamales topped with crema fresca and salsa verde that bridge dinner and dessert. Because there’s so much more to Mexican food than tacos. (We still love you, tacos.)
The sister restaurant to the Culinary Creative Group’s Senor Bear in the Highlands, Mister Oso opened in November 2019 in the space formerly occupied by longtime favorite The Populist—and we all know what happened a few months later. But despite a challenging start, they’ve made it through on the power of their tacos loaded with smoked meats, fresh ceviches, agua frescas (with optional boozy additions), and playful happy hour bites like the popular Gordo Crunch.
Kiké's Red Tacos
Birria’s definitely not new, but it’s hard to deny its new popularity. And with rich, flavorful consomé, melty cheese, and tender, slow-cooked meat, it’s the level of comfort food we all need right now. Birria tacos can be found at several spots in the Mile High, but this food truck at 5256 N. Federal Blvd. takes birria to new levels. Birria Torta? They’ve got that. Birria Burrito? Yup, that’s the move if you’re ready to go really, really big. Birria Ramen? Oh yeah, they went there too. The truck opens at 11 am every day except Mondays and goes ‘til they sell out so don’t sleep (literally) on these.
Taqueria La Calle
The traditional street taco is a thing of beauty, and those behind this small, unassuming spot are experts at the art of flavorful meats loaded on corn tortillas and topped with cilantro and diced onion. Start with the Cochinita Pibil and Al Pastor before upping the ante with Cabeza (pork cheek) and Campechano (carnitas mixed with pigskin). And when they ask which salsa you want with your taco haul, “one of each” is a totally appropriate answer.
Aged in both American and French oak barrels and finished in port wine casks, 1800 Cristalino Tequila is an ultra-premium, crystal-clear añejo meant to celebrate life’s special moments with taste. So, this Cinco de Mayo, elevate your experience and raise a glass with 1800 Cristalino instead—your taste buds will thank you.
Tacos Tequila Whiskey
For a modern spin on tacos that still pay homage to traditional ingredients, this is your destination. The menu is packed with the classics you crave like citrus-marinated Carne Asada and a delicious carnitas option with pickled red onions and avocado cream. But you’ll also find elevated touches that push these beyond the typical street taco. Don’t skip the Queso La Plancha with griddled cotija cheese and the sweet & sour braised pork belly with candied garlic.
This is a Colorado-Mex classic, with crispy Chile Rellenos, and green chile-smothered everything on the menu. For a true regional favorite, go for the Mexican Hamburger, a chargrilled patty wrapped in a tortilla with refried beans and smothered in their pork-studded green chile. Pair it with one (or three) of their blush-hued house margs and you’ll understand why this low-key spot that’s been around since 1990 is a neighborhood favorite.
El Taco De Mexico
There’s no debating the fact that green chile is beloved in Denver, but there’s plenty of debate when it comes to proclaiming who’s got the best. That said, it’s this small yet mighty counter-service spot that continually rises above the rest. In the kitchen, a team of hard-working women spins magic in those giant pots, and the result is a vibrant green concoction that you can enjoy with or without pork, served in a bowl with a side of tortillas, or ladled over burritos or eggs for huevos rancheros. The deep, rich flavor is so flat-out addictive you may just find yourself taking the long way to work for an early morning fix, served to-go in a styrofoam cup.
The menu here is filled with foods inspired by the coastal area north of San Diego. What does that mean for you? Lemony, garlicky Grilled Oysters topped with poblano, bacon, and cheese, bright Ceviche, Carne Asada Fries, and of course, Baja Fish Tacos. They come beer-battered or charcoal-grilled, and are best enjoyed on the patio with a cold house-bottled boozy soda.
Garibaldi Mexican Bistro
This spot’s about as under the radar as you can get thanks to its location attached to a gas station and car wash, but there’s no orange cheese on stale chips to be found here. It may be a small space, but the menu is packed with options, from street tacos that are best ordered by the platter ('cause you’re going to want seconds) to specialities like the Nopal (chicharron-filled gorditas) and massive Huaraches—a 14-inch long freshly made corn tortilla topped with beans, sour cream, pico, and your choice of meat. And if you’re lucky enough to catch the lamb barbacoa on offer, order as much as possible because it appears without warning and disappears quickly.
You can’t talk about Mexican food in Denver without addressing tortas. Why? Because we’ve got a lot of great places to find these sandwiches on round bread stuffed with a plethora of meats, cheese, and other toppings. At Las Tortas, you can build your own creation from a list of options that includes everything from beef barbacoa and carnitas to hot dogs and breaded chicken. Or pick something from their list, like the lambada with spicy chorizo, pork loin, and fried eggs, all topped with mayo, chipotle sauce, avocado, tomato, onion, and jalapeño. But what really sets this spot apart is their Tortas Ahogada, a popular Jalisco street food version of a torta that comes doused in a seriously spicy chile de arbol sauce (or less spicy tomato version). Pair it with a michelada to cool the heat and enjoy.
This new spot from chef/owner Philippe Failyau and the team behind Homegrown Tap & Dough, Park Burger, and Birdcall brings a taste of Baja to Denver. While the requisite tacos and guac are present and accounted for, you’re here for coastal flavors cooked over a wood fire in the open-air kitchen like the Chile Salmon, grilled on the fire with cilantro lime corn and served with rice and chipotle mezcal sauce. Plus, there are nine margarita options on the menu, and you should probably make it a goal to sip your way through all of them while sitting in the refurbished VW van on their patio.
Allyson Reedy is a Thrillist contributor.