Centro
Food at Centro in Boulder. Courtesy photo

A Tour of Boulder’s Best Mexican Restaurants

In Food & Drink by Aimee Heckel0 Comments

In Colorado, we put green chile on everything: burgers, fries, chips, pizza, hot dogs, whatever. We also see nothing strange about wrapping everything in a tortilla.

We love our spicy food and we have high standards for our South of the Border-influenced fare.

Although Boulder itself isn’t extremely diverse, more than 21 percent of Coloradans identify as Hispanic or of Latino descent, according to the most recent U.S. Census. This means a great stream of delicious Mexican, Latin and New Mexican food.

Whether you’re visiting Colorado and have never tried Mexican food before, or you’re a salsa connoisseur, Boulder is sure to impress.

Here are our seven favorite Mexican and Mexican-inspired restaurants in and near Boulder:

T/aco

A taco at T/aco. Courtesy photo

1. T/aco

1175 Walnut St.

Do we love T/aco because it sells fancy tacos at the Rayback Collective food truck park? Maybe. Do we love T/aco because of its ridiculously long tequila list and top-shelf margs? Maybe. Is it the ahi tuna street taco? The Mango Caesar street taco (mango-marinated chicken, two types of cheese, mango caesar dressing)? The cinnamon chips?

Gosh, there are so many reasons, we can’t decide. We’ll have to make another visit to T/aco to try to figure it out. It might take a few more visits, even. Every day.

2. Centro Mexican Kitchen

950 Pearl St.

Centro is located right on west Pearl Street and not only has to-drool-for guac and margaritas, as well as a slew of other great Pan-Latin menu items, but the atmosphere here makes it a top contender for a fun night out. Grab a seat on the large outdoor patio (one of the best in Boulder) and feel like you’re on vacation. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch live music and a legit happy hour. Monday is happy hour, er, happy day.

3. CyclHOPS Mexican Bike CANtina, Longmont

600 S. Airport Road, Longmont

It’s worth the 30-minute drive northeast to Longmont for this novelty: one part Mexican restaurant, one part bike shop. Bonus points if you rent a bike and drive it in. Get local craft beer (this is a branch of Oskar Blues brewery) and tacos in a super chill, industrial atmosphere. While nomming on handmade tortillas, you can shop for Reeb Cycles, the in-house bike brand. Don’t miss live music Friday and Saturday nights.

4. Hefes Tacos & Tequila, Longmont

246 Main St., Longmont

It’s no surprise that another top Mexican destination in Boulder County is in Longmont; this eastern city has a much more diverse population and knows its tacos. Hefes does things a little differently than your typical Mexican restaurant. This colorful, hip, modern restaurant usually streams ‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop, which tends to draw a slightly younger crowd. It’s really the $2 street tacos and $4 fresh-squeezed margs that make Hefes one of our favorite places to pre-party before a show at the nearby Dickens Opera House or Speakeasy. Or if you just want inexpensive tacos and a delicious margarita pitcher to spice up your night, Hefes is totally worth the drive from Boulder.

5. Tacos Don Jose’s, Longmont

2255 Main St., Longmont

This is where you go when you know. Locals eat here. People from Mexico eat here. Your server (you order at the counter) may or may not speak English. This. Is. Authentic. And perfectly so. Tacos Don Jose’s is not a restaurant for the ambiance. It’s casual, at best. The food is the star here. Everything is homemade, fresh and the real deal. You can even find bottled Coke from Mexico. Prices are cheaper than anything you’ll find in Boulder, too.

Tahona Tequila Bistro

Hand-squeezed margaritas at Tahona. Courtesy photo

6. Tahona Tequila Bistro

1035 Pearl St.

This is another fun and hip place to grab guac and a marg and dine on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. You can find a variety of innovative tacos, plus Mexican staples like enchiladas, burritos and fajitas. Although the outdoor seating is limited, Tahona also features a wall of windows that it cranks open in warmer weather for a cool indoor-outdoor vibe. At night, this is a great place to go out. Happy hour is a steal and live music or a DJ will kick your night off right.

The focus here is on artisanal tequilas and authentic fresh Mexican cuisine. Our food isn’t Tex-Mex nor is it

“Our food isn’t Tex-Mex, nor is it pretentious. It is made the way that real, authentic Mexican food is prepared, with fresh ingredients, fresh vegetables, fresh seafood and meats. Nothing comes out of a can,” says John Ryan, manager.

Tahona smokes its own meats, makes it own bacon and every sauce is even made from scratch. Even the hot sauce that sits on every table.

Likewise, tamales are made from scratch with traditionally, hand-tied corn husks. The pork green chili takes hours to prepare the traditional way.

An innovative dish: the mushroom and spinach quesadilla. A classic Mexican dish: chilaquiles, which have been made for hundreds of years as a base to merge with ingredients, as available and varying by region or family. Tahona’s chilaquiles come from Zacatecas in north-central Mexico, because that is where most of the kitchen staff are from.

Local tip: Margs are made with fresh, hand-squeezed lime juice. That means staff squeezes about 180 limes every day. Get a margarita. They’re possibly the best in Boulder.

Rio Grande

An a la carte order of two steak enchiladas at the Rio Grande in Boulder. Courtesy photo

7. Rio Grande

1101 Walnut St.

The Rio is famous in Northern Colorado for its margaritas. They’re strong enough that there’s a cap on how many one person can order. The food here is yummy, too, but even more delicious is the view. The Rio serves Mexican food on an ever-hoppin’ rooftop patio with sweeping views of the Flatirons. Somehow, a margarita and fajitas taste even better with a bird’s eye view of downtown Boulder.

Aji

Aji, a Latin-American restaurant in Boulder. Photo by Aimee Heckel

Other Great Mexican-Inspired Restaurants in Boulder County:

  • Three Margaritas, Boulder and Longmont: This local chain is great for families and birthdays. Get a free sopapilla, wear a sombrero and the whole restaurant will sing to you.
  • Sancho’s Mexican Restaurant, Boulder: Sancho’s is simple and classic, located in a strip mall, but a local favorite.
  • Agave, Boulder: Go here if you want south-of-the-border food in a more sophisticated location. Great for a date night.
  • Illegal Pete’s: This is how Boulder does local Chipotle, but way better. Open late, serves beer, fills you up.
  • Santiago’s: Any good local will know all about Santiago’s breakfast burritos and green chile.
  • Zolo Southwestern Grill
  • Aji, Boulder: Another Pearl Street restaurant with Pan-Latin food. What makes it stand out is its decor: amazing art from Central and South America. Also, mescal.
  • Verde: Happy hour almost all day, seven days a week. Great for quick bites and small, shareable plates.
  • Pica’s Mexican Taqueria: This busy restaurant in east Boulder draws locals for its quick, inexpensive Mexican food. Smothered burritos and guac win.

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