The fried tacos within the Mexico Metropolis Lounge are top-of-the-line bites in Denver
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The Denver dining scene is making a big comeback after the pandemic, and we are starving to get out again. With so many new things to do and old favorites to visit after more than a year of restaurant closings and restrictions, the choice can be overwhelming. That’s why we serve Short Stop with recommendations for things that should definitely be on your culinary shortlist. This week it’s a classic: the Mexico City Lounge.
What: Mexico City Lounge
Where: Larimer Strasse 2115
When: Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The location: The Mexico City Lounge, opened by Willie and Esther Garcia, has been an integral part of Denver for over fifty years. It hasn’t changed much in that time, with the exception of a slight facelift in 2012, but the surroundings definitely have. Now Mexico City is just two blocks from Coors Field and three from the huge new McGregor Square complex. Popular restaurants like Biker Jim’s, Aloy Modern Thai, and Marco’s Coal Fired Pizza are all steps away, as is another taco-centric spot that opened in February 2020, Su Taco.
The family business has now passed into the third generation, but the traditions continue.
On a recent lunch trip, almost every table was occupied. In Mexico City, to keep control of the crowds during this post-pandemic time, you have to check in to the host through the front window before being let in through the locked entrance and shown to one of the tables (there is more space between them as previously). There’s a long bar behind an exposed brick wall and glowing neon signs from various beer companies on the walls; The space is straightforward and comfortable without trying to be hip and trendy (thank goodness).
But the Mexico City lounge lasted for good reason ….
The fried tacos in all their glory.
What you eat: The fried tacos. Embarrassingly, I had never eaten this iconic Denver meal before. I had been to the Mexico City Lounge a few times over the years but somehow managed not to order the most famous item on the menu (I can’t even remember what I got … maybe it was just it a margarita).
Sometime after moving to Denver in 2005, I met fried tacos at a place called La Cocina de Marcos on 7585 East Iliff Avenue (currently the home of Pho Denver). I was quickly enthusiastic and visited myself regularly; I lived nearby at the time, so it was easy to find a solution. When the bar closed in 2015, I was overcome with grief.
But with a bite of a deep fried taco in the Mexico City Lounge, everything was fine again. The tacos come in orders of three ($ 9.50-10) or four ($ 12-13) with a choice of steak, chicken, or beef. When I asked what was best, the server replied “steak” without hesitation so I took her advice.
The plate arrived quickly, with the steak and a touch of lettuce, tomato, and avocado slices (which are free on the steak and can be added to the other variations for $ 1) over the golden fried white corn tortilla; two cups of salsa came up next to it. The tacos were greasy in the best way, and the steak was so tender it almost melted into the melting American cheese that covered the bottom. Yes, American cheese. Criticize this product as much as you want, but you really can’t beat the melting factor of a classic processed cheese.
I also ordered a side of green chili because it’s important to try this must-see Denver dish wherever it’s available. This one had a nice heat (order hot for more) but it was certainly not spicy and had loads of flavor. The only way to improve the tacos was to dip them in the dark green, pork-strewn chili. While the accompanying salsa was fine, the green chilli dunk was the real winner.
If, like me, you’ve somehow managed to miss one of the best bites in town, unlike me, you don’t have to publicly admit your mistake. Just go as fast as you can.
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Molly Martin is Westword’s Food & Drink Editor. She has been writing about the Denver dining scene since 2013 and has eaten her way around town long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito place and spends the nights sipping cocktails on Colfax.