What took me so long to eat at Los Farolitos? Way out on North Peoria in Aurora, it is not exactly the most central location, but that stretch of road is home to some of my favorite Denver-area restaurants and just a few weeks ago I sped right past Los Faorlitos on my way to one of them. My wife has always been intrigued by the "Estilo DF", or "Mexico City Style" that it touts. A reader urged me to make the trip long ago to check out its bountiful buffet and barbacoa. Whatever the reason, I never did go. But as the saying goes, good things come to those who procrastinate. And my procrastination ended the other night when I finally parked under the thin yellow glow of Los Farolito's storefront lights and opened the door to step inside.
Our first trip was around eight on a Friday night. There were two tables finishing up when we entered, and it looked like the staff was getting ready to lock up, but they greeted us with warm smiles and insisted that we sit down to eat. The man who first brought us menus immediately engaged us in friendly conversation. He and his family are not originally from Mexico City, but they lived many years there and he knew it well. While I scanned the extensive six pages of menu items he and my wife reminisced about the city known also as Chilangolandia. Satisfied after each triangulated the other's barrio and residencia, their conversation slowed and we ordered some drinks.
My wife was excited to find Tepache on the menu. Tepache is a drink made from fermented pineapples and is increasingly hard to find even in Mexico. She immediately got that far-way nostalgic glow in her eyes that only comes from recalling the best of childhood food memories-- so of course we ordered some. It is non-alcoholic and typically only fermented a few days with things like piloncillo and water. It is sweet, lightly fizzy, has the mildest hint of alcohol and is incredibly refreshing.
Being so late this Friday, the infamous Farolitos buffet was closed, and would have to wait until another day. Instead, in a moment of rare decisiveness and clarity, I made the easy choice of ordering the Barbacoa. My wife, on the other hand, struggled with her decision, overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of menu items. She hemmed and hawed before finally ordering a huarache, that most giant, sandle-like fried piece of masa.
The Barbacoa at Los Farolitos is masterful. Barbacoa is traditionally a sheep cooked over coals in a pit dug into the ground. I didn't ask how it was prepared here, but it was so good that I wouldn't be surprised if they dug a secret hole back out in the alley behind Peoria. It was a moist, fatty, ample-sized leg of lamb; so tender it was falling off the bone.
As you can see it was literally sitting in a pool of its own succulent juices. It was served with a traditional array of onion, cilantro, limes, tortillas, a creamy chipotle-ish salsa and, of course, the rich broth.
Under that foil is some of the best Barbacoa you will have in this town
The broth was deeply rich; thick with the taste of marrow and slowly stewing bones. The flavors were layered but incredible simple. Aside from a sprinkling of herbs, a few stray chunks of lamb and a handful of hominy, it was all about the broth, which is a meal in itself. It is best with the juice from at least one lime, which cuts through some of the fatty richness.
It is such a memorable and blissful experience to eat food that has been prepared with the care and culinary genius of this broth. Each slurp was special. And many slurps were accompanied with a bite of incredibly tender leg of lamb, that like the broth was rich, fatty and absolutely melt-in-the-mouth wonderful. Or a bite of a barbacoa taco with all the fixings.
The barbacoa really is that good. And with barbacoa this good the huarache (literally, the sandal), though huge and tasty itself was an afterthought I admit. In an earlier post I reported that the huarache at another restaurant approached the enormity of an actual sandal fit for basketball freak and legend Shaq Fu. Well clearly I exaggerated then, so to keep everything relative-- both in scale and level of exaggeration-- this huarache would be worthy of Sasquatch himself.
But of course, like in a spit of pastor, it isn't size that matters in the world of fried masa dough. It was a good huarache that would be reason enough to make the trip here. The carne deshebrada was moist and fresh-tasting, the chorizo was, well chorizo (that is always good), and the dough was crisp on the outside but soft on the topping surface. We did our best to finish it but the richness of the barbacoa made it tough. In the end it looked like this:
The barbacoa on the other hand, disappeared completely.
Los Farolitos (formally El Farolito--the more the better) has already made it on my growing list of favorites in this part of town. It was a wonderful trip that resulted in a return trip the very next morning for a ridiculous amount of buffet eating. Stay tuned as I continue to battle with my busy non-blogging life and I'll have that posted before too long.