Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cafe Chihuahua: Come For the Pumpkin Empanadas and Stay For a Meal Since You Made the Trip

The other day I found myself driving with a car full of fuss and though very near taco-laden region of South Federal and Evans, the thought of trying to eat tacos from a truck in 40 degree weather and trying to keep two surprisingly fast boys from being flattened by a passing car was not at all appealing. I don't mind the cold part myself, but unfortunately when toddlers are unhappy (and even when they aren't) they try their very best to make you (me) unhappy. Mine seem especially skilled at it. It was now snowing. So when we spotted the glow of Cafe Chihuahua against the darkening sky, we didn't hesitate to stop in.

If you grew up in Denver or pretty much any town that has a Mexican restaurant, there is a good chance that from the outside it looks at least a little like Cafe Chihuahua: adobe archways with wrought-iron bars and neon beer signs in every window all tucked away in the back of a small parking lot.
The menu is also much like you might imagine it: extensive--covering everything from grilled seafood to single orders of tacos--and of course, Mexican egg rolls. I am all for dishes like Mexican egg rolls, and when done right, the crispy won-ton wrapper is a perfect match for typical Mexican ingredients. These, however, were not off to a good start being completely unrecognizable as anything resembling an egg roll.

They looked as much like an egg roll as a baseball does a football. In fact, they weren't much smaller than a small football and their oblong shape and dense, bean-packed filling would make for an excellent projectile in a food fight or thrown up on stage during an event where someone on stage really needs a big splat of beans, rice and cheese in his face. If each audience member were given an order, say, at the recent presidential debate we just hosted, it would have been somehow even messier--and a whole lot more worth watching  But as far as an appetizer meant to be eaten, it was first: bigger than my entree, and second: much, much worse.

My entree was made up of two stuffed green chiles, battered and fried and filled with cheese. I am really starting to love New Mexican and Colorado chiles rellenos, especially around chile season, as the flavor of a Hatch chile beats rivals that of the typical Mexican Poblano. Plus not much is better that a good smothering in green chile, and the chile here at Chihuahua was definitely above average. The only complaint I had was that I asked for picoso and while there was some picante to it, it was certainly nothing noteworthy.

My wife ordered shrimp adobaba which was respectably spicy, though the sauce seemed to be mostly made up of the Tapatio table sauce. It was a little too vinegary and watery for me, though she seemed to enjoy it for the most part as she was craving something with shrimp.

She also had a tostada de ceviche which was piled high shrimp, octopus and other seafood miscellany cooked in lime juice. It could have been better if it were not so dry, but on a wintry night in land-locked Denver for three dollars and fifty cents, it did the trick.

The real prize was at the end when we were able to get our hands on two freshly baked pumpkin empanadas, that we greedily ate one in the car without sharing a crumb with our poor little boys. Though not warm, the made-from-scratch dough and sweet filling with wonderful, stringy pumpkin throughout was absolutely delicious.

Our experience at Cafe Chihuahua was exactly what we needed it to be: a respite from the cold, a place that wouldn't mind our kids and a decent meal of Colorado Mexican food.

Cafe Chihuahua on Urbanspoon

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