I've said it more than once before, but considering the probability of people reading this blog more than once, I will say it again: I love the mixing of cultures and new definitions of tradition. Such was the open mind that I needed when venturing into Pinche Taqueria for the first time not too long ago. I had eaten at their taco truck the summer it first opened a couple times, and was not overly impressed, but the insane amount of buzz that has been coming out of this little brick box of a restaurant finally proved too much to resist.
It was 2 pm or so on a Saturday, and true to the lore that surrounds Pinche, it was packed. We hovered around for about 30 minutes before being seated and I must say we were looked after very well, wanting for nothing. And luckily enough, we were in the good company of Denveater, who also has just written her own take which I encourage you to check out.
When we finally sat I did a once-over of the abbreviated brunch menu and couldn't help but let out a cynical laugh to myself at these words: "Street Tacos". I realize that in Denver and many other urban centers of these United States there are these new food trucks serving meals on tortillas like braised pork belly with tomatillo crema and other fancy-speak garnishes-- but as much as I like re-defining new traditions, I have a hard time calling anything coming off any of these menus (especially this one, where I sat comfortably warm inside while snow blew unrelentingly out of doors) a street taco. And it's not even about new traditions, its like growing up in Littleton but telling people you were raised in the South Bronx. It's not just a stretch, it's a laughable manipulation of the truth.
But again, good food is good food, and when my first bites of pork belly came out I was salivating at the two large chunks of fatty, perfectly cooked pork belly drizzled in an agridulce (sweet and sour) sauce and pleasantly colored with a bright slaw and a candied clove of garlic. It was very good. But as I took a fork (the first time I have ever had a fork given to me at a taqueria by the way) to my huge chunk of meat I almost forgot the whole thing was served on a pair of corn tortillas. So I scooped it up and ate it like one would a taco, and for that reason I suppose it was a taco, but it was so good without the tortillas, I doubt I would have missed them.
The lengua was equally as succulent, and each chunk has a pleasant sear. It was not unlike the lengua I had at the Pinche truck a couple years ago--covered in a roasted tomatillo salsa, but I could have done without the mayo-like sauce on this indoor version. Much more taco-worthy than the pork belly, and just as tasty.
I also had a breakfast taco with scrambled eggs and more of that lovely pork belly. To give you an idea of how tender and luscious my pork belly was, it was hard to distinguish texture-wise from the light and fluffy scrambled eggs. This was a perfect example of the tortilla actually adding nothing to the dish. In fact, in the picture below it isn't even visible. A big plate of eggs with this pork belly and the tomatillo salsa it came with would be a great brunch plate.
My wife's fish taco was bland and forgettable. The fish was nicely cooked but the slaw, guacamole and pickled onions didn't bring much to the plate. Then again, I had a bite in between tacos of pork belly. Imagine me moving my arms back and forth like my hands were a balance scale and sarcastically saying the following "Pork belly? Fried fish? Pork belly? Fried fish?" Hard to imagine me liking fish all that much in between bites of pork, so maybe it was a little better than I remember.
We finished off with the tantalizing churros con chocolate. Serving churros with a milky chocolate dipping sauce is much more Spanish than Mexican, but that is more of a technicality, not a critique. They were good because they were fried, sweet dough sprinkled in sugar. And for some reason I have had a really hard time finding a really good churro in Denver, so that made these even better.
The tacos at Pinche Tacos brick and mortar spot are more like mostly well-executed small plates that have found their way onto tortillas. And street tacos? Maybe if that street was Rodeo Drive or better, Calle Masaryk in Mexico City's posh Polanco neighborhood. And actually, a place not unlike Pinche Tacos would probably do well there, though the salsas would have to be spicy, and the clientele would be dressed to the nines. Classic Mexican flavors have much room for interpretation, and it is hard to go wrong when one executes this well. For that I will tip my hat to the vision of owner Kevin Morrison and those pinches taqueros working hard in the small, open kitchen. I will still likely continue to sate my taco appetites far from Pinche in my further-East Colfax and South Federal favorites, but I am glad I did finally stop in for a bite.
Photos: All aboard for the restaurants of Union Station
43 minutes ago