Both restaurants are closed now, but I was headed back into the heart of Aurora this afternoon to try Thai Landing, a place that my wife and I visited years ago, and is still standing strong. I don't remember the food very well, but the friendly owners and quirky dining room had this place on my list for another visit. The plan was simple: drive to Aurora, get some take out and speed back to Denver before it all got too cold.
Everything changed when I pulled into the Thai Landing parking lot and spied this truck: Antojitos Hondureños.
I hoped my family would be in the mood for beans and cheese as there was really no way I was eating anywhere else that night.
I've never had Honduran food before. The closest I have been is Nicaragua, and a Honduran friend that I hung out with a lot in Costa Rica. The most I knew was that baleadas were pretty common--just a simple tortilla with melted cheese and beans.
It turned out I didn't need to know much about Honduran food as there were really only five menu choices, and two were baleadas (spelled baliadas here, but I'm pretty sure that's not right). I ordered the other two main plates: a carne asada and chicken with tajadas (sliced and fried plantain).
After I paid I did my best to peer into the truck where two older women who looked like they knew their way around a kitchen were busy pounding out masa dough, frying meat and generally putting together one enormous meal.
As I was driving home, the aroma of refried beans, warm tortillas and melted cheese was almost too much too bear. But I figured the only thing worse than coming home with something so completely the opposite of Thai food would be to come home with half-eaten baleadas--or worse no food at all. I was at this point very, very hungry.
I did make it home without eating all the food as I always manage to do when getting take-out from far-away places (it's one reason my marriage has lasted so long). And its good I didn't come home empty-handed as my equally-as-hungry wife was struggling to get our two screaming-for-food-boys into their high chairs for dinner as I triumphantly arrived.
I quickly quelled the situation by starting to feed my boys bits of still-warm, thick flour tortilla from the baleada. Then I took a bite and was equally smitten with the soft, freshly-made tortilla, the creamy beans and even the tremendously salty cheese.
My wife was surprised at the cuisine choice, but she goes well with the flow (on second thought that is more of the reason our marriage has lasted so long), and started in on the baleada with carne asada. The carne asada was a thin-but-sizable cut of grilled steak, and although a little dry as these cuts of meat often over-cooked in much of Latin America, it made a very good baleada even better.
My wife liked the baleadas as well but was not so excited about the cheese. I admit it was exquisitely salty, but the beans were not, nor was the tortilla--I imagine on purpose--so that it all balanced out quite well. This cheese was not unlike a Mexican cotija, but whereas cotija is often sprinkled sparingly on food, there were copious amounts of this saliferous cheese in each bite. (I'm not sure if this cheese was from Honduras but I am glad that I didn't give any to my babies after reading this hilarious post about the state of Honduran cheese.)
The next dish we tried was the chicken and tajadas. The chicken was deep-fried and covered in a wonderful crisp, thick breading. The problem was that it was already getting cold (though it was still quite moist) so that it was not nearly as good as it could have been. It's too bad, as the rest of the chicken dish was amazing.
Under the chicken was a bed of tajadas, or green plantain that was sliced thinly (but not overly so like a chip) and fried. It was part sweet, part savory and married well with the Honduran-style slaw of cabbage and radishes that covered everything. Sprinkled over the top were beautiful pickled purple onions that made the whole dish pop with color and added yet another layer of flavor. Again, it is just too bad the chicken was not hot. Lesson learned: next time I will have to eat this in the car.
The carne asada plate was the same overcooked meat found in the baleada. Again, this is standard practice in many countries South of the US, and although it was dry, it was flavorful and had a nice sear. There were more glorious beans, some fluffy white rice, a slice of avocado, some more of that cheese and the pickled onions. It was a re-hashing of most of the night's other ingredients, and while I enjoyed it, I'd probably skip this next time for a chance to try that chicken when it was still hot.
Though I waited in front of Antojitos Hondureños mostly alone, by the time I got my food, there were quite a few Honduran ex-pats filling up the parking lot. The truck, as it happens, had only been open for five days, meaning that this was the first weekend. I imagine this truck's presence created quite a stir in the Denver Honduran community, and with good reason: They make comfort food that I'm sure any Honduran living in Denver would crave. And for the rest of us, it is most certainly worth the drive into Aurora. I know I will be back, and next time I will sample the fifth menu item: pastelitos de carne, a corn masa fired empanada filled with ground beef.
Visit Antojitos Hondureños in Aurora on the corner of Montview and Nome. Based on the notorious ephemeral nature of the food truck, call first: 720-628-0522.