Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Guadalajara Authentic Mexican Buffet: A Poem-like Tribute

I've written about the fabulous tacos at the Guadalajara Authentic Mexican Buffet before, but I finally returned for their buffet spread a couple weeks ago. The buffet at Guadalajara is impressive to say the least, both in quantity and (for the most part) quality. It also includes tacos to order. It was such a great experience, in fact, that I was moved to verse. As a preface to my buffet-inspired lines, over the past month I have been reading Shel Silverstien's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" alternating with "A Light in the Attic"-- every single night (to my kids). Oh, and this incredible book about Mexican food that I can't recommend enough.

The result of my Mexican buffet binge and my immersion in rhyming children's literature-- for better or worse-- is this. If you regularly read actual poetry, or even just have a general appreciation of the art, you may be genuinely offended if you choose to continuing reading. Or enjoy, like I have, with the understanding that once you reach the bottom, there is nowhere to go but up.

The Guadalajara Authentic Mexican Buffet is Just Great

The Guadalajara Authentic Mexican Buffet is just great
For a family of four, six, seven, or eight.
Or 11 or 12, bring your grandma and cousin,
Cause this is a spread that all ages be lovin'.

Stay for a while and come with a clean palette,
Avoid fillers like rice, beans, or (worst) iceberg salad.
Stay cool and go slow - don't do anything drastic,
And best to wear pants with a little elastic.

There are chicken legs in a dark mole sauce;
calabaza and corn stewing in a rich broth.
Grilled steak and shrimp with sweet peppers and spice
and more typical plates that are sure to entice.

There's stewed chicharron in a hot red salsa,
that's a little bit salty but still freakin' awesome.
Pozole, meundo, and even green chile,
Indeed the quantity borders on silly.

When my first plate was full I was doing my best
To balance it all and not make a mess,
But I couldn't resist one more chile relleno
fearing that later I would be way too lleno.

But I didn't stop there, I went back for seconds,
Those enchiladas I missed were starting to beckon.
As were the grilled veggies and the tilapia,
You just keep eating and ain't no one stoppin' ya'.

If you are still hungry but want something novel
There's colita de pavo you could eat by the shovel.
In a brown chile sauce that is slightly murky,
that's right you can chew on the tail of a turkey.

There are some items you'd do best to not stomach
like the hot dogs or 2-day old chicken nuggets.
The droopy french fries and the crusty "espagueti"
were other items for which no stomach is ready.

The ambiance is not unlike a school cafeteria,
and though there's no beer, there is birria,
and tacos to order grilled up fresh
with a red salsa that will heat up your breath.

And while it's true that there is no booze,
there is enough food so that you'll snooze
quite well that night and into the morn'
(You might even feel hungover, bloated and worn.)

But don't let that next day stop you now,
Just think of the joy you'll bring your stomach and how
You'll never forget all the great things you devoured,
Cause you'll be burping them up for several hours.

After my third plate I felt a little fatigued,
out of breath and weak in the knees.
But eating this buffet is not for the meek
So come hungry and you'll stay full for a week.

Buffets get a bad rap in the food world these days
But this Mexican diner's no Old Country Buffet.
It's good- no it's great- but I'm repeating myself
Just get there and try it all out for yourself.

Guadalajara Authentic Mexican Buffet on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Araujo's in Jefferson Park: Much More Than Cheap Breakfast Burritos

Once upon a time I was young and considered my stomach invincible. I was also jobless and living in Mexico City, being "smart" by eating as cheaply as I possibly could. I was getting ready to sidle up to a taco cart in some forgotten corner of the city that was advertising tacos for the equivalent of about 10 US cents. I was peering over some bystanders at the grill, trying to figure out exactly what kind of meat was being served, when a wise, wrinkled (and slightly crazy) old man came out of nowhere, grabbed my arm, and basically yelled at me: "Save money now!" And he gestured wildly to the tacos: "But pay later." He winked and seemed to disappear into the crowd. Despite this ominous encounter, I still thought about eating there for a minute as a full meal for well under a dollar is not easy to come by. I stopped for long enough to look the taquero up and down and noticed his grimy hands and the greenish, unidentifiable raw meat festering below his grill. I decided to pass.

The life lesson, of course, is not that cheap food comes at a price, but that the world needs more crazy old men roaming the streets (and I for one, am well on my way to becoming one). But apart from this near miss (and a couple dozen questionable decisions in the years following that led to actual sickness) for the most part cheap street food the world round is amazing. In Denver (and most other US cities), however, you have to go out of your way to get cheap street food, what with all these fancy-Dan food-mobiles abound. And if you want to sit down with a roof over your head? A truly good and cheap meal can be harder to find than it ought to be.

Then there are places like Araujo's, just East of Federal on 26th, where one can still get a burrito for $1.50. While that is much, much more than a 10-cent taco, it's still pretty damn cheap. And for a man like me, hard to resist. So late this summer my family and I headed over for a weekend breakfast meal to see what it was all about.

Instead of ordering burritos to go, we were tempted by the rest of the Araujo's menu. We soon learned, however, that eating a sit-down meal during the Sunday morning burrito rush at Araujo's is not for the impatient. Whatever urgency we saw (and urgency is not a good word to describe anything that we saw that morning) was being directed towards getting burritos ready for the large take-out orders that seemed to roll in endlessly. To more than make up for it, though, was the coffee. The so-called Araujo's "Coffee Station" consisted of an old drip pot on a warming plate on a wobbly table. It looked like it would surely be an acrid, weak office-style brew. The kind that you can only force down because you are in desperate need of caffeine or because you hate your job and yourself. Instead it was a lovely, balanced cafe de olla: strong, but with hints of clove and cinnamon. I had several cups and actually savored our long wait for the food because it meant I had more time to sip.

Despite the excellent coffee that went surprisingly well with the loads of tortilla chips that kept appearing in front of us, I was more than ready to dive into my enormous plate of chilaquiles when they arrived. The only thing that kept these chilaquiles from being great in my mind was that the tortilla chips were too thin (the same that were served in the baskets pre-meal). I prefer a thicker totopo that gets a good soaking in chile. However, to compensate for this, Araujo's pours the salsa on just before serving, so their thin chips don't completely wither away. The green salsa, luckily, was excellent, and the eggs ran gooey all over. Melted cheese, creamy beans and swirls of crema fresca abounded. I absolutely licked my plate.

My wife went non-breakfast. A questionable move at 9am, and I think the cause of much of our delay. However, the result was a plate of perfectly fried flautas topped with fresh guacamole and copious amounts of crema fresca. Nothing fancy or too hard to execute, but flautas done right are one of the world's perfect foods.

Oh, and we couldn't leave without some burritos. My kids ordered one each, and although they do handle their spice well for 3-year-olds, they opted out of the green chile--even the mild. It was therefore hard to fully judge these 150 cent wonders, but with a good dose of green chile I imagine they would be wholly satisfying.

Araujo's is, appropriately, renowned for its cheap burrito eats, but there is a lot more going on in that tiny kitchen. I can't say enough good about Araujo's from our single visit there. Every Denver neighborhood needs a place like Araujo's.

  Villa Cafe Araujo on Urbanspoon


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