Take nothing for granted at Las Margaritas
October 23, 2012 | 11:00 am
(Updated: January 17, 2013 | 1:51 pm)
Almost as iconic to Denver’s LGBT community as the Dazbog on 9th Avenue and Downing, is the long-loved Las Margaritas set on the cozy corner of 17th Avenue and Downing Street. For years it has brought us salty-sweet margs to quench our thirst, meaty tacos to sate our appetites, and an ambience that might well be described as home away from home.
What you didn’t know: Las Margaritas has a new menu.
That is to say, the menu has seen a face lift. Over the years, the restaurant has done what most culinary icons with staying power have to do – they change. But while some change for the worse, Las Margaritas has changed for the better. The classics are all accounted for, like the Burrito de la Casa swimming in some of the city’s best green chile, but old favorites have returned with new seductions. On a recent visit, I gave the Enchiladas de Carnitas a go, simply because I love enchiladas and I love carnitas. The marriage was brilliantly orchestrated: juicy, salty carnitas tucked into a fluffy tortilla, smothered in chile and cheese. My friend, eager to try something off the beaten path, dove into the Pollo Monterrey; the contrast between the rich, creamy cheese and the gentle kick of the poblano lacing the tender breast was more than a pleasant surprise – it made him a Las Margs convert.
Too often in the Mexican canon, flavor is abundant – or at least nominally present – while the presentation lacks entirely. At Las Margaritas, there is always care taken to make dining an experience, utilizing fresh ingredients deftly melded and elegantly plated. You won’t find a mash of anything on your plate here, and that’s what I love.
Then there’s the quaint and cozy interior, uniquely marked by separated dining spaces: one tucked toward the back of the restaurant near the kitchen, and one skirting 17th Avenue, a perfect seat to people watch. Accented by dangling plants and homey knick-knacks, Las Margs makes you feel as though lunch or dinner is being served in the garden room of grandma’s house. The patio is no slouch, either, comfortably seating 20 to 30 on warm, sun-filled afternoons.
So, you might ask, if this is an iconic institution, why profile it? Surely everyone in Denver has had their share of tacos and beer at the Las Margs bar and enchiladas in the dining room.
Because, frankly, we take it for granted, and there are things about Las Margs we may not know. For example, did you have any idea it was open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, making it the perfect late-night snack stop after drinking and dancing at X Bar or The Wrangler? Or did you know they also serve breakfast from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.? Or that a late-night happy hour from 10 p.m. to close means you get two-for-one drinks paired with a crispy taco? I didn’t either, until I returned to the restaurant after a year-long hiatus.
So stick with what you know and love: Las Margaristas fitted with a new menu. If it’s always been your standby, simply enjoy the change that happily comes with one of Denver’s dining icons.
The Magical Margarita:
Who doesn’t love a good margarita? Still, it’s pegged as a summer drink, so how can it be translated for colder weather? Here’s a taste of the creatively concocted Warm Winter Margarita.
Adapted from a recipe taught by Chef Marcela Valladolid
3-1/2 c (28 oz) apple juice or cider
1-2 sticks Mexican cinnamon
2 Tbsp granulated cane sugar (optional)
1 c dried fruit of your choice (apricots, apples, cranberries, tart cherries, and golden raisins)
3/4 c (6 oz) tequila blanco or reposado (whichever you prefer)
Combine apple juice or cider and cinnamon sticks in a deep pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks. Add sugar and tequila and stir to incorporate. Pour into cups and add dried fruit to each cup just before serving so they don’t rehydrate too quickly. For added fun, you can sugar the rim of the glass.. Just
gently wet the rim of the glass and dip it in
a small dish of fine granulated cane sugar
before pouring the margarita into the glass.
Yields 4-6 servings depending on serving size.