Denver’s best tacos: Vote in the sweet 16 round of our March Madness taco bracket

Introducing the Sweet 16 of our March taco madness.

Last month we asked readers to weigh in on their favorite local taco shops across the Front Range. We received more than 100 worthy nominees from far and wide, and learned a lot about our rich local taco scene.

We looked closely at the number of nominees, the diversity of locales and businesses and the types of tacos you suggested. And — with much debate — we narrowed our playing field down to 32.

Last week, you voted on your favorite taquerías around Denver from those initial 32 “teams,” organized geographically. And, boy, did you vote: Readers showed up in the thousands to weigh in on this starting lineup, and now we’ve matched them together for the first official round of our games.

Unlike the real March Madness, here we’re not following a prescribed order of matching seeded teams. While we considered that option, we also wanted to give some of the smaller, perhaps less-frequented locales a fighting chance.

The resulting lineup for our Sweet 16 pits neighborhood staples against one another. It pairs the trendiest of food trucks with the coolest of restaurants. It even matches fry bread against fried steak. Let the reigning champs reign, and the Cinderellas emerge.

And now, your chance to visit, taste and vote. You have until 9 a.m. on Monday, March 14, to cast your votes for the Elite Eight. Play fair, and good luck to all of our taco teams!

Click here to get a printable version of our March Madness bracket. 

The Sweet 16 Taco lineup

  • Provided by Tacos Selene

    A mix of chicken, asada, barbacoa and al pastor tacos from Tacos Selene, with locations in Littleton and Aurora.

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    A selection of street tacos and salsas on a picnic courtesy of La Calle Taqueria y Carnitas.

Tacos Selene vs. La Calle Taqueria Y Carnitas

Eastside Aurora (and now also Littleton) staple, meet West Alameda gem. These humble, straightforward shops offer all manner of meat tacos — asada, lengua, al pastor, tripa — usually topped with onions, cilantro and your choice of salsas. Simplicity is key.

  • Provided by El Taco Bron food truck

    Al pastor tacos topped with onion, cilantro and pineapple, from El Taco Bron food truck.

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    Cecina and chorizo tacos with sauteed onions and nopales, on blue corn tortillas, from Garibaldi Mexican Bistro in Englewood.

El Taco Bron vs. Garibaldi Mexican Bistro

These competitors are a little tricky to find. Garibaldi is tucked beside a gas station on South Broadway, while Taco Bron serves private events more often than public ones. If you’ve managed to get your hands on either’s tacos, it’s likely you’re a convert and a repeat customer.

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    A taco plate with rice and beans from El Taco de Mexico.

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    A combo taco plate with house-made tortillas from Comal Heritage Food Incubator.

El Taco de Mexico vs. Comal Heritage Food Incubator

The women working behind the counters at these iconic Denver shops are formidable. They churn out some of the most beloved toppings and tortillas in Denver, and both kitchens have received national accolades as a result. Comal is a non-profit training ground for immigrant entrepreneurs, and El Taco is a success story — enduring since 1985 when it first debuted as a food cart.

  • Provided by Los Dos Potrillos

    Los Dos Potrillos tacos include Jerez-style Chorizo, shredded chicken, shredded beef, pork adobada, grilled chicken, pork carnitas and asada.

  • A variety of tacos and salsas at Los Carboncitos on March 6, 2022. Los Carboncitos has two Denver locations. (Tynin Fries, The Denver Post)

Los Dos Potrillos vs. Los Carboncitos

We love how these homegrown businesses have become small empires around Denver. With multiple locations each, they make for worthy competitors. Will it be the León siblings’ Highland, Sheridan Boulevard and Aurora Los Carboncitos restaurants? Or the Ramirez family’s Centennial, Littleton, Highlands Ranch and Parker locations of Los Dos Potrillos?

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    Quesataco with birria, marinated in consomme, from Kike's Red Tacos food truck.

  • Kayla Jones, Provided by Mister Oso

    A tray of Gordo Crunches from Mister Oso: Hard and soft-shell tacos with chorizo, lettuce, cheese and special sauce; plus frozen cocktails.

Kike’s Red Tacos vs. Mister Oso

We’re talking quesabirrias with melted cheese and consomme-dipped meat, and gordo crunches with special sauce and the soft-hard shell one-two combo. There are more taco options to love from these players, but those would be our respective starting lineups of guilty-pleasure bites.

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    La Diabla's tacos in varieties like Chuleta Enchilada, Res con Tuetano and Chile de Agua.

  • Provided by Stanley Marketplace

    Tacos available for order at Comida in Stanley Marketplace.

La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal vs. Comida

The evolution from food truck to restaurant is common in the taco business, and both of these taquería owners proved themselves on the road. Then they pinpointed the style of eatery that combined their food with Colorado tastes and began drawing crowds. Comida’s griddled tacos get creative in combinations like bacon and jalapeño, or sombra ‘shroom. La Diabla’s elevate beef with bone marrow, or red snapper with pineapple butter and citrus slaw.

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    Fried steak tacos from Mexico City Lounge in Denver's Ballpark neighborhood.

  • Cyrus McCrimmon, Denver Post file

    A grilled chicken American Indian taco at Tocabe, an American Indian eatery at 3536 W. 44th Ave. in Denver on Friday, May 8, 2009.

Mexico City Lounge vs. Tocabe

Denver can claim to be home to the fried taco as well as home to the fry bread taco at these two institutions. The latter is an American Indian eatery serving, among other things, traditional fry bread topped with meats such as ground bison and beans and salsas. The former is a six-decade staple serving fried tacos that taste more like burgers with tender asada and melted American cheese.

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    Tacos al pastor and horchata on the patio at Xicamiti Taqueria Bistro in Golden, Colo.

  • Beth Rankin, The Denver Post

    The al pastor tacos at La Doña Mezcaleria in Denver, photographed on March 5, 2022.

Xicamiti La Taquería Bistro vs. La Doña Mezcalería

Mezcal and tacos unite! For your next taco date, look no further than these two shops. They’re both helmed by chefs who had no previous professional cooking experience and have now built cult Colorado followings. And they’re different, to be sure. La Doña is dressed up compared to the no-frills Xicamiti, which means the latter can surprise you when it comes to food and drink.

The Denver Post Taco Bracket is sponsored by Prefare, a local gourmet meal kit service. Use coupon code denver1 on its website to get two free meals using a la cart.

Source: Read Full Article