The glow of white sand beaches screams for the accompaniment of slushy—maybe boozy—beverages with paper umbrellas topping them off and slices of fruit getting lost in the delicious, refreshing drinks. Those drinks are mandatory to hydrate you after the salt-slathered fries or other deep-fried snacks from the cabana menu. Kicking back on the beach at any resort can rekindle memories of great escapes to the Mexican Gulf or Pacific Coast. If you’re looking for that type of feeling here in Denver, I can offer you one better by going to Uno Más restaurant, where the spirit of Mexico thrives in the most authentic way.
While the goal of any beach vacation spot is to dazzle with all the decor and an over-the-top appearance, it usually lacks in true substance. Here at Uno Más, sustenance is all they are after. It is humbly located among other shops on iconic Pearl Street; you can’t miss the blue door contrasting the red exterior. The colors may be bold, but it’s a welcoming sign to come in and try their tasteful creations. They aren’t here to present awe-inspiring dishes, it isn’t in their nature to alter your perception of Mexican food by fusing it with another culture or displaying it in a new avant-garde way. It begins with their menu, mostly composed of street tacos, with a burrito here, some queso there and of course, guac (which you would obviously pay extra for). Their street tacos allow the different flavors to shine without having to commit to one type of taco because they are all à la carte.
Their chicken mole was a deep rich mahogany brown, which instantly means it has every warming spice in the book simmered within it. Cinnamon and cumin add warmth, while peanuts and chocolate add richness and bitter notes to offset the sweetness from the dried food and peppers. The chicken gets placed in the sauce so that once it’s done cooking, its shreds become the Mexican version of true barbecue pulled pork from the South that has been roasting away for hours. When prepared in this manner, it has no problem remaining succulent and tender.
Although it might be a bit different from the ground beef tacos in a crispy corn shell that represented the epitome of Taco Tuesdays growing up for the average American, their duck confit taco is not one to be missed. Confit means to slowly cook in its own fat, and if that doesn’t make your mouth water then you’re probably dehydrated. This duck is sitting in a hot tub of happiness before being paired with a sweet mango salsa to refresh your palate from the vinegar punch of pickled jalapeños. The chefs at Uno Más have gone a step further by sneaking in pieces of the skin that are fried to a crisp. It emulates the addictive chicharrones that can be found at any Mexican market or stand.
If you are more in the market for the taste of the ocean to bring back the vacation vibes, they have plenty to choose from. Instead of going the traditional surf and turf route, they offer a seasonal fish with a balanced spice rub or the Sea of Cortez, which features a mix of scallops and shrimp for a “surf and surf” addict. But the simple shrimp tacos composed of tender shrimp that came off the grill just seconds before becoming rubber are a true test of the chef’s talent. They arrive at the table with a reddish coloring from the ancho chili spice blend which excites any eater’s eyes. The shrimp are nestled in their shell with acidic pickled onions that are a vibrant magenta, bringing crunch and liveliness to the humble taco. Finally drizzled on top is a salsa verde that adds a hit of citrus from the lime juice and freshness from the tomatillos.
Then, for the real carnivores in the group, they offer a pork belly taco that is rendered until it melts effortlessly like butter with a deep meaty flavor. The bottom of the taco is crusted with cheese that is both oozing out the side and a crispy exterior to give the texture of a chip. Their chorizo is made in-house, which means you know there is probably a family recipe dating back decades on the proper amounts of each ingredient. Each one is its own little masterpiece.
After much anticipation, the plate arrives. With no crazy decorations or added frills, the only thing that dresses their white plates are the tacos with an accompanying lime wedge, and that’s just the way we want it. Everyone’s tacos come together on the same plate, which only reiterates the familial aspect of the entire experience. The members of Uno Más’s kitchen are bringing you into their home with the flavors they have come to adore, in order for you to see their delicacies. The best part of it all is the tacos are doubled up with tortilla and filled to the brim. So, leave one tortilla on the plate as the landing zone for any contents that fall from your first taco as you begin your first bites. Then boom, after you take down that first taco, a second taco is waiting on your plate from the pieces that fell from your first. The menu might say only one taco per order, but if you do it right you’ll definitely get two.
A resort is too long of a trek, so the warming spices of Uno Más can give you that same relaxing feeling all the way out here in Denver. It's easy to get lost in the taste of the Mexican market with flavors of sweetness to replicate the fruit carts, the freshness from the vegetable vendors and the salty catch of the day from the local fisherman. It’s only one bite away.
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