Dining

Eat Cheap: Chili Verde

A taste of authentic Mexico.

November 2009

If you've ever been to Mexico, you know that the American version of that country's cuisine is less than authentic. Instead of offering regional dishes that reflect a variety of ingredients and flavors, Mexican eateries in the United States seem to toss the same five components on a plate and finish them off with a thick layer of cheese. Fortunately, a newcomer to Denver's dining scene is bucking that trend by bringing truly authentic Mexican food to the table.

Hailing from Puebla, a town an hour south of Mexico City, brothers Hanzel and Ever Yáñez opened Chili Verde at the corner of 37th Avenue and Tejon Street in June. It was a "soft" opening—no finalized menus, no liquor license, no debut party—but neighborhood residents began trickling in anyhow, their curiosity piqued by the lime-green façade and white tablecloths. And although the restaurant wasn't (yet) armed with piquant margaritas and cold Coronas, the Yáñez brothers were equipped with their mother's traditional Mexican recipes.

Perusing the four-page menu, you will certainly find recognizable items—fajitas, burritos, and taco salads—but you'll also see dishes like poblano crêpes, chicken mole, chilaquiles, and enfrijoladas, all popular dishes in Mexico that many north of the border may have never even heard of. Hanzel will guide diners to those dishes that "most people" like, but when pressed he'll recommend the ones that taste like home: "For me, I like the chilaquiles." It's little wonder: Corn tortillas cut into chip-size pieces and fried are covered with green salsa and then simmered until the tortillas soften. Topped with an over-easy fried egg, cheese, and crema, the dish's exquisite mixture of flavors and textures may make you disavow your usual Combo #5 with red sauce and try Chili Verde's other mouthwatering specialties.

The smooth poblano crêpes highlight shredded chicken, which is rolled in a light crêpe topped with a sublime cream sauce and tangy sautéed pepper strips. The enfrijoladas, soft corn tortillas covered in black beans and topped with cheese, crema, and two fried eggs, are a south-of-the-border version of comfort cuisine. And the unusual chile relleno filled with ground beef, raisins, and olives makes you wonder what else those Mexican-American restaurants have been withholding all these years. 3700 Tejon St., 303-477-1377