When Tamayo  first opened in 2001, it was the hottest reservation in town. (In fact, that year we named chef Sean Yontz, now at El Diablo  and Sketch , Denver's top toque.) The restaurant's opening also signaled a turning point for Larimer Square , which, at that point, had little in the way of upscale dining.
As important as Tamayo once was, the Mexican eatery had fallen out of favor—if only because it wasn't the shiny, new spot on the block. No longer: When the restaurant reopens today after extensive renovations, it will again make its mark.
In fact, Richard Sandoval and crew spent more on the facelift than they spent first opening the restaurant. What you'll notice is that the space feels lighter, brighter, and more inviting. Hardwoods replace carpets, stunning hand-blown glass light fixtures anchor the bar and dining rooms (as well as the private dining room upstairs), and gone are the white tablecloths.
Also new: Roughly 75 percent of the menu. Look for tacos and tortas on the lunch menu, dressed-up guacamole (spicy crab!), and more accessible mid-day pricing ($7 to $17). As a whole, expect exciting, flavor-packed dishes such as the carnitas (pictured), a stunning tower of shredded slow-cooked pork shoulder, sliced pork loin, a blue corn tortilla quesadilla, Tamayo's signature guacamole, and a citrus-pickled onion salad. Aldo Perez, a native of Mexico City, and a server at Tamayo for 12 years says this is his favorite item on the menu—mostly because the carnitas are cooked as they are in Mexico: with orange juice. The dish is weighty (I would have liked to have seen more carnitas and less pork loin) and easily shared.
For anyone familiar with Mexican cuisine, you'll notice the authenticity of ingredients that runs through the menu: pulla  and morita  chiles, tajin  seasoning (don't miss it on the rim of the watermelon margarita), huitlacoche  (the delicious corn fungus), even the palate-cleansing sangrita  that comes alongside the trio of infused tequila shots.
Tamayo is back in a big way.
Bonus: Read our review of Al Lado , another of Richard Sandoval's Denver restaurants. Sandoval also owns La Sandía , Zengo  (which is next door to Al Lado), Cima  in Beaver Creek, and Venga Venga  in Snowmass.
1400 Larimer St., 720-946-1433
—Photo by Rachel Nobrega