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La Chiva Colombian Cuisine. Photo courtesy of Arrow B Architecture/Rosy Heart Photo.

An Insider’s Guide to Denver’s Unofficial Latin American Enclave

Find an unexpected plethora of Latin American treats packed into one tasty stretch of South Broadway.

Antique shops. Dispensaries. Dive bars. South Broadway is well-known for all of the above, but if you look a bit closer, you’ll find that its roughly 1.3 miles between Arizona and East Jewell avenues are home to a vibrant array of Latin eateries—and that’s not even including romantic Pan-Latin Leña and fusion-fab BorraCho Tacos, both located a bit farther north. Consider this your insider’s guide to Denver’s unofficial Latin American enclave.

La Chiva Colombian Cuisine

This year-and-a-half-old brick-and-mortar, spawned from the popular food truck of the same name, gives Denverites a cozy, colorful place to enjoy the cuisine of chef-owner Jorge Aguirre’s native Colombia—and a full cocktail menu, including shots of bracing, sugar-cane-based “aguardiente,” the South American country’s de facto national spirit.

Top Find: The gut-busting bandeja montañera, a $14 platter of pinto beans, white rice, chorizo, sweet plantains, “patacones” (fried green plantains), chicharrones, pork ribs, avocado slices, an “arepa” (corn cake), and a fried egg.

Azucar Bakery

A brisk wedding cake business (including free tastings on Sundays) takes place at this aggressively pink bakeshop, but the real draw is Peruvian-born Marjorie Silva’s fabulous desserts. Dulce-de-leche-filled Napoleons, three varieties of silky flan, and chocolate truffles called “chocotejas” in prune and pecan flavors share space with American-style cupcakes in the bright display case.

Top Find: Delicate “alfajores” (shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche), $2.50 each for the large versions or $9 for a one-pound box of minis.

Dos Luces Brewery

Judd Belstock (formerly of Boulder Beer) and Sam Alcaine focus on two types of pre-Columbian suds at their six-month-old brewery: the light-bodied, refreshing Peruvian drink called “chicha,” made with malted blue corn, cinnamon, and clove; and the more intense Mexican-style “pulque,” which gets its complexity, spiciness, and tang from maguey sap (the same stuff that’s used to make mezcal). Bonus: Both brews are 100 percent gluten-free.

Top Find: Tasty seasonal brews, including a coffee-chocolate pulque and Dos Luces’ tomato- and hot-sauce-infused take on a michelada, dubbed the “chichalada” ($5.50).

Maria Empanada

Lorena Cantarovici’s sweet and savory Argentine-style empanadas are Mile High City staples, thanks to four locations and a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives appearance. What most locals don’t realize is that South Broadway’s sunny four-year-old location has an expanded menu, including “facturas” (sweet croissantlike pastries stuffed with the likes of Bavarian cream) and a selection of Argentine wines meant for pairing with Cantarovici’s pastries.

Top Find: The $5.45 “rio tartita,” a savory egg tart flavored with spinach and feta cheese.

Adelita’s Cocina y Cantina and Palenque Mezcaleria

Brian Rossi commands a powerhouse of Mexican food and drink on the corner of East Louisiana Avenue, which began with Michoacán-inspired Adelita’s in 2013. There’s also Palenque, a dim (in a good way) subterranean bar that pours 100-plus mezcals—the largest collection in Denver—and serves Oaxacan fare such as a rich chicken mole.

Top Find: On Mondays at Palenque, five rotating mezcals are available at 50 percent off; pair your discounted hooch with the $9 chorizo-studded queso fundido dip.

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