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The first time I dined at Alma Fonda Fina, I fell in love. I was smitten with the sweet potatoes: wedges roasted into perfectly caramelized bites with whipped ricotta and a crunchy salsa of seasoned nuts and seeds. I excitedly texted my friends about the carnitas—you get a whole pork shank!—that had certainly ruined me for all other carnitas. I dreamed of the future meals I’d have at Alma, in which I’d giddily rip off chunks of sourdough flour tortilla and swoosh them into rich, flavor-layered moles. That first visit changed my definition of the ideal modern Mexican meal in Denver.

The second and third times I dined at the LoHi eatery, those intense initial feelings settled into a deep liking. The usual Mexican menu staples, such as the guacamole and the brisket tacos, that I tried during those subsequent visits didn’t give me the same butterflies—they just didn’t leave me wanting more like the really inventive items did. Still, the menu changes monthly, and new specialties such as queso fundido—a skillet of molten hot cheese—with huitlacoche (corn fungus, a delicacy reminiscent of black truffle) enthralled me anew.

Johnny and Kasie Curiel. Photo by Sarah Banks

Alma Fonda Fina is the first solo restaurant from Johnny Curiel, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, who has helmed kitchens at Guard and Grace and now-closed Lola Coastal Mexican. Curiel and his wife, Kasie, took over the former Truffle Table space this past December, transforming the intimate room into a terra-cotta-and-succulent-dotted oasis. There, diners can expect many rare-in-Denver dishes, inspired by both Curiel’s culinary training and the food he grew up eating, instead of the green-chile-drenched burritos they’re used to seeing around town.

Most tables start with the chimichurri-topped guacamole, but I thought the chunky dip was a waste of stomach space when there were far more interesting offerings on the menu. The very best is the camote asado, agave-roasted sweet potatoes served on a coil of fennel-tinged whipped requesón (Mexico’s version of ricotta) and generously covered with aromatic salsa macha: finely minced garlic, chiles, seeds, and nuts fried in oil. In my pre-Alma days, I never once craved sweet potatoes; now, I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about them.

The queso fundido de huitlacoche on the March menu was also fantastic, with stretchy, melty Chihuahua cheese bubbling with both sweet corn and that funky huitlacoche. Scooped up with accompanying tangy tomatillo and serrano salsa, it was the most complex bite I’ve had in a long time. Bite was the operative word, though: For $18, there wasn’t enough cheese to coat even two small corn tortillas, a portion size that left me wanting.

Curiel’s crudos—diver scallops, hamachi, and bigeye tuna—brim with bright, citrusy flavors, but I’d rather dig into his mole of the month. My favorite iteration was a mole negro that requires a whopping 33 ingredients to be slow-simmered for 36 hours. There were sweet notes—courtesy of plantains and golden raisins—but it was the charred Oaxacan peppers, avocado leaf, and hoja santa (an herb with aromas of star anise and eucalyptus) that made it a delicious mosaic of flavors. The mole negro isn’t always available, but I’m guessing your taste buds will be charmed by whatever version Curiel has whipped up when you visit.

Alma Fonda Fina’s roasted sweet potatoes are a menu staple. Photo by Sarah Banks

At $8 apiece, the tacos are fairly forgettable; skip them for one of the large-format proteins, all of which are worth ordering. The carnitas negras and the birria de borrego, dishes that invite diners to tear pork or lamb right off the bone-in shank, are juicy and tender. Plus, the accompaniments—the puréed beans with spicy elote presented with the birria and the fiery charred habanero salsa that comes with the carnitas—are meticulously prepared and wildly flavorful. My only quibble with the proteins is that they’re served with only one hand-pressed tortilla per person to start, meaning every diner will inevitably have to flag someone down to request another round.

With a new, exciting love, it’s difficult to gripe about the little things. But I do have one grievance: Where’s dessert? When a restaurant is this compelling, I want to keep eating. So please, Alma, give me some sugar.

I do believe Alma Fonda Fina and I have a future together. I know I’d gladly grow gray and weathered while ripping off chunks of Colorado lamb and dipping them into chile-laced broths. It takes two to keep the flame alive, though. I will vow to resist the urge to order the familiar dishes a Mexican eatery must deliver to the restaurant-going masses if Curiel will continue to surprise me with plates that seep into my dreams. If that happens, Alma and I might just live happily ever after. 2556 15th St.

In Summary

  • The Draw: Creative, soulful Mexican food you won’t find anywhere else
  • The Drawback: Some of the more familiar Mexican dishes aren’t memorable
  • Noise Level: Medium
  • Don’t Miss: Camote asado, birria de borrego, carnitas negras, moles

3 Moles on Curiel’s Menus

There’s so much more to mole—a traditional sauce and marinade infused with chiles, spices, and seeds—than the super-sweet, chocolatey versions served at many Americanized Mexican restaurants. To bring awareness to the diversity of renditions made in his home country, Curiel offers a different iteration every month. Look for these three on upcoming menus at Alma Fonda Fina.


To preserve this mole’s milky white hue, the walnuts, coriander, golden raisins, and chiles güeros that go into it are left uncharred. The sauce adds botanical notes to Curiel’s tetela, a griddled masa triangle that’s stuffed with baby zucchini and roasted corn.

Enmoladas De Pollo
Verde mole at Alma Fonda Fina. Photo by Sarah Banks


Thickened with masa, mole amarillo uses smoky Oaxacan chiles and meaty poultry stock to create a comforting, umami-forward complement to roasted chicken flautas that are dressed with queso fresco and crema Mexicana.


Nutty and acidic mole verde gains a vibrant green hue from a combination of tomatillos and pepitas. The tangy sauce is the base for a pork-filled tetela, which is sprinkled with rich queso fresco and potent raw onion to balance out the acidity.

This article was originally published in 5280 June 2024.
Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy is a freelance writer and ice cream fanatic living in Broomfield.