At 5 p.m. tonight, Johnny Ballen of the Squeaky Bean will unveil his next concept: Cochino Tacos, a vibrant, music-pumping taqueria on the corner of Downing Street and Hampden Avenue. Ballen has lived in the Englewood neighborhood for more than a decade and his intention is to bring a little bit of downtown to the intersection.

The decor alone—bright, modern, and downtown-ish in a refabbed service station—is worth stopping in for. Note the details like cheeky murals, the antique but working Bevador cooler near the bar, the pig (cochino means pig in Spanish) figurines, the salvaged wooden pipe holders that divide the dining room from the bar.

Chef Julian Smith, who left the mountains and the kitchen at Bol Vail to head up Cochino, has worked with Ballen to dream up a menu with wide appeal. In addition to 16 tacos (!), there are a number of salads and a poblano chile–topped burger. With headliner items such as Evil Cheetos, “poofy chicharrónes dusted with cheddar” served with a side of jalapeño vinegar, Cochino promises bold flavors.

Expect to find that same flair with an order of the Squealers, brined, braised, and crisped Niman Ranch pig tails coated in peanut macha salsa. The salsa is one for the ages. This variation was inspired by New York City chef Alex Stupak’s cookbook Tacos. (Here at the magazine, we became obsessed with a similar version during our recent hunt for the city’s best tacos.)

Cochino opens tonight for dinner only. Lunch and brunch service will launch in the coming weeks.

3495 S. Downing St., Englewood, 720-542-9829

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.