Don’t go to Paxia, the month-old Mexican restaurant at 40th and Tejon, expecting Los Carboncitos. True, the spot is run by the same owners, brothers Ignacio, Roberto, and Cesar León, but here the focus is more upscale than hole-in-the-wall.

The space is large and polished, and the food generally follows suit. While Los Carboncitos excels at simple eats such as tacos and tortas, Paxia ups the ante on both range and presentation. When I dined, I quickly found a favorite in the tlacoyos, a street food similar to the gordita or the Salvadoran pupusa. Only, instead of being stuffed, Paxia tops these fat oblongs of masa and black beans with tomatoes, onions, sautéed cactus, and crumbles of astringent queso fresco. The accompanying salsa—a house-made blend of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and jalapeños—has a decent kick and a deep roasted flavor. (It’s just as good on the complimentary chips.)

Interesting: Given the León brothers’ taqueria prowess, I was surprised by the mediocrity of Paxia’s steak tacos. The freshly made corn or flour (your choice) tortillas and the smooth moriti salsa (chipotle chile, tomatillo, and onion) were the dish’s only redeeming qualities.

4001 Tejon St., 720-583-6860

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