For decades, Americans thought Mexican food was all combo plates and nachos—fast, easy, and cheap. But thanks to the work of chefs across the country (and right here in Denver), that perception is changing as restaurants serve dishes that hew closer to the cuisine’s regional roots.

Que Bueno Suerte, located on Old South Pearl Street, is a place where you can do just that. Since taking over as executive chef in March 2018, Ivan Ceballos, who started at Que Bueno as executive sous chef two years earlier) has focused on cooking the foods that he and his staff (almost all of whom also hail from Mexico) grew up eating. That means that Rosalinda Ramos makes by hand every single one of the nearly 4,000 tortillas the restaurant serves each month. That means it takes the kitchen staff about seven hours to create a 47-ingredient mole. “If you think Mexican food is cheap or easy, try making mole properly at home,” Ceballos said at a recent media tasting.

Some of the best dishes on Ceballos’ recent menus come straight from his childhood. Consider his “panuchos,” or corn tortillas stuffed with black bean purée and topped with achiote-braised chicken. According to Ceballos, every town in Mexico has its own distinct spin on the panucho; his are modeled after the ones his grandmother learned to make in the Yucatán capital of Mérida.

Ceballos’ panuchos are a delicious starter at Que Bueno Suerte. (Photo by Lucy Beaugard)

Our favorite dish, however, is inspired by Ceballos’ hometown of Veracruz. The “camarones a la Veracruzana,” a dish of pan-seared shrimp, inky black bean purée, and roasted sweet plantain topped with a salsa of green olives, tomatoes, shallots, capers, butter, and white wine, achieves a beautiful balance of rich, bright, and sweet flavors. Although olives, capers, and white wine may seem out of place at a Mexican restaurant, Ceballos explained that Veracruz cuisine has strong Spanish influences. Details like that, and flavor galore, comes through in each and every one of his regional plates.

1518 S. Pearl St.

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.