You could argue that Denver doesn’t need another taco joint. But then, you haven’t been to Candela Latin Kitchen yet, have you? It opened just last week in the LoHi spot formerly home to Central Bistro and Bar, and it’s off to a strong start.

Central owner Isiah Salazar and chef Jesse Vega drew from their Mexican and Puerto Rican roots, respectively, for the re-concepting of the restaurant. Think of Candela as Central’s second act: The bones of the space are pretty much the same, save for newly applied pops of color and Mexican loteria posters. (The massive red “HOT” sign in front of the kitchen remains.)

The menus, however, have changed dramatically. Central’s extensive whiskey collection has been replaced with a variety of rums and tequilas, and the New American food menu has given way to Latin-inspired fare like ceviche, guacamole, and lomo saltado (a Peruvian stir-fry of sorts starring beef, tomatoes, and French fries).

Vega—a Queens, New York native—has put an especially fun twist on Candela’s tacos. Rather than offering traditional Mexican street tacos or gussied-up, over-stuffed modern versions commonly seen around town, he turned to his Puerto Rican background to create, in his words, “a whole different style.” These treats are stuffed with the likes of sweet plantains, beer-battered shrimp (a best-selling carryover from Central’s menu), and carne frita with black bean purée. Not in the mood for tacos? Get the comforting, garlicky mofongo, a Puerto Rican dish made with fried plantains and pork. Vega grew up eating the dish, but he tweaked his version to be vegetarian friendly.

1691 Central St., 303-477-4582

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.