In early September, J Street Kitchen turned off the lights at American Bonded, no longer there to sling over-sized tater tots and chicken-and-waffles to the RiNo bar’s peckish patrons. Instead, chef Jason Bray returned J Street to its food truck roots, resuming mobile operations and a rotating menu. American Bonded’s kitchen sat empty.

Until a few weeks ago, that is, when a new concept—True West Kitchen—flipped the lights back on. American Bonded co-owner Justin Anthony is thrilled to have co-owner (and native Coloradan) Cameron Mengel and sous chef Eric Kenna, both Steuben’s alums, on-site taking True West’s successful taco truck concept in a new, expanded direction. “We wanted some lighter food options, and we’re really excited to watch the True West team collaborate with our bar team in a more holistic way,” says Anthony. “Approachable craft is our goal.”

That sentiment translates to American Bonded’s bar manager, Hank Murphy, designing his forthcoming fall menu with True West Kitchen’s casual, flavorful fare in mind. Tequila-based concoctions are the obvious match for the meaty tacos, which come with an optional “Golden Style” umami boost from a crispy, lace-y layer of melted cotija and Cheddar-Jack cheeses inside and out each corn tortilla (which are made by Pueblo’s La Tolteca). Of course, you should opt in.

Also built on those tender tortillas are the avocado tostadas, which come with a tangy roasted tomatillo salsa. Beef barbacoa chimichanga bites, Texas red chili, and Frito pie round out the Southwestern offerings.

The Midwest is represented by a Coors Banquet-bechamel mac-and-cheese and squeaky fried cheese curds from Rocking W Cheese in Olathe, which come on the unpretentious meat-and-cheese plate or solo with a side of ranch for dipping. “I’d pair a citrusy drink with the cheese curds,” says Murphy. “You need a bit of acid to cut the richness.”

Where are those lighter options, you ask? Look for the “West Coast” plates on the menu, which range from a rice-vermicelli-and-lump-crab take on a California roll to a veggie burger to two salads.

But on those super chilly nights when the snow flies, try this match made in the West: True West’s cinnamon- and cayenne-spiked fudgy brownie with High Point Creamery’s brown sugar-cinnamon ice cream and one of Murphy’s hot toddy style cocktails.

2706 Larimer St., 303-997-8886

Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.