Saying that Dave and Jennifer Lester are La Loma fanatics is a little like saying Denver is crazy for green chile. For the past 15 years, the Arvada couple has spent all but a handful of Saturday evenings at the restaurant. “If we don’t make it in one week,” Jennifer says, “they’ll ask us why we weren’t here.”

Over the years, staff members have become friends with the Lesters (Jennifer and chef Efren Velasquez text regularly), and the couple has eaten hundreds of green-chile-smothered chicken burritos, chile rellenos, guacamole tostadas, and bowls of green chile. In fact, the stew is so instrumental to the Lesters’ weekly routine, they discussed stocking up on pints of green chile—or having Velasquez over to make a batch—to hold them over during La Loma’s weeklong closure. For the Lesters, and for many longtime fans, the move downtown (plus two additional locations) and the bulldozing of the iconic building to make way for a high-rise elicits sadness. “It’s a change, and you don’t like change after 30 years,” says Jennifer, who grew up in northwest Denver and has been going to La Loma for more than three decades.

Dave calls the restaurant their second home. But despite the angst of battling downtown parking and the search for La Loma’s spirit in the new spaces, he says, “As long as I see the same faces, I’ll be alright.” Luckily for the Lesters—and all of us—the entire La Loma staff will be making the move downtown.

705: Approximate number of times the Lesters have eaten La Loma’s green chile in the past 15 years

Moving Day: Rebuild It and They Will Come

This isn’t the first time La Loma has moved. When the late Sonny Brinkerhoff relocated the eatery one block east from 2637 W. 26th Ave. in 1981, he took over (and conjoined) three houses from the 1800s. Those homes, with their red brick walls, stately wooden beams, and stained-glass windows (below), set the tone of La Loma’s familial vibe. And now that the restaurant is moving again, “People want a piece of La Loma,” Carlen Daniels, director of operations, says. “They want to buy everything—bar stools, bricks, chairs. But we’re taking everything with us.”

La Loma
—Photo by Morgan Rachel Levy

As soon as La Loma is vacant, a crew will carefully deconstruct the building piece by piece so the windows, bricks, beams, chandeliers—everything—can be reused at the new locations. And the legendary tortilla machine and painting of matriarch Savina Mendoza? Those will be the first things packed.

Editor’s Note 6/24/2016: Due to construction delays, La Loma will remain open in its current location (2527 W. 26th Ave.) until the end of August. New location: 1801 Broadway. 

This article was originally published in 5280 July 2016.
Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.