As many folks around the country get ready to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we at Macaroni Kid thought it would be a great opportunity to share some of the fantastic Mexican restaurants in the South Denver area for families.
While many Mexican Americans see Cinco de Mayo as a day to take pride in their heritage, it also commemorates the surprise victory of the Mexican Army over French forces on May 5, 1862 in the Battle of Puebla. It should not be confused with Mexico's Independence Day celebration, which actually occurs on September 16.
Los Dos Potrillos (Centennial, Highlands Ranch, and Littleton)
We often dine at this extremely popular and traditional restaurant and never leave disappointed. Because of its popularity, however, be prepared for a wait during peak times. The menu is diverse with reasonable prices, and sure to please anyone in your party, such as my daughter who is not a fan of Mexican fare. She does, however, LOVE their Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp!
Free, bottomless tortilla chips and salsa are brought to the table soon after being seated and you will not leave hungry, as portions can fill even the largest appetite. They offer a weekday Happy Hour from 4:00-6:00 PM and a Mimosa Sunday Brunch at their Littleton location.
On the Border (Highlands Ranch and Golden)
When the warmer weather hits, I start thinking about the tasty margaritas that On the Border has to offer. So many great flavors, so many different options ... but before I hit the next happy hour on the patio, we decided to get some dinner.
On The Border now has a dinner option similar to their lunch combos. The fiesta trio includes soup or salad, lunch-size chicken or beef fajita, and half a brownie or two sopaipillas for dessert. It was the perfect size for me, and I loved having a little something sweet at the end of it. For an appetizer, you have to try the avocado fries! Though I think of this restaurant as more Tex-Mex, it hits the spot when you want something a little different. With seven Colorado locations, there is usually one nearby!
Casa Bonita (Lakewood)
I celebrated many birthdays here as a child, so visiting as an adult with my family brought back many fond memories. There is still a festive and fun vibe throughout the restaurant. As soon as you enter, you stand in line to order your food. Depending on the time of day/week you choose to dine, the line could be long. I recommend bringing something to keep the littles busy during the wait.
The specialty of the house is the All-You-Can-Eat Deluxe Dinner for $14.89. You can have as much as you want, including the famous sopaipillas. After collecting your meal, you are escorted to your seat by the friendly waitstaff. If you are lucky, you will be seated at a ledge side view of the 30-foot high waterfall, the center attraction of the restaurant where they have daring cliff dives and silly shows every 15 minutes. There are arcade games, musicians, puppet shows, and more. We don't come for the most outstanding Mexican food in town, but if you are looking for a fun afternoon with the family, this is a great place to go.
La Fogata (Denver)
I am always up for finding a new favorite restaurant, so when my friend said she wanted to try La Fogata for her traditional birthday lunch I was there! We arrived just after the lunch rush, and as the people filed out of the building it was easy to see that this is a popular place.
My daughter exclaimed the bathroom was clean and smelled nice, so there is that! But the food was fabulous as well. My daughter ordered a hot dog and fries, and the seasoned fries were addicting. My friend ordered a smothered chimichanga and I ordered a combo with a tamale, tostada, relleno, and beef taco. There was so much food I would have been fine with only two of those four things. Or it could have been that I ordered the Mexican Candies. Oh... My... Yum!
The fried and seasoned jalapeños were so delicious! They were served with ranch, and I am glad I remembered to take the seeds out to avoid them being TOO hot. You must try them if you like jalapeños! I didn’t see a lunch menu, but there was a lot to choose from. The only thing I really missed was a side of rice. But overall it was a great value for great food.
Cafe Rio (Lakewood and Centennial)
Cafe Rio is a family favorite as it is easy, quick, and fresh! You know it's fresh when you get to watch them make the tortillas right in front of you! The restaurant is a festive place with a colorful mix of tables and chairs.
Make your choice of burritos, tacos, enchiladas, salads, or quesadillas and have them filled with your choice of meat prepared fresh each day. For children 6 and under, the Niño Quesadilla is free! The drink bar is also a hit where you can try out traditional handmade specialty drinks (I love the mint lemonade) or any of your standard favorites. They also offer traditional desserts that are to die for! You have to try the Famous Tres Leches, a fluffy cake soaked in three types of milk and topped with whipped cream and strawberries.
And did I say fresh? Everything is made in house, fresh, every day. I highly recommend this restaurant for a quick and reasonable Mexican meal.
Carlos Miguel's Mexican Bar & Grill (Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, and Littleton)
Carlos Miguel's in Castle Rock is one of our favorite family restaurants. Conveniently located next to the AMC Theatres, it offers good food (and plenty of it) and fast, friendly service. Chips and salsa is on the table in a flash, and they also serve it with a bowl of refried beans, which is great for folks who find salsa too spicy (I think theirs is delicious!).
I recommend the Combination Fajitas, Chimichanga Ranchera, or Santa Fe Burrito. They've always been very accommodating to special requests. More tart than sweet, their skinny margaritas are my favorite. The Kids Menu for "amigos 12 years old and under" has both Mexican and non-Mexican options. Kids meals are just $5 and include a drink as well as a kid-sized sundae.
The Castle Rock restaurant has a large outdoor patio, making it one of our top choices for summer dining (call the restaurant nearest you to inquire about outdoor seating).
Yolanda's Tacos(Castle Rock, Greenwood Village, and Denver)
If you're looking for fast casual Mexican food, Yolanda's is THE place to go. The founder, Bob Walker, was taught how to prepare traditional Mexican foods and salsas by his good friend, Yolanda, who was from Jalisco, Mexico. Their queso is my absolute favorite and I almost always order a container to go. Try their nachos with barbacoa beef, but only if you bring a friend, as it is a very large serving. Their fish tacos are also excellent!
The Yolanda's in Castle Rock is right next to Festival Park, making it the perfect place to eat at summer events and outdoor movies. It is a small restaurant, though, with limited seating, so plan to take your meal to go.
Hacienda Colorado (Lone Tree, Lakewood, and Denver)
"Mexican Food with Altitude." Well, not really Mexican in my opinion, it seems to be more Southwestern. Hacienda Colorado is a favorite local destination for many with five locations in the Denver and Colorado Springs area. With a large menu and a variety of dishes and drinks, you are sure to find something that appeals to you in this family-friendly restaurant.
Having been to Hacienda before, we knew the entrée portions are large so we went light on the apps with a bowl of queso. A bit watery, not too flavorful, and even a bit processed ... we were not impressed. However, the Skinny Margarita was amazingly good! This 175 calorie cocktail is made with fresh orange and lime juices, Milagro Silver 100% Blue Agave Tequila, and agave nectar – YUMMY!
Tacos and enchiladas were the entrées of choice. The menu is full of mix and match options so we got a little of each: chicken, steak and fish. The ingredients were incredibly fresh and nicely prepared and the sauces were tasty. The black beans on the side were very good too.
They have a great kids menu with an amazing variety of options from traditional Mexican to American options like authentic Kraft Mac and cheese. The dessert menu looked appetizing too so we splurged for the sampler plate with Tres Leche, Key Lime Bar, and Brownies a la Mode! Final words: We enjoyed our meal and we will be back to try something new next time!
Casa Vallarta (Aurora)
Tucked in the corner of the furniture row at Quincy and Parker you will find Casa Vallarta. The building is old, the restrooms are clean, and the rooms are dim and colorful. As soon as you sit down you have chips and homemade salsa in front of you as you peruse over the many choices offered to you. My lunch date really just wanted Mac and Cheese, but I didn't necessarily expect a 6-year-old to wonder how their tamales were. I was just glad they had something on the menu she could read.
I, however, opted for the stuffed jalapeños, enchiladas, and tamales. I do not usually finish my whole meal, but I certainly did this time ... even with the appetizer. Since stuffed jalapeños are one of my favorite appetizers, it is something I always try and they are fantastic here. If you are on lunch and in a rush, don’t worry! Casa Vallarta promises you will receive your meal within five minutes of ordering or it is FREE! And if you are looking for something a bit different when football season comes around again, they have great happy hour and game specials!