If you think of tacos as just a corn shell or flour tortilla filled with beef or chicken, you are missing some of Denver’s tastiest treats. From tacos filled with mushrooms to ones with one tofu, here are some suggestions for breaking out of the standard taco fare.

Pinche Tacos

Mobile – Check website for current location

Pinche Tacos serves up addictive tacos from its kitchen cart filled with ingredients made from scratch. Local favorites include the “Queso a la Plancha” taco: griddled cotija cheese, avocado, roasted tomatillo salsa and lime. Or try their just-like-off-of-a-Guadalajara-street-cart “Lengua” taco: triple cooked Colorado beef tongue, served crispy, with avocado, diced onion, cilantro, roasted tomatillo salsa, and guajillo honey mayo. Pinche Tacos gets their name, though both controversial and funny, from street slang of the Yucatan peninsula, the area that also gives them their recipe influence with a modern twist.

(credit: Sarah Carpenter)

El Camino

3628 West 32nd Avenue
Denver, CO 80211
(720) 889-7946

El Camino serves up Mexican food, tequila and cerveza to the Highlands neighborhood including tacos not to be missed. Try the Tacos De Papas, three flour tortillas filled with steaming and mushy potatoes, melted cheddar jack cheese, sprinkled bacon, charred peppers and creamy pumpkin see aioli sauce. Or go with the neighborhood favorite of simple street tacos with your choice of carnitas, chicken, beef or veggies topped with cilantro and onion. Other tacos include al pastor with pineapple, the shrimp and poblano, the breaded fish and queso fresca, veggie, even chorizo or soyrizo and eggs.

A mushroom and goat cheese taco at the Pioneer (credit: Sarah Carpenter)

The Pioneer

2401 South University Boulevard
Denver, CO 80210
(720) 536-4802

Right in the heart of the DU college town area is The Pioneer-a perfect place to have ever-pleasing tacos washed down with homemade margaritas. One taco favorite is the mushroom and poblano tacos: three soft flour tortillas, sautéed baby portobello mushrooms, grilled poblano peppers, fresh guacamole, and the best part, goat cheese. Dazzle it with any of their Pioneer bottled hot sauce and you’re there! You’ll find 10 more varieties of tacos for your fancy from smoked beef adobada to fajita. Check out their sloppy burritos as well.

(credit: Sarah Carpenter)

Tocabe American Indian Eatery

3536 West 44th Avenue
Denver, CO 80211
(720) 524-8282

Tocabe is not your ordinary quick-bite restaurant. Ran by Ben Jacobs and his family, and family friend Matt Chandra, Tocabe is an Osage nation inspired eatery. You’ll get great meals prepared quickly while you watch ranging from nachos to salads to soup but the tacos are special, they’re made on fry bread. I had the American Indian Vegetarian Taco, with pinto beans, green chili, cheese, sour cream and lettuce.
If you love the tastes of New Mexico, this will keep you satisfied until your next trip to Taos or Santa Fe. And the fry bread is enough to eat alone, and in fact, you can have it as a dessert with your choice of apples, cherries or blueberries, and powdered sugar or cinnamon.

The Tofu Taro Taco at Parallel 17. (credit: Sarah Carpenter)

Parallel 17

1600 East 17th Avenue
Denver, CO 80218
(303) 399-0988

Where many flock to the unparalleled Parallel 17 for their modern Vietnamese cuisine, I go for their Tofu Taro Tacos. They take hard shell tacos made of taro root, and fill them with juicy, breaded tofu cubes drizzled with Yuzu crème fraiche seated on a dollop of avocado mousse. So wonderfully creative and perfect. If tofu is not your thing, try the tacos with ahi tuna.

– Sarah Carpenter lives in Littleton, where she was born and raised. She spent a decade in Downtown Denver, and its surrounding neighborhoods, going to school for writing, working in the service industry, and getting to know Denver’s diverse culture. She has a passion for travel writing, local and afar, focusing the story on its people, culture and region.