3 Denver Restaurants Serving Taco Bell-Inspired Dishes
Despite its reputation for offering gut-testing Mexican-inspired dishes, Taco Bell is a popular fast food destination for foodies nationwide. Example: The number of media, NPR for denver postwho covered the fast-food chain’s recent announcement that Mexican Pizza will return to its menu on May 19.
While the beloved menu item will give Colorans another reason to hit the drive-thru at nearly 160 Taco Bell locations across the state, Mile High City chefs are offering something even better: handmade riffs on cult menu items. Here, we’ve rounded up three places to satisfy your Taco Bell cravings in Denver. No drive-thru lines or antacids required.
While Merlin Vernier hasn’t eaten at the chain in a few years, he understands the appeal of food. “People love their [insert expletive] Taco Bell,” says Vernier, chef-owner of four months street feud on East Colfax, a fast-casual joint that serves up bites inspired by street food from around the world. “I think there’s this nostalgia there for people of a certain age.”
That’s why he created a twist on the Cheesy Gordita Crunch, a hard corn shell wrapped in flatbread and topped with ground beef, refried beans, cheese, lettuce, and spicy ranch, as a birthday treat for him. ex-Street Feud Sous Chef and Taco Bell fan, Gaby. Syvaniemi. The creation – dubbed 2 Shells, 1 Taco – was so popular with his staff that they decided to add it to the permanent menu at Street Feud. Vernier’s full-flavored taco features shredded chicken tinga, which is simmered on the stovetop with aromatics until tender; silky refried beans infused with eightlacoche, a corn fungus with earthy, licorice undertones; spicy homemade ranch and cheese sauces; and sprinkled with pickled onions and cotija cheese. Order the masterpiece with the seven-layer dip and fries and an apple empanada drizzled with cajeta and caramel. 5410 E. Colfax
Hops & Pie
Six years ago, Hops & Pie chef-owner Drew Watson introduced the Krunch Wrap Superior – his take on the Crunch Wrap Supreme – to customers at the Berkely pizzeria. Since then, it’s been a fan favorite. To make the specialty, Taco Bell wraps a giant flour tortilla with seasoned ground beef, nacho cheese sauce, crunchy tostada, sour cream, lettuce and tomato before folding it all into a disc six-sided and grill it until crispy. At Hops & Pie, Watson stuffs a local flour tortilla with homemade chorizo, which is made from pork marinated and ground on site. Other key ingredients include zinc-coated avocado cream with lime juice and cilantro; fresh pico de gallo; sour cream; Cheddar; and a spicy roux thickened queso with chili de arbol, garlic, onion, cumin, and other seasonings. Pair your Krunch Wrap with a drink from Hops & Pie’s new cocktail menu, such as a blood orange or old-fashioned margarita. 3920 Tennyson Street
Blake Edmunds isn’t sure how he feels about Taco Bell as a whole. But the Cheesy Gordita Crunch is all it wants in an Americanized taco. “There are soft and hard taco shells,” says Edmunds, chef and co-owner of Señor Bear and Mr Oso in RiNo. “There is melted cheese. This pepper sauce is super bright and a little spicy…it’s a super fun and well balanced taco.
Mister Oso, which is known for its smoked and roasted meat tacos, salads, ceviches and crudos, has Edmunds’ take on a Cheesy Gordo Crunch during happy hour (daily from 3 p.m. at 18 o’clock). Instead of ground beef and the usual toppings, Edmunds fills its tacos with cooked chorizo verde with roasted peppers and fresh herbs; salad; grated cheese; and a pickled fresno pepper sauce. These are best devoured with one of the restaurant’s pisco sours or spicy house margs. Bonus: On Cinco de Mayo this year, Mister Oso will be selling a platter of Taco Bell-inspired dishes, including Edmund’s riffs on Crunch Wrap Supreme, Mexican Pizza and Fiesta Potatoes. 3163 Larimer Street