Walking in, the gritty old Den-Mex restaurant smells of lard, boiling pinto beans and fried corn. Denver is hotter than New Orleans on this summer day, and I’m excited to battle the heat with the Creamery’s famous red chile sauce.
I’ve been warned that the line moves fast at the restaurant and if you don’t have your mind made up by the time you get to the order-taker you may get a tongue lashing.The counter lady purrs like a kitten when I ask after a crispy taco and a bean and cheese burrito smothered in red chile sauce. I blurt my order out so fast she smiles knowing that her reputation has preceded her. The kitchen ladies hustle while a young mom staves off a meltdown as her kids whine and cajole her coiling themselves around her bare, brown legs.
I walk outside.
Mestizo Park is just across the street from Curtis Park Creamery. It’s the oldest park in Denver, and the days when junkies and hookers once ran the green are now gone. Nowadays it’s moms with strollers, neo-bohemians in Oh Sees t-shirts, and trail heads flinging frisbees between bong rips.I take my breakfast on the concrete stoop overlooking the park. The crispy taco is forgettable but the burrito is another matter altogether. The unholy trinity of lard, beans and chiles has unified into one indiscernible superflavor.
Mestizo Park was liberated by Chicano activists in 1971 when Lawrence and Beatrice Rodriguez were barely getting their little restaurant up and running. In the 40 plus years since, the Curtis Park neighborhood has underwent one upheaval after another.
The old days when you could get a two bedroom bungalow for $400 a month are long gone as new money has quietly filtered into the neighborhood.
The lone constant, on the edge of Denver’s oldest park, is the Rodriguez family’s tiny Den Mex haven putting out blue collar hotplates of some of Colorado’s best Mexican food.
It’s a generational thing this pride of place. I walk inside to say goodbye and thank you “Next time get the number four” The cashier quietly advises. “It’s the best thing on the menu”
Curtis Park Creamery
908 30th St
Hours of operation
always call ahead