Leña: A Great Happy Hour and Upscale Latin Food on South Broadway

Leña is a “Latin American inspired upscale, casual restaurant with a fun, vibrant atmosphere, focused on sharing and communal dining” — and it’s a must-try. Admittedly, it can be a little expensive outside of happy hour, but it also lives up to its description of “upscale” (you don’t come here looking for cheap Mexican street tacos). I would highly recommend getting here during happy hour, and sticking around for dinner. The cocktails are fantastic and the food is creative and bursting with flavor (definitely try some grilled dishes from their signature wood-fired white oak grill).


The Happy Hour

Happy Hour runs Sun-Thu 5pm-6pm and Fri/Sat 4pm-6pm. Margaritas, sangria, and wine are $5 — and well drinks and drafts are $4. You can also get small bites for $3-$7, and you should definitely do so. I highly recommend the goat tacos (if they have them on special), as well as the chicken empanadas (they also have vegetarian ones if that’s your thing). The empanadas (below) are only $3 and definitely some of my favorites around town.

Leña empanadas

The goat tacos ($3.50) are a must-try. It’s not quite a pile of goat meat like you can get at Work & Class, but it’s still delicious.


Dinner Menu

The “Pulpo a la Brasa de Roble” is a beautiful, tender octopus with potatoes and corn. It was definitely one of my favorite things here (although a little pricy at $18).

Leña octopus

The “Camarones y Semola” is Leña’s take on shrimp and grits. I think it could use a little more spice, but it’s certainly tender and buttery. (I believe this has now been replaces with “Camarones y Chorizo” on the new menu.)

Leña shrimp

BEST VALUE: By far, the best decision we made was to get the “Mixto” — which is essentially a mixed meat platter (sorry vegetarians!). The “small” is $36 and should be good for 3-4 people (the large is $72). You might want to get some extra side veggies. Or not. I won’t judge. My favorite thing on the platter was actually the blood sausage — or Morcilla (which was spicy and F’in amazing). You can even order that on it’s own for $14. I don’t think I’d order the chorizo here on its own, but the short rib and steak were bomb.

Leña meat

AWESOMENESS OUT OF LEFT FIELD: Side of “Pan de Yuca” for $4. I don’t know what it is, but I could eat these fluffy puffs all night (and maybe I did).

Leña bread

Work & Class: High-Quality Food and Drink, Meat by the 1/4 Pound, and a Fantastic Happy Hour

Ever since it opened on the corner of Larimer & 25th, Work & Class has been one of my favorite restaurants in Denver. I just love their commitment to “high-quality product at a fair price, served in a fun atmosphere” — as well as the choose-your-own-adventure type of menu that mixes the best of American and Latin flavors. The chef, Dana Rodriguez, was a James Beard semi-finalist (and you’ll often see her working hard right alongside everyone and running around making sure all the guests are happy). Work & Class has gotten tons of accolades since it first opened and is considered one of the top Denver restaurants. I have to agree.

The only down side is that it doesn’t open until 4pm, is closed on Mondays, and doesn’t take reservations. Take note of that last part and get here early if you want to get a seat.


HAPPY HOUR

Happy hour runs 4-6pm Tue-Fri, and 4-5pm Sat/Sun. I love places that do happy hour on weekends, too! If that wasn’t enough, they’ve now added a “Happiest Hour” 4-5pm Tue-Fri, with an additional 20% off all happy hour food and drink. That’s the first time I’ve heard of the concept, and I’m so down!

Happy hour includes fancy barrel-aged cocktails for $9, house cocktails for $6, wine for $4 (or $7 for the fancy stuff), and draft beer for $4. The food menu is always changing, but you can currently get decadent, flavorful little dishes like green chili cheese fries with braised pork, tamarind pork ribs, bacon-wrapped asparagus and grits, chipotle chicken pot pie, vegetarian chile relleno, etc. These run you about $6-$10 on happy hour.


The Atmosphere

Work & Class has become somewhat of a cornerstone in the quickly growing RiNo district. It’s a cute little space right across the street from Los Chingones, Sugarmill, Americatus Italian, and Billy’s Gourmet Hot Dogs — and right next door to Cart-Driver. And it’s my favorite of all the options.

Work & Class outside

The inside is bright and cheerful, and it fills up very fast (this photo was probably taken around 4:10pm right when Work & Class opened). Personally, I like sitting inside instead of outside. It tends to get really hot on the covered outdoor patio.

Work & Class inside

I think it’s a really nice touch that they bring you a little starter bite as soon as you sit down (this is the chickpea croquette, for example).

Work & Class small bite


The Drinks

The cocktails here are pretty fantastic: tart pomegranate-cucumber (pictured below), spicy-basil sour, yucatan orange-clove, fresh watermelon-lime, etc. And true to the choose-your-own-adventure menu style, you pick the flavors you like — and can get any type of alcohol mixed in.

Work & Class cocktail


The Food

One of the cool things about the food here is you get to pick and choose what you want, how much of it, and paired with what. You pick your meat (or two) and decide whether you want 1/4 lb, 1/2 lb, or 1 lb. And then you pick any of the sides (in a regular or large size). So if you’re with other people, you can just order a bunch of stuff and mix and match:

Work & Class food

Of the appetizers here, my favorite is the Peppers Five Ways (fresno poppers, bacon-wrapped jalapeños, grilled shishitos, mixed pickled peppers, and pepper jam). They span the range of spiciness and give you a little variety. Personally though, I love spicy food and could just eat the fresno poppers all day (crunchy on the outside, cheesy on the inside, just spicy enough — mmmmm).

Work & Class peppers

If it’s your first time here, you have to try the roasted goat (cabrito). Even if it’s just to say you did. It’s tender and juicy — and if I had to compare it to another meat, I’d say it’s closest in flavor to lamb. My husband comes here just for the goat, and sometimes get extra just to make with eggs the next morning.

Work & Class goat

My personal meat favorite here is  braised short rib. It’s so tender it just falls apart as soon as you touch it with your fork. (The braising style usually varies, and I believe currently these are stout-braised.)

Work & Class short rib

When it comes to sides, I absolutely love the twice baked potatoes (these may be seasonal). Mashed potatoes are one of my favorite things in the world, and if they have bacon and other toppings on top of them, even better.

Work & Class potatoes

Another great side is the fried sweet plantains, which are a constant here. This place and Cuba Cuba are the two perfect places to try these if you haven’t before.

Work & Class plantains

 

D'Corazon front of restaurant

D’Corazon: the Best Mexican Restaurant in Denver (and Maybe Colorado)

I spent 12 years living in California (both NorCal and SoCal) — so I’ve had my share of good Mexican food. What’s funny is that it took moving to Colorado to find my favorite Mexican restaurant. Six years into living here, and it’s still my favorite.

There are very few places in Colorado I feel as strongly about as I do about D’Corazon. I like to try new places and switch up where I eat — but I still find myself at D’Corazon (1530 Blake Street) at least once a week, as do a lot of the people I know who work downtown. I can’t say that about any other restaurant in Denver. It just has the most flavorful Mexican food , exceptionally quick service, friendly management, a lively atmosphere, and cheap margaritas. What more can you ask for?


THE ATMOSPHERE & SERVICE

inside D'Corazon in DenverIt’s always packed at D’Corazon — but in that lively, upbeat way — not in the “I’m getting claustrophobic” way. It’s not rare to see a line out the door, but don’t let that scare you away. The service isn’t just friendly — it’s also lightning fast. So the wait should be 10 minutes at most. And what’s to follow is so worth it.


THE FOOD

Now for the good part! There are really great lunch combo specials here for under $10, but for a couple dollars more, I highly recommend the Carnitas or the Carne Adobada — which are definitely the 2 best things here. If you want tender, not-too-spicy chunks of meat that melt in your mouth, go for the Carnitas. And if you want a slab of pork that’s been marinated in a sauce that will punch you in the face with flavor, go for the Carne Adobada. They’re both amazing, but the latter is definitely my favorite. I’ve ordered it at every Mexican restaurant I’ve been to in Colorado, and I’ve yet to find a better one.

Carnitas:
Carnitas at D'Corazon Mexican Restaurant in Denver

 

 

 

 

Carne Adobada (I got distracted and started eating it before I remembered to take a photo — which is so like me — sorry!):
Carne Adobada at D'Corazon Mexican Restaurant in Denver


THE DRINKS

MARGARITAS: The house margaritas are $5 at lunch (and $3.57 after 4pm if you buy food)! I think the skinny is only another dollar more. If you go across the street to the Rio, they’re $7, and if you go to Machete a few blocks away (the overly hip new place that I really don’t understand people’s obsession with), they’re $10.

jose cuerve reserva de la familiaTEQUILA: And if you’re a tequila aficionado, the manager here has turned me onto what is absolutely the best tequila I’ve ever had (and I’ve tried a surprising amount of tequilas in my few years on this earth). It’s made by Jose Cuervo (and yes, I was skeptical at first, too) — but it’s not the Jose that you remember guzzling during your freshman year of college. It’s the Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia, which is the “world’s first extra-añejo tequila,” aged in French and American oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years (and it’ll run you about $100 a bottle at retail stores).



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