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The Winners of Top Taco 2016

The best tacos and tequila drinks in Denver

Top Taco

Top Taco, voted “Best New Festival in Denver, 2014” in its inaugural year, threw down last night at the new, larger venue across from the old digs in Sculpture Park. This year, 45-plus of the best restaurants from the Denver/Boulder area battled it out for the best tacos and tequila drinks to the tunes of Sambadende.

After nearly four hours of eating, drinking, and merriment, the people had spoken and the judge’s verdicts were in.

Comida truck top taco

Comida crushing competition as usual in its big pink truck

Best Traditional Taco [Judges]

First Place: Los Chingones {2463 Larimer Street; 303.295.0686}
Troy Guard’s take on Latin offerings, saw a third place last year in the Creative category, but cleaned house at Top Taco 2016, starting with a First Place finish in the Best Traditional Taco category.

Second Place: Comida Cantina {3350 Brighton Boulevard; 303.296.2747}
What started with a truck and turned into a couple of brick and mortar operations continues to crank out food its neighbors love. Comida cleaned up last year with two second places in the Popular Vote and a first place in the Traditional category. Comida is nothing if not consistent, and these guys finished just a fraction shy of clenching their third Traditional win in a row.

Third Place: Machete Tequila + Tacos {1730 Wynkoop Street; 720.612.7698}
Machete’s two locations offer a bangin’ happy hour and creative taco list. They also have an extensive tequila list—and now a third place to hang on the mantle with their 2014 win.

top taco

Best Creative Taco [Judges]

First Place: Dos Santos {1475 East 17th Avenue; 303.386.3509}
Dos Santos now has a pair of first place medals. Their first was for their Margarita last year. Check out their beautiful space and even better food.

Second Place: Pinche Tacos {1514 York Street; 720.475.1337}
Tacos Tequila Whiskey (aka Pinche Tacos) has become a real staple of the Denver taco program the past couple years. They also crushed Top Taco 2014. These guys add another second place trophy to the pile of awards they’ve already collected.

Third Place: Kachina Southwestern Grill {10600 Westminster Boulevard; 303.410.5813}
Kachina serves the burbs with a taste of the city and a unique Santa Fe style of Southwestern Latin. They won the Creative category last year, and now they have a second prize, too.

tacos

Best Vegetarian Taco [Judges]

First Place: Biju’s Little Curry Shop {1441 26th Street; 303.292.3500}
Biju’s, with three locations now open, sticks to what they know, serving bangin’ south Indian style, vegan-friendly cuisine. And did we mention bangin’? These guys swept the category unexpectedly with a roasted eggplant roti and lemon yogurt taco. Bravo.

Second Place: Dos Santos {1475 East 17th Avenue; 303.386.3509}
Dos Santos and its gorgeous colorful tacos snabbed a second for veggie.

Third Place: Sol Cocina {200 Columbine Street; Opening August!}
Sol Cocina already has locations in Newport Beach, Scottsdale, and Playa Vista, and are opening in Cherry Creek in a couple of months. They showed up early and got some love from the judges. Welcome to Denver.

Best Cocktail [Judges]

First Place: Los Chingones {2463 Larimer Street; 303.295.0686}
Well, if you are going to lend your namesake to being “The Badasses,” you’d better be able to walk the talk, and the team at Los did just that this year. After coming up short the past two years, these guys and gals made amends for all that.

Second Place: Leña {24 Broadway; 720.550.7267}
Leña is known for serving a wide range of Latin food—South and Central American, Spanish, and Mexican—and tasty cocktails. They were dethroned this year in the Creative category, but they did have bragging rights for the past year, so that’s something.

Third Place: Solera Restaurant {5410 East Colfax Avenue; 303.388.8429}
Longtime Denver staple Solera, serving Spanish farmhouse-style fare, stepped in and snatched a third place win.

Best Traditional Taco [People’s Choice]

First Place: Dos Santos {1475 East 17th Avenue; 303.386.3509}
While Los Chingones appealed to the judges, Dos Santos apparently owns the hearts of the people, taking home both Best Tequila Cocktail and Best Traditional Taco.

Second Place: Pinche Tacos {1514 York Street; 720.475.1337}
Shocking, we know. Pinche adds another one to the pile. Grats guys.

Third Place: Machete Tequila + Tacos {1730 Wynkoop Street; 720.612.7698}
The judges and the people apparently concur. Machete put up a pretty damn tasty taco this year. Machete takes a pair of wins in the Traditional category, matching third places.

tacos

Best Creative Taco [People’s Choice]

First Place: Pinche Tacos {1514 York Street; 720.475.1337}
Have you seen the menu at Pinche? Whether you are eating octopus, beef tongue, chicharron, or anything else they may fill a tortilla with, Pinche has never lacked in creativity, and thusly takes home a People’s First.

Second Place: Kachina Southwestern Grill {10600 Westminster Boulevard; 303.410.5813}
Last year’s creative winners are known for their unique and singular approach to how they prepare food. Although not able to follow up with another first place in the Creative department, Kachina’s food never lacks.

Third Place: Machete Tequila + Tacos {1730 Wynkoop Street; 720.612.7698}
Machete was much-beloved by the crowd this year, and had they offered a veggie option, we can only imagine it would have been a prize-winner as well. They did offer one of the only taco desserts of the evening.

Best Vegetarian Taco [People’s Choice]

First Place: Biju’s Little Curry Shop {1441 26th Street; 303.292.3500}
The judges loved these dudes, and the people did, too. Who knew that eggplant and a lemon yogurt could wow so many adoring fans?

Second Place: Comida Cantina {3350 Brighton Boulevard; 303.296.2747}
Comida did a Sombra mezcal-braised mushroom taco, and it takes second on this year’s list of veggie treats. Another strong performance by one of D-town’s favorite taco haunts.

Third Place: El Camino Community Tavern {3628 West 32nd Avenue; 720.889.7946}
El Camino was cooking in the VIP area, and these guys are always a blast. They won a ton of crowd votes with their roasted portobello taco, and took home their first award.

cocktails

Best Cocktail [People’s Choice]

First Place: Dos Santos {1475 East 17th Avenue; 303.386.3509}
Dos won the Best Margarita category last year, and although the judges didn’t agree, the people have spoken. These two brothers know what they are doing. There is a reason the crowd responded they way they did.

Second Place: Pinche Tacos {1514 York Street; 720.475.1337}
Gerald, well-known face from Pinche, puts up a fun cocktail and clenches another second for his team. We think it’s safe to say that Pinche has done some work this year, taking home five trophies, the most of anyone involved this year.

Third Place: Machete Tequila + Tacos {1730 Wynkoop Street; 720.612.7698} and Kachina Southwestern Grill {10600 Westminster Boulevard; 303.410.5813}
Our only tie of the season goes to Machete and Kachina. Their drinks that were simply too close to call, so drop into either of these spots and you have a pretty legit selection of drinks to go with your dinner.

That’s it for this year’s Top Taco. Narrowly dodging another gnarly rainstorm (à la 2015) and evacuation, the event got under way just on time. After the brief rain shower, the event started to fill up. Once the sun came out, the piñatas went up, aromas filled the air, and there was nothing but smiles to be seen. Denver is truly a beautiful young and diverse city, and there’s no way to celebrate the onset of summer like vibrant music and fresh, local, inspired food.

As the event continues to grow, we look forward to seeing what next year brings- if it is anything like what we witnessed this time around—it’s not one to be missed.

By Jesse Migchelbrink