Situated on South Broadway, this just barely two-year-old establishment immediately draws you in with the smell of rich, authentic Latin-American cuisine slipping out the wide open front windows. LEÑA owner James Callahan started “in the biz” when he was the ripe age of 16 and since then he’s spent the past 20-plus years working in the industry and eventually building two restaurants of his own, including Prohibition and, more recently, LEÑA.
An interesting fact that not many know is that LEÑA grinds its own corn for their taco shells and grits. The entire process takes over 24 hours from start to finish and is repeated daily. One dish that highlights this method is the camarones y sémola ($16), more commonly known as shrimp and grits. Made with Mexican white shrimp coated in a compound chimmichurri butter, the perfectly-cooked shrimp are then placed atop buttery-rich homemade grits and garnished with a few fresh sprigs of sorrel.
Callahan mentions the possibility of moving the camarones y sémola back to the brunch menu, as opposed to having it available all the time, in order to preserve how special this dish truly is. The portion can seem small initially, but as you work your way through each coinciding bite-and-sigh, you realize the dish is not only satisfying but incredibly filling as well.
The long and narrow space remains soft and airy with a high ceiling that reflects a warm diffused light. LEÑA’s vibe is enchanting, bordering on romantic, but its perpetual lively atmosphere makes it a perfect spot for gathering with friends and loved ones alike. Order a glass of wine (or a house margarita) and the camarones y sémola, then cozy up to enjoy beautiful cuisine and long conversations.
LEÑA is located at 24 Broadway, Denver; to book a reservation call 720-550-7267.
All photography by Lucy Beaugard