Top Taco graced Denver for its fifth year anniversary last night and this time around we saw more taco and tequila-fueled festivity than ever before. Stanley Marketplace held 50+ competing restaurant vendors in the field outside of their brick and mortar location in Stapleton for three hours of sipping, grubbing, dancing and pretty much everything taco related. Event goers jammed to performances on two outdoor stages by bands La Candela and Sambadendê — projected over two massive L.E.D. screens — amplified loud enough to dance your way between each vendor as the sun set over the city last night.

New This Year

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We saw several things this year that we did not last year. A mezcal tasting and education tent by Palenque Mezcaleria offered event-goers a chance to sample from 40+ different Mezcals and agave spirits. A full-blown wrestling ring was added as a side attraction this year. Live Smackdown matches were put on by lucha libre — complete with character building and background stories for each of the wrestlers on stage.

The increased size of the festival grounds allowed for several competitors and attendees to participate with food trucks this year. Truck tacos were dishes out by Los Cazuelas De Fer, Comida, No Ko ‘Oi Tacos and SOL Mexican Cocina. Infinite Monkey Theorem brought cans of wine and a DJ this year to spin on their wine-truck rooftop.

Highlights

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While the people and the judges have crowned winners in multiple categories — we found several pairings worth making note of. Dos Santos — a three-time top taco contestant — awed us with their vegetarian chile relleno taco. This taco is fried crispy, full of melty cheese on the inside and paired with an Alto’s reposado burnt pear and hot honey jam margarita. Leña made a great impression with its short rib taco. This taco was served on a poblano tortilla and topped with pickled cactus. Leña teamed up with Tres Leguas Tequila to prepare a pineapple and lemongrass margarita that is dangerously easy to wash down.

The Texas franchise Torchy’s Tacos surprised us with its simple yet delicious take on a vegetarian taco. Fried avocado and pinto refried beans made for a simple, yet perfectly executed taco. The team collaborated with Exotico Tequila to pair a raspberry margarita made with burnt caramel simple syrup fortified with Princess Yum Yum — a raspberry Kolsch brewed by Denver Beer Co.

If we’re talking solely about traditional tacos —  Adelitas brought its A-game with its barbacoa tacos. The supremely juicy shredded beef was undoubtedly expertly braised. All the flavors in this authentic Mexican staple popped — even among a sea of tacos of all different forms. At the end of the night, one of our favorite drinks by Curio capped off the event right — the frozen mezcal margarita was exactly what the doctor ordered in the sweltering heat.

Awards

Every Top Taco, the crowd and a mix of judges crown winners. From the traditional category to creative and even a vegetarian option — the annual fest puts together a well-vetted list of the best taco joints in the city.

TRADITIONAL

  1. Los Dos Potrillos Mexican Restaurant
  2. Adobo Food Truck
  3. Los Chingones

CREATIVE

  1. Necio Latin Eatery
  2. LEÑA
  3. Scratch Burrito and Happy Tap

VEGETARIAN

  1. Dos Santos
  2. Candela Latin Kitchen
  3. Biju’s Little Curry Shop

COCKTAIL

  1. Former Saint (Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center)
  2. Torchy’s Tacos
  3. LEÑA

PEOPLE’S CHAMPIONS

TACO

  1. Adobo Food Truck
  2. SEÑOR BEAR
  3. Dos Santos

COCKTAIL:

  1. Stoney’s Bar and Grill
  2. Los Chingones
  3. Los Dos Potrillos Mexican Restaurant

 

All photography by Emma Pion-Berlin

 

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