On Friday, April 22, Carrera’s Tacos held the grand opening for its newly-minted brick-and-mortar near the Denver Tech Center. For anyone who has previously enjoyed the cooking from San Diego natives Josh and Ryan Carrera — who opened Carrera’s as a food trailer and catering business in May 2019 — they already know what a big deal this is. For the uninitiated, now would be a good time to learn what the fuss has been about.
Carrera’s has some of the best tacos in town and has since its debut. The Denver Bronco’s offensive line took early notice, with a growing cult following developing around what, up until this point, has largely been a two-man show. The trailer — which is now conspicuously parked out front of the restaurant — could routinely be found at the City Park Farmer’s Market. Wherever it landed, a throng of hungry taco enthusiasts — be it regulars or those lured by the plumes of fragrant smoke — was all but guaranteed.
The restaurant is now staffed by 11 people — including the two brothers, their cousin Orlando Pote, a girlfriend or two and some additional hands. The menu has grown with it, with many of the prized weekly specials finding a permanent residence. The 25-seat interior — including a nine-seat “sushi bar” — was completely outfitted by the brothers and their family, many of whom flew in from across the country to help with the build-out. Brand ambassador and best friend Jerardo Ramirez — whose family owns Ideal Electric, Inc. — did all the electrical. Another group of high-school friends, now all well known in the world of tattoo and streetwear, flew in from Southern California to cover the walls in distinct iconography.
Since shutting down the truck last November, the family has been hard at work developing what both brothers have described as the next inevitable step in the Carrera’s brand. “We were born to be working in a restaurant all damn day,” grinned Josh. “The truck is cool but it’s not the same. Here it’s controlled. Everything’s gonna look perfect, everything’s gonna taste perfect,” he continued.
With the expanded kitchen, the brothers have certainly dialed in the recipes. And with perfection remaining the ever-present goal, each item is indeed indicative of a culinary philosophy based on endless drive. The tacos — still stacked halfway to the ceiling with whatever protein guests may choose — taste just a bit better than they did last summer. Shell options now include the quesadilla-esque mulita ($5), the vampire ($4.25) — which replaces the tortilla entirely in favor of griddled cheese — and a hard shell ($9.50 for two). Though it’s not just the expanded choices that make the new Carrera’s better. It’s clear that items are ceaselessly tweaked, with a vision of real excellence always shaping the evolving flavors.
The enlarged menu is still fairly succinct, being broken down into tacos, burritos, specials, mariscos, apps and desserts. Breakfast burritos ($10) — with chorizo, bacon, fries, cheese, crema and green chile — are available all day. The BBB (Big Baller Burrito) (MP) — once a decidedly gratuitous special complete with lobster tail and claw and a sturdy helping of filet mignon — is here to stay, with plans to up the magnificent excess. “I gotta tweak it to be even more baller,” quipped Josh. Also, the churro bites ($5) complete with a horchata Anglaise, are reason enough alone to venture a visit.
The duo hopes to open a similar iteration in Denver’s north side within the next two years, with another set to follow in San Diego. A fine dining concept is also in the works, with plans to unleash it once the fast-casual concepts have gotten off the ground. In the meantime, Josh and Ryan are hoping to secure a liquor license by mid-summer, and plan to serve a selection of beer and frozen margaritas.
Carrera’s new location is a good sign that the road to greatness truly is paved with tacos.
Carrera’s Tacos is located at 7939 East Arapahoe Rd., Denver. It is open Sunday – Thursday from 9 a.m. – 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. – 1 a.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.