Meet Chefs Erasmo Casiano and Rene Gonzalez Mendez

Chefs Erasmo Casiano and Rene Gonzalez Mendez
Photo by Casey Wilson.

Lucina Eatery & Bar chef and owner Erasmo Casiano is cooking up a new concept, and Denver diners are already hungry for a taste. And they won’t have to wait too long, if all goes as planned. Xiquita Restaurant + Bar is slated to start satiating North Cap Hill crowds later this spring. Until then, the 2024 James Beard Award semifinalist is in the kitchen exploring the Indigenous flavors of Mexico. He’s joined by Rene Gonzalez Mendez, the Mexico City-born chef whose authentic and original recipes were the heart and soul of Pato’s Tacos on East Colfax. Together, the duo are doing a deep dive into the evolution of Mexican food culture while collaborating on the creation of a menu centered around nixtamalization, a traditional maize preparation process. At Xiquita, you’ll not only be able to taste the difference ancestral wisdom makes, you’ll be able to see for yourself while watching corn tortillas and tamales made fresh to order. While the two chefs are deep in the mind-meld mode, we asked them to share their collective wisdom about the best spots to dine around town. Their separate answers confirmed the adage we know to be true: great minds think alike.

Dining & Drinks

Most Instagram-worthy food spot: Yuan Wonton
Where to find the spiciest dishes in Denver: Bua Tasty Thai
Favorite spot for a solo dining experience: Annette
Favorite dive bar: EastFax Tap
Go-to spot for a quick and easy bite: El Camaron Loco
Great spot for dinner with friends: Ni Tuyo
Go-to for weekday breakfast: Santos Cafe & Mexican Grill
Favorite chef in town: Ni & Anna Nguyen, Sap Sua
Favorite food truck: Luchador
Most inventive chef in town: Johnny Curiel, Alma Fonda Fina
Most iconic Denver meal: El Taco de Mexico
Favorite spot for a romantic dinner: Noisette
Best place to celebrate a birthday: Lucina Eatery & Bar
Concept you are most excited for its opening: Xiquita Restaurant + Bar

Different Tastes

Where to satisfy your sweet tooth: Casiano: GetRight’s Bakery; Mendez: Good Bread Denver
Favorite coffee shop: Casiano: Jubilee Roasting Co.; Mendez: Pablo’s Coffee
Best place for international cuisine: Casiano: MAKfam; Mendez: Bistro Vendôme
Top restaurant for a special occasion: Casiano: Traveling Mercies; Mendez: Brutø

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