131 N. Tejon St., 719-374-5441, dosdostacos.com
7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Thursday; until midnight, Friday-Saturday; until 9 p.m., Sunday (breakfast until 11 a.m.)
Dos Dos requires little introduction. Simply by saying that it’s the next Mexican concept from the folks behind Dos Santos (and White Pie), you should know enough to presume it’s quality.
Why? Because now in its fourth year in south Downtown off Tejon Street, Dos Santos has held steady with consistently excellent tacos as the main attraction. It was already validated by Denver’s dining scene dating back to its 2015 original location on 17th Avenue, and brothers Kris and Jason Wallenta also opened a third location in Castle Rock in early 2022. So let’s call it time-tested, in multiple markets.
At Dos Dos, with a menu focused on burritos, plus a different protein lineup for tacos and a whole new margarita and cocktail list, the company isn’t repeating itself; instead it’s expanding its stylized offerings.
The new setting: mid-Tejon Street, just under a mile away from its progenitor, in the former Subway location across from Acacia Park. They’ve done a great job scrubbing out the corporate, foot-long face-filling vibe and introducing a bright, open-kitchen layout with cozy seating, given the narrow building shape. Walls, tiling and some wood features are stark white, while shades of orange provide accent color. Big, bell-shaped, thatched lanterns hang clustered from the ceiling, evoking the woven interiors of palapas on a Mexican beach. Service wares are metal trays with waxed paper, paper bowls, plastic utensils and foil-wrapped burritos and tacos — fast casual, despite the table service. The soundtrack for my visits: Latin rhythms in the morning, hip-hop in the afternoon.
Service is a mix of attentive (orders taken quickly and food arriving surprisingly fast during both visits) and distant (not getting a timely check-back for another round of drinks that afternoon), but everyone’s professional and I do enjoy chatting with the morning staff about tequilas — of which there are 16 different bottles in-house, plus two mezcals — and sampling a Sotol. That’s lesser-seen around town, a mezcal-like drink (made from an agave-adjacent plant with spiky plumes, named Dasylirion wheeleri, from the asparagus family) that starts floral and holds a similar smoky, earthy element, but lacks the biting spiciness; it’s smoother, at least exemplified by the La Higuera label out of the Chihuahuan city of Aldama.
Anyway, while on drinks, for breakfast do get the fabulous oat milk matcha latte, a silky, naturally sweet treat balanced by the astringent green tea; it comes batched off a fountain drink machine, but staff give it a shake in a tumbler and pour it over ice so it’s airy and light. I don’t think of bitter green tea as a ready Mexican food pairing, but it works great. Much as you may be rightfully tempted, you can skip the coffee because it’s relative dreck — an odd stumble given the high bar of everything else on the menu. It’s boring bitter stuff named Four Leaf, a Shamrock Foods product. If it wasn’t douchey and a faux pas, I’d say bring a fina cuppa from Story Coffee or Solar Roast in from directly across the street on either side, but instead maybe consider some to-go food and pair your own coffee in the park on a nice day.
With our later-day bites, we’re quite pleased with our Mezcal Old Fashioned and Ranch Water. The first rates stellar, an attention grabber with spicy elements from both a tincture and green chile liqueur atop the inherent mezcal heat. The burn lingers amidst the blanket of aromatic and orange bitters. The Ranch Water by contrast offers a cooling, refreshing sip based out of Chareau, a spirit made with aloe and cucumber among other ingredients. It gets mixed with Arrete Blanco tequila, Top Chico mineral water and fresh lime, finishing a touch sour and almost minty.
Later, a House Shot of cilantro-lime liqueur acts like a palate cleanser, fresh and herby with a neutral clear spirit bite. We enjoy a Michelada well enough but get a bit distracted by a strong vegetal element that reminds us of bouillon cube essence; it’s brothy in a way, even if it finishes with a lager crispness. (I should note I’m also biased because Broomfield’s 4 Noses Brewing makes a hauntingly great Real Dill Michelada Caliente that’s sold in four packs, and the friend who turned me onto them and I buy the hell out of them and can’t get enough. They’re my litmus test.)
To the food: The first legitimizing factor of Dos Dos, which deserves applause, is their “nixtamal program that cooks, grinds, mixes and presses corn masa into homemade corn tortillas every single day.” It reminds me of legacy Springs spot Señor Manuel’s basement operation that makes their own chips, tortillas and tamale masa. Here too there’s subterranean cookery afoot that shows a commitment to real food versus common pre-packaged items. They’re even bottling house hot sauces, like the “Hot AF” La Yucateca habanero sauce that I douse my taco and burritos with at breakfast.
I’ve ordered the Los Cuatro Amigos Taco mainly because I’ve never had tater tots on one that I can recall. Here they join eggs, bacon and Asadero cheese, gifting a crunchy starchiness matched by the fatty bacon and offset by fluffy eggs and the creamy, mild cheese. Delicious. Next up: the Cali and Chilango burritos. The first draws me in because of fried plantains in the mix with eggs, tater tots and Asadero again, but also a jalapeño crema, and I add the optional chorizo and also avocado. It covers all the bases with layered richness highlighted by salty meatiness and the sappy plantain sweetness. The Chilango was compelling because it contains chilaquiles (usually its own whole dish) folded in with onions, eggs, crema, cotija cheese and cilantro. It sounds weird, as if you might catch a sharp chip corner, but the tortilla strips are mostly softened and all the dairy pads it out. I totally dig it, detecting a faint seasoning in the finish that I can’t place. I want to say cinnamon, then star anise, but my server asks the kitchen and they say neither. So all I can say is there’s something elusive and interesting that I detected that must come from the chilaquiles seasoning. Fun.
Back for early dinner another day, we build our own burrito, bowl and salad, basically Chipotle style minus the walk down the line. The menu offers those three options plus a taco choice, wherein you pick your own protein (including a tofu tinga option for the veg-heads). Each option comes pre-designed with standard fixings, but you can add salsas and/or à la carte items, like beans, guac or rice. Oh, and there’s an interesting fajita veggies option that’s completely free to choose, versus paying another $2 or $3 (the mains all start at $10.50 or $11.)
We pick birria for the burrito, which arrives fat with rice and beans stuffed in more than half the core, a little cheese and crema, and a generous portion stringy stewed beef threads packing the rest of the space, lending its complex chile and consommé flavor. We’re content, other than wondering about the choice of rice, which has a plump, Ben’s Original feel to it. For the bowl option, which begins on a bed of that same rice and beans, and has the same fixings as the burrito, plus cilantro garnish, we choose pollo asado and add the free fajita veggies. The chicken’s super tender with good moisture and a nice char flavor and the bell peppers from the fajita mix add complementary vegetal balance.
Lastly, I can’t say I’ve had pastor outside of a taco before, so we try it as a salad topper. This is the one dish that arrives noticeably small in its portion, making us wonder why there’s simply not more of a romaine base — like, you know… a salad. What bit of greens are there get joined by some beans, fajita veg, shredded cheese, tortilla strips, cilantro and supposedly watermelon radish (which we don’t receive, best we can tell), plus the juicy pork bits complete with marinade accompaniments of flame-seared red onion and pineapple. We choose a jalapeño-cilantro ranch instead of a smoked chipotle dressing, which sounds alluring too. All told, we like the crunch of the zesty tortilla strips contrasting the chewy pork pieces, themselves laced with clove essence and pineapple zing. Pastor’s OK in salad form, but I’ll still choose a taco in the future now that I’ve tried it.
I think that’s maybe my best takeaway, is that Dos Dos got me to try some new-to-me things — tots on a taco, chilaquiles on a burrito, pastor on a salad — in a fresh way that’s essentially a creative remix of familiar ingredients. That’s cool, and the drinks ring fresh and unique, too. It’s set itself enough apart from Dos Santos to indeed be a 2.0 version, and even enough apart from nearby Azada Mexican Grill (which offers items not done here, like carnitas and barbacoa) to justify putting another burrito shop on the block. It’s left me wanting to return to try items that I skipped, including the tofu options, starters like Mexican street corn salad (esquites) and of course, more cocktails.
Like its predecessor, I’m sure Dos Dos will stand the test of time, in style.