In the thick of Telluride’s autumn, with the paralyzing winter cold just around the corner, people tend to favor staying at home eating comfort food like French onion soup or a savory casserole over braving the falling temperatures to try a new restaurant.
But on an evening walk down Main Street in Telluride, you can’t help but be lured in by the delicious scents emanating from Tequilas, Telluride’s newest Mexican restaurant.
The decision to pick Tequilas is immediately justified when you enter the restaurant. Your senses are filled with the welcoming sounds, sights and smells of traditional, feel-good Mexican cuisine that makes Tequilas one of the best choices on a cold day in Telluride.
Warm and colorful, with Latin music playing from the speakers and a soft light illuminating the Mexican art and photography that adorns the walls. Smiling wait staff serve sizzling plates of beef, chicken and sides to hungry customers, and are always open to offering suggestions of side dishes.
You are quickly approached by one of Tequilas’ friendly waitstaff. Your drink order is simple – you’ll have the margarita. Mixed by Tequilas owner and chef Esperanza Reyes, this rich drink is a full-palate experience. The sour sting of the fresh-squeezed lime juice balances the gentle bite of the fiery Sauza, all punched up by orange-infused Gran Gala liqueur, Reyes’ special ingredient.
A common pitfall in most margarita recipes is that the drink is often too sweet to enjoy, said Reyes. “The thing about margaritas is that the simpler your ingredients are, the better. This is just how I prefer them – not too sweet.”
Once served, close your eyes, take a small sip from the straw and listen to the gentle music sounding from the speakers. After a minute with your eyelids closed, you’ll believe yourself parked on a white, sandy beach, enjoying the calm oscillating wave breaks, far from the daily grind.
You snap out of the dream when the waiter approaches you, asking what you want now. If you’re in the mood for beef, do yourself the favor of ordering the carne asada, Reyes’ own recipe, and served with refried beans, rice and vegetables and fresh-ground guacamole. If you’re feeling adventurous, order a chile relleno on the side to ensure. Hunger will not be an issue until the morning.
Skirt steak tends to be tricky to cook: too much heat for a tad too long, and you’ve got a chewy slab of shoe leather. But at Tequilas, Reyes, with nearly two decades experience of cooking this cut of meat, has found the sweet spot – cooked over charcoal, this tender steak fills your mouth with a blend of savory Mexican spices from her native Michoacán.
Midway through the meal, you’ll notice that what makes Reyes’ food – and the restaurant atmosphere special – is that you feel like you’re eating a home cooked meal, made with care. You get the sense that the refried beans and rice recipes were passed down from the generations of the Reyes family – and they were.
Since each meal is served with house-made salsa and still-warm corn tortilla chips, the guacamole that accompanies the carne asada is a perfect finish to this rich meal of beef, cheese, bean and rice. But even if you’re full after the meal, you’ll find yourself scraping the last remaining traces of flavor with the tortilla shrapnel left over from the meal.
After paying the check and gathering your coat and hat, you may fear leaving Tequilas’ cozy atmosphere to brave the wintery Telluride tundra. But thanks to that margarita and hearty meal, the shock of the cold is far less arduous. Now, it’s home to spend the rest of the evening dozing off while reading on the couch.
Vibe: Casual, laid-back Latin atmosphere complete with calming Latin grooves over the speakers. Flying solo for lunch? Choose the bar for a quicker, less formal entree.
The drink: Whether you order it on a scorching summer day or in the nose-freezing winter, Tequilas’ margarita is guaranteed to quench your thirst. Be sure to order the horchata at lunch.
Price point: $20 for one entrée and margarita.
What’s good: Check out the enchiladas poblanas for a sweet, savory take on a classic Mexican dish. Looking to satisfy that frigid temperature-induced hunger? Go right for the carne asada and consider order a chile relleno on the side.
Open seven days a week, 11a.m. - 10p.m. Sunday - Thursday, and 11a.m. - 11p.m. Friday and Saturday