A bright Boulder place for tacos and more

Pica’s Mexican Taqueria got great review and has gringo appeal

| Sep 28, 2010

I pay attention when a restaurant writer with the last name of Alvarez writes about “a new king of ‘fast-fresh Mexican,’ and lucky for us, its newest location is right here in Boulder. Tucked way out into the hinterlands of Arapahoe, the brand new Pica’s Mexican Taqueria tops them all with effortless authenticity and bold, playful flavors that can go toe-to-toe with any fancier sit-down Mexican joint in the city and win.

Best of all, you’ll have a hard time exhausting a ten-spot on dinner — unless you go gonzo on margaritas.” And that’s how Ted Alvarez, the Daily Camera’s dining critic, started his review.

I have no idea whether Alvarez’s forefathers came to what is now the U.S. Southwest long before the American Revolution, whether they crossed the Rio Grande more recently, or whether they were from Cuba, Puerto Rico or some other Spanish land. His surname gave credibility his review, but when I looked into Pica’s history, it turns out that the “authenticity” came from Wyoming (locations in Jackson and Wilson) and migrated south. Trent Davol, the Boulder location’s owner, worked in Wyoming and brought the concept to East Boulder. It’s cheerful and clean and very pleasant with am ambiance that is more “American fast casual” than “taqueria,” no matter what the sign on the door claims.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge

Ted Alvarez was not alone in praising Pica’s for its tasty fresh food and moderate prices.The restaurant is bright and cheerful, but after we ordered and paid at the counter, we headed out for the spacious patio. Families are welcomed with such thoughtful extras as a container of sidewalk chalk that kids (and their parents) can use to draw hopscotch or create art on the concrete. The large umbrellaed tables are a nice distance from each other, so that conversations are separated by space. Only the incessant noise from an air conditioner kept it from being idyllic.

The food, when it was delivered, turned out to be good but not as drop-dead great as I’d been led to expect by the review. The excessively salty guacamole came in a fake plastic molcajete with a basket of crisp tortilla chips for dipping.

Pica’s pair of open-face, soft tacos can be selected with carne asada tacos, chicken el carbon, carnitas, Baja-style with either fish or shrimp, marinated shrimp, al pastor or grilled mahi.  Each one comes with an appropriate salsa plus Mexican rice and beans.

Puya chicken salad consists of nicely grilled chicken, sliced avocado, a generous amount of salsa fresca and puya chile vinaigrette. Puya chiles, I learned, are moderately hot, enough to kick the salad up a notch. A folded flour tortilla perched on the rim of the plate.

Price check: Burritos, $6.25-$8.95; Tacos, $6.25-$8.95; enchiladas, $8.25-$8.75; quesadillas, $5.95-$7,50; salads, $4.95-$8.50; soups, #.75 for a cup or one to $6.95 for a bowl of the other.

Pica’s Mexican Taqueria is at 5360 Arapahoe, phone (303) 444-2391. 

Guest blogger Claire Walter follows the food scene in Boulder and beyond on www.culinary-colorado.com, where you’ll find more of her reviews of Boulder-area restaurants. A Colorado-based, award-winning travel, food and snow sports writer, she has written thousands of newspaper, magazine and online articles and have authored or co-authored some 20 books.