Sometimes it's not competition, but concentration.
Take Denver's Larimer Square, where lauded eateries like Bistro Vendome and Rioja don't steal one another's patrons so much as they compel guests of one to later visit another.
Now, on Eighth Street, we've got a Mexican food pile-up with Rudy's Little Hideaway moving in next to Estela's Mexican Restaurant, just up the street from La Casita Mexican Grill. It's a preponderance of tacos in one area — and a good thing for all, according to Rudy Escobedo.
"We see new customers every day, and Estela's does, too," says Escobedo, who called his friends Susie Mares and John Morales (of Estela's) to get their blessing before moving his business out of the Travelodge on South Nevada Avenue.
"Eighth Street diminished in the late '90s and early 2000s," says Morales. "I think it's all good. ... It's driving traffic up. It benefits us both."
So, there you have it: no salsa spat.
Since Rudy's did compile 16 years of history on South Nevada, I'll assume you've heard of its outstanding green and red chile sauces and overall appetizing eats that have earned a loyal following. It was one faithful customer, actually, who purchased Rudy's new spot, the former Zeb's, just so Rudy could move into it.
As good as Rudy's is, much of its menu is actually fairly Americanized — think Denny's in a sombrero. Escobedo is pretty up-front about the gringo offerings (biscuits and gravy, French toast, hotcakes) when asked; he aims to please, and has even named items after guests who helped shape his early menus.
But Mexican flavors still dominate, led by a solid, jalapeño-spiked table salsa, good guacamole and delicious, house-ground pork chorizo that exudes smoke through dried red chile flecks.
With the move three months ago, Escobedo expanded evening hours and launched a first-ever dinner menu, from which he's already considering trimming the American items. His customers prefer items like the pork con chile verde ($11.99), served with a nice Mexican rice, half-pulverized beans with a ham hock accent, and some decent flour tortillas. The meat was perfectly tender and the chile built a little in heat without overwhelming. A combination plate ($9.99) delivered a thick cheese enchilada, a chorizo-stuffed poblano, and a beef, bean and cheese tostada, all serviceable.
Back for a mostly-breakfast lunch, we sampled pleasing chorizo and Polish sausage-stuffed burritos ($6.65 and $6.75); a fairly lackluster huevos rancheros plate ($5.45); a completely satisfying open-faced burger smothered in green chile next to french fries ($6.55); and a great Chilaquiles dish ($5.75) of tortilla chips drowned in red chile, topped with eggs next to home fries. A house-made cinnamon roll with a giant butter ball on top ($1.75) was twice as good as the one sans butter we ate at dinner, revealing the only consistency stumble.
Rudy's menu is plenty big, leaving a lot for which to return to the spacious but largely nondescript dining room, where the service is quite friendly, but at times a little slow on the chips and salsa refills.
Eighth Street will likely never become a Larimer Square, but with three time-tested Mexican eateries as anchors, it hopefully won't slip back to obscurity, either.