Jason Wallenta says he was hesitant to open a second Dos Santos
in Colorado Springs
, until his buddy, Atomic Cowboy Provisions
founder Drew Shader, brought him down to take a look at the space where he was planning his own Springs expansion. Wallenta was sold immediately on both the neighborhood and the view, and since, he and wife Riley have moved to the Springs full-time. Over the coming years, Wallenta and his brother/business partner, Kris, hope to open another four Dos Santos locations in the Springs, plus four locations for his currently-Denver-only pizza joint, White Pie
. (Wallenta also owns two eateries in Mexico, dating back to 2006 and 2008; the Denver Dos Santos opened in 2015.)
While Wallenta's restaurant buddies have been hesitant to invest in a city they still perceive to be run by conservative bastions like Focus on the Family and New Life Church, they now have one more reason to come by and check things out. Whether the death and renovation of Southside Johnny's, the Springs standby that Dos Santos and Atomic Cowboy Provisions have taken over, will catalyze a wave of Denver restaurateurs expanding southward, only time will tell.
For now, we've stopped by Dos Santos' Springs location on its opening day and found plenty to enjoy. We start with cocktails and discover surprising quality — they're not slouching behind the bar. The Mezcalina has a mezcal nose, but it's not overly smoky on the sip. Agave notes sing with a measured hibiscus syrup and St. Germain elderflower liqueur, backed by nicely sweet yet subtle orange juice. The spicy margarita comes with a tajin rim, a slow-burner with plenty of complexity thanks to a three-pepper tincture. The sole vodka cocktail on the menu, basil limeade, is herbaceous and refreshing.
For starters, the taqueria's chips come seasoned, and while chips and salsa are extra, they're good, served with a smoky molcajete salsa, deep red from roasted tomato, and a fresh, sharp verde with lime brightness for days. Elote Is magical as it should be, creamy with aioli, salty with cotija cheese, roasty-sweet and delicious, finished with fried cilantro. As for the shrimp ceviche, my editor compares it to what he's had in Puerto Vallarta for excellence. There's a killer acidity, fresh radish and onion for more complexity, and it's all served with more of those seasoned chips.
We visit on taco Tuesday and sample the four $3 tacos they have available, all street-sized but generously filled. The Porky taco's full of tender meat, fresh with a nice spice level and a bright finish. The taco of the day, fried avocado, comes very creamy with a nice warm flavor, good seasoning and a pleasant spice level. Also vegetarian-friendly, the roasted cauliflower stands up to its seasoning and accompaniments without overwhelming; vegetarian diners should not feel left out. And the chicken tinga's ludicrously savory and tender, brightened by pickled onions.
For dessert, a seasonal flan comes with caramel corn and hibiscus syrup, and it's stupid creamy and rich. Overall, for a day one preview, we're pretty damn impressed.