Co-worker David Accomazzo was blunt in what to expect from Pica’s Taqueria: “hipster tacos,” he said.
What exactly that meant was anybody’s guess. A can of PBR and a mustache wrapped in a tortilla? A cannibal slice of carnitas from a human calf finely-textured from a fixie-armed career in bike-delivery? A deep sigh and an eye roll from the cashier to express disappointment with my preferred salsa?
What I found inside the hidden back corner space of an East Arapahoe business park was a restaurant halfway between the modern industrial style of brushed concrete and exposed ceilings and the bright colors of Mexican sit-downs everywhere. Its hipster quotient was apparently satisfied by the large bookshelf immediately inside the door and the fact that an a la carte taco cost in the neighborhood of $4, a far cry from the $1.25 standard price unit recognized at taco trucks nationwide.
And if you want to compare the relative hipness of the menu to the hippest taco joint in America, Torchie’s Tacos in Austin, Texas, which wraps everything from jerked chicken and mango, to batter-fried portobellos in a tiny tortilla, then the more standard selection of Mexican-style meats definitely falls short.
But that’s fine. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with carnitas in need of fixing. And in that department, Pica’s delivers. The fried and pulled pork on the carnitas taco ($3.50) was rich and smoky, with a dollop of tomatillo salsa and the standard onion and cilantro garnish. An al pastor taco ($4) I also had was strong in the taco cart tradition and was dressed up in the sweet, tanginess of pineapple and smoked chiles.
But even with a side of rice and beans and a glass of horchata ($2.50), I was still kind of hungry. Part of the reason it’s important for tacos to be cheap is to be able to get a lot of them. It took a second order, on which I took advantage of the daily specials, including brisket and beet tacos. Look out Torchie’s.
My dining companion didn’t care for her chopped salad, a mixture of corn, tomato, avocado and peppers tossed with romaine in a cumin vinaigrette.
From the bites she shared, I had to agree as it had a slightly bitter and generally lackluster flavor. In the world of chopped salads, it was far from my favorite.
But the posole verde I had on a return trip was another matter altogether. Thick and rich, it was spicy without being overbearing and sweet without being saccharine. It could have used a bit more hominy, but the fresh-fried tortilla that came on top for dipping was an especially nice touch.
Pica’s also offers a selection of burritos and quesadillas, as well as their monthly three-course pork shoulder meal, El Milagro. And since it’s Boulder, there’s also a selection of fine beers that you can enjoy on a lovely sunlit patio out back. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.