By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media
Ervin Lucero likes to tell the story of how he acquired his passion for cooking New Mexican food. “My Nana (grandmother) lived in New Mexico before coming to Denver a few decades ago. She lived just across the alley from us in North Denver. I was always over there watching her cook, making mental notes of how she was able to come up with so many delicious meals. The one ingredient I noticed that she put into every meal was a healthy serving of love.”
Ervin himself also moved to New Mexico for a few years to work with the Census Bureau. It was there and then and there that he re-kindled his love for the food his Nana used to make and decided he would return to Denver to share his new found passion, cooking real New Mexican food.
“The difference in New Mexican food and Mexican food is all in the red chiles used to make the various dishes. That’s were it all starts, with New Mexico red chile peppers” says Lucero, owner and head chef at Nana’s.
So it could be said for most home cooked meals made by our loved ones. Food that is made with affection just has that special unique flavor. As in the book and movie “Like Water For Chocolate” food made with love is the pathway to one’s soul.
But to do that you have to offer something more than typical restaurant fare. I believe you can taste the quality and caring that goes into everything we make from the blue corn tortillas to the bizcochitos (a New Mexican cuisine crisp butter cookie, flavored with sugar, cinnamon, and anise). They are served with a delicious side bowl of creamy milk and rice
Thus, the tagline for Nana’s Cocina (kitchen) Restaurant “Food for the Soul”. That’s what we make here at Nana’s says Lucero, food to nourish the soul. “I start out every morning by cleaning and praying over my beans. I want all our food to be a memorable experience for everyone who visits. I want them to come back time and time again, to tell their friends who will hopefully also come to enjoy our cuisine. So far Yelp reviewers give Nana’s Cocina four and half out of a five star rating.
Ervin is so passionate about his new restaurant that he will personally come out the kitchen to sing the entire version of “Las Mananitas” to anyone celebrating a birthday. Where else in the U.S. will the owner and head chef do that for his clientele?
Nana’s offers an amazing variety of delicacies that come out of a small kitchen located just across the live music stage at The Bar at Plaza 38 located at 3550 W. 38th Ave. One block east of 38th & Lowell Blvd in Denver.
The bar is owned and operated by Ervin’s brother Gene Lucero and features many of the city’s top bands as well as jam sessions where locals are invited to show off their talent. Ervin, used to have his own very popular band, The Mood Express, so he often cannot resist the urge to join bands with his vocals. Together the brothers host a variety of community groups which use their space for meetings and events.
There are daily themed specials like the Taco 2sday, Wenchilada special served on Wednesday of course. It consists of layered enchiladas and a side of your choice for only $10. On Thusdays its the Thurstada Special, Two tostadas with a side of your choice also for $10. Fridays are themed Chile Frix, red or green chile plate served with two side of your choosing $10. Nana’s takes the day off on Mondays.
Popular with Nana’s customers are the Navajo Taco made with home made fry bread topped with a choice of beans and meat topped with lettuce, cheese tomatoes and onions for $11.
The grilled Cochiti is also a favorite. Three tacos with seasoned brisket in a corn tortilla with cheese, tomato and avocado for $12
Weekend specials include Tortilla Soup, Caldo de Res, Menudo plus red and green chile posole.
There are wonderful salads to choose from like the Los Ranchos Watermelon Salad made with Tajin, Cotija cheese, Cilantro, fresh jalapeno and of course chunks of juicy watermelon $12. The Las Vegas salad is made with mangos and avocado also for $12.
Hey and what would New Mexican food be like without Calabacitas? (zucchini squash) Nana’s offers that as well. Try the Calabacita Tacos, Grilled yellow corn tortillas (3) with Calabacitas topped with cabbage and peach salsa $11.
Beverages include Pinon Coffee and Horchata $3 each. You can always get beer, wine or cocktails from the bar a few feet away.
There is also a good selection of Mexican food as well. The offerings at Nana’s Cocina are numerous. Too many to list here. Check out their menu HERE. Want to have this amazing cuisine featured at your event. Nana’s offers catering throughout the metro area.
The ambiance can be either quiet if you go lunch or a bit noisy if you are there for a late dinner when the daily live music kicks in. There is ample seating throughout the space shared with three other restaurants and the Bar at Plaza 38. The sports memorabilia and artwork give one plenty look at while enjoying your stay. Nana’s is open from 11 am to 11 pm. There’s even an after hours menu from 9pm to 11pm.
So, if you are craving some delicious quality home cooking made with love that will nourish your soul just like your Nana used to make you have to make Nana’s Cocina a must for you dining out pleasure.
Nana’s Cocina can be reached at 303.350.2707 or visit their website at www.NanasCocinaDenver.com