There are many delicious Mexican joints in Boulder, and even more incredible restaurants on the Pearl Street Mall. But one in particular stands out for a handful of reasons.
1. Patio seating
2. Hand-squeezed margaritas
3. Boulder’s biggest selection of tequila
4. One of Boulder’s best happy hours
5. Queso. Mmm, queso.
The list could go on, but now our stomach is growling so we have to take a breather. Tahona Tequila Bistro, 1035 Pearl St., is one of our top recommendations for travelers visiting Boulder who want a taste of the Southwest while in Colorado.
Tahona has a great vibe. It tends to be a bit younger and hipper on weekend nights when it can get super packed and has one of Boulder’s best (and only) dance floors with a live DJ. When the weather is nice, you can sit outside on the patio or by the open-air front windows overlooking Pearl Street. If you’re not picky, steal a stool at the bar counter. This isn’t where to go for a romantic, intimate date night, but Tahona is a bit more upscale than a hole-in-the-wall taco place in Denver. It’s far from stuffy, though.
Another thing that affects Tahona’s atmosphere: no TVs are allowed. The goal is to get people talking and hanging out. You know, like humans.
Tahona opened more than a decade ago as a privately owned restaurant and bar, run by a husband and wife team who met in the restaurant business.
Tahona’s margaritas are among the best in Boulder. They’re made with simple syrup and hand-squeezed limes: 180 per day, in fact. You won’t find any hangover-inducing, pre-made sour mixes in these drinks.
“At Tahona, we believe that adding sugary, fake tasting ‘juice’ to tequila should be punishable by jail time,” the website states.
Craving something sweeter? Try a house margarita. Want tart? Opt for coin style. The spicy jalapeno margaritas are our absolute favorite. The infused margaritas are incredible. Try strawberry.
The Tequila and Other Drinks
Tahona has the best selection of tequila in Boulder, with 134 different types, including some rare kinds that you can’t find anywhere else in Colorado, according to John Ryan, manager.
As if that’s not enough tequila options, Tahona infuses additional tequila in-house with fruits, veggies or in oak barrels. The spicier options make great shots for the brave.
“Not only do we have a large variety of tequila, but we have diversity and quality that can’t be matched,” Ryan says.
The tequila selection spans blanco, reposado, oaky anejo, sotol and mezcal. And if you don’t know what any of these mean, that’s OK. The staff here are happy to explain the differences and help you select the style that best fits your taste buds.
The margarita list alone is extensive, not to mention other innovative cocktails. You’ll find craft cocktails original to the bar. Still not feeling inspired? Ask the staff for a suggestion; the bartenders have a combined knowledge of more than 69 years serving drinks. Or ask about the off-the-menu drinks. You have to be in the know to know about these, and lucky you, now you are. Ask about the secret Tinarita or the Six-Blade Knife.
The Happy Hour
Tahona is known for its happy hour deals. Monday is happy hour all night from 4 to 9:30 p.m. Get well margs for just $5 or sangria for $6 (plus other drink deals).
On Tuesday, in celebration of Taco Tuesday, you can also get $2.50 tacos from 4-9:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday do happy hour from 4-6 p.m., but you can get the specials all day if you’re a season pass holder. Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s happy hours are longer: 11:30-6 p.m.
Craving brunch? Tahona even offers weekend brunch: 11:30-3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
You will find authentic flavors here; all but one member of the kitchen staff hail from Mexico. No Tex-Mex knock-off food. No uppity, overpriced dishes, either.
“It is made the way that real, authentic Mexican food is prepared: with fresh ingredients, fresh vegetables, fresh seafood and meats. Nothing comes out of a can,” Ryan says. “We smoke our own meats, we make our own bacon and every sauce is made from scratch. So much so that even the hot sauce that sits on every table is made by us.”
The food here is designed to be shared, also in true Mexican style.
Food varies but includes tacos, tacos, tacos, as well as some more interesting flavors: plum-wood-smoked sausage with roasted pineapple salsa. Handmade pork sausage smoked in-house, served with sauteed peppers, onions, tomatoes and Mexican-style rice. Slow-roasted duck served on a bed of chips, tomatoes, onions, goat cheese, jalapeños and avocado, and drizzled with sweet soy. It’s an innovative spin on good ol’ cheesy nachos.
Another unique dish is the mushroom and spinach quesadilla, which takes quesadillas to a new level of yummy. It’s a big pocket of hazel dell mushrooms, onion, spinach, asadero, cotija, queso and fresco cheeses, drizzled with herbed aioli.
In classic Mexican spirit, you have to try the pork green chili, made by searing flour-dusted pork until crisp, and then in the same pot, the chef sweats onion, garlic, anaheims, poblanos and jalapeños, before adding the pork back in with more seasonings and stock. After hours of simmering to assure all flavors are fully incorporated, the chili is ready to hit your table. Tahona says its green chili is “to die for”.
Tahona’s tamales are also made from scratch and served in corn husks that are hand tied the traditional way.
Another fun menu item: the ancient Mexican dish of chilaquiles. Tahona’s chilaquiles come from Zacatecas, in North-Central Mexico, because that’s where most of the kitchen staff is from. Traditionally, chilaquiles and the ingredients added were signifiers of different regions or families in Mexico.
One last popular menu item is the queso fundido, a large starter with chips and bubbling cheese, as well as apples, carrots and peppers to swirl in the cheese. Because it’s Boulder, and if you’re going to have nachos, you should at least get in your veggies with that cheese.