From locally famed chef and restaurateur, Troy Guard, Los Chingones and Sugarmill, led by partner and pastry savant, Noah French opened on December 4th and November 29th respectively.
Next door to each other, they really couldn’t be more different but the quirky pair makes sense in the burgeoning RiNo location on Larimer. Los Chingones is Guard’s interpretation of a urban Mexican taqueria and Sugarmill offers made to order inventive, whimsical desserts with a small savory menu that shouldn’t be ignored.
Los Chingones, which literally translates to ‘the badass’ is bright, vibrant and funky. The two-story, 5,000 square foot space also includes a 90 seat patio and rooftop that overlooks the city.
I loved the long community table down the center, sitting on turquoise cinder blocks, the individually unique reclaimed wood tables, the garage door wall – ready to open in warmer weather, red stringing lights with a single hanging lightbulb, the roll of paper towels on each table, the bustling, open kitchen, a hanging pinata from the ceiling and the Day of the Dead art that dots the wall. Eclectic and fun.
I was impressed that the menu – separated by cold and hot bites and a list of diverse tacos – had a enticingly low price point. Almost everything is under $10.
I sampled all their salsas, all of which are made in house daily which include: chile pascilla, guajillo chile, rooster salsa, tomatillo salsa, habanero salsa (f**ckin hot <— from the menu directly) and balsamic tomato salsa. A unique winner was the incredibly creamy, balsamic tomato salsa that I couldn’t stop dipping the hot chips in. I love how every table gets a free plate of chips and the house Rooster salsa. It’s a nice touch – back to the old days I say. If you want to order more the salsas are $1.50 each, or you can just order more chips with two salsas for $3.
The menu is speckled with small plates, great for sharing with a group. Although it’s not quite tapas, that’s the type of feel you get which also makes sense based on the portions. Their fried brussel sprouts with lime, chile and cotija cheese make for crispy finger food (well, I dig in with my hands) and no matter the type, all tacos are $3.50. Try the octopus confit taco with cabbage, orange and crispy parsnip chips.
But really, the standout was the perfect kampachi crudo with lime, hibiscus oil, serrano chiles, and avocado. Unique dishes like this push the envelope in true TAG-family style, but if you’re looking for something more run of the mill, you can also find guacamole, enchiladas or street-style chicken tacos.
Drink wise, you can find a long list of impressive tequilas and 12 mixed drinks like the silk pajamas margarita with espolon reposado, patron citronage and egg white, making for a frothy drink. There are beers on draft and plenty of other spirits like rum, whiskey, gin and scotch.
It makes for a fun environment and in the warmer months, that rooftop patio will be packed, I’m sure. They plan to offer lunch and brunch in the future.
As we were leaving, I learned of their daily happy hour from 4-6 PM which has $2 tacos, taquitos and tostados, $2 old school beers like PBR and Busch, jell-o shots and a $5 cocktail of the day. Upon hearing that, I knew for that happy hour alone, I would be back.
After digging into our Mexican fiesta, we walked through the back of the restaurant to the connected Sugarmill (they even share bathrooms). The vibe is calming, quiet and almost like a European cafe. The space is smaller and intimate, as it just seats 28.
There’s a long bar, that faces directly into the open kitchen and the vintage wallpaper of green and black keeps the space feeling classy. In front there’s a grab and go dessert case filled with parfaits, macarons, tarts and cakes for to-go orders. There’s one long wooden table, great for standing at along friends and spooning into a dessert together.
Sugarmill is led by pastry chef Noah French (below), with Guard as his partner. Sugarmill exists on its own, but also serves as the dessert option for Los Chingones if they want to order off their menu, or better yet, saunter on over to enjoy the intimate dessert space.
The made to order desserts are impressive and thoughtful. But before getting to those sweet morsels, it’s worth noting that Sugarmill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are savory items I tried, that made me forget they had such a focus on dessert they were so good.
Try the roasted mushroom toast with parmesan and herbs. It sounds simple, but it’s perfectly salty with the warm, creamy mushrooms slathered on top makes for a savory delight. The short rib tortellini comes with just three tortellini but they’re filled with short ribs, gaia apple and butternut squash.
French emphasized that although there’s many items you can grab from the case upfront or you can wait for your dessert to be made and take it to go, that’s not his main focus. He loves that guests can watch the pastry chefs create each unique piece and the desserts are often brought out by the chefs themselves, with a presentation or delivery.
Everyone’s talking about the Noahsphere ($12). And for good reason. It’s over the top, completely delicious chocolate sphere that is filled with candied walnuts, flourless chocolate cake, marshmallows and vanilla mascarpone while hot caramel is poured over it, tableside. As the caramel trickles onto the chocolate, it slowly melts and infiltrates into all the delicious filling items. Again, it’s the experience.
I grew up loving the old school pineapple upside down cake and Sugarmill’s interpretation was unique with the toasted coconut ice cream. It holds a special place in my heart and I love that they even put it on the menu. I can never find this special dessert.
Finally? The chocolate jasmine bar had the most delicate flavor of jasmine with this flourless chocolate cake, milk chocolate jasmine cream and muscavado ice cream.
Sugarmill is great for after dinner desserts over some boutique wines, but don’t overlook their savory menu items as they’re equally as delicious. It’s impressive to me that the savory dishes held their own, alongside the exquisite desserts.
Although I don’t see a lot of cohesion between the two concepts – they’re so different – I do appreciate that they’re meant to be unique in their own offering. They can also stand on their own as they’re two distinct restaurants, offering a food and ambiance, that is not competitive to the other. Both places were delightful and I will absolutely be back.
sugarmilldesserts.com | 2461 Larimer St. Denver, CO
loschingonesmexican.com| 2461 Larimer St. #101 Denver, CO