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pica’s mexican taqueria in boulder

I shook Trent’s hand and sat down across from him. It was our first face-to-face encounter although we had emailed a few times before. Just a quick meeting in a coffee shop, in between a couple of my appointments. By the time I walked away, I felt this guy was incredibly earnest – a really good fellow. And I was right.

pica’s in boulder

That day we talked about his idea to open a restaurant in Boulder. Sure, people have dreams all the time, but Trent is the type of methodical, responsible, and hard-working individual who makes things happen. Trent used to be a professional sports photographer (um, THAT is really hard work) who trained at Boulder’s Culinary School of the Rockies‘ Chef program. I followed his progress on Twitter and on his blog. Jeremy and I even dropped by one day, a week before Trent’s projected opening, and he graciously invited us in for a tour. I was wide-eyed in amazement at how far he had come… and how much more he had to accomplish in the next week. I now know if anyone can do it, Trent can.

exhausted before the grand opening: chef andy of jackson, wyoming (left) and trent (right)

The atmosphere is totally casual. After all, it is a taqueria. The interior is brightly colored and the materials for the benches, the tables are re-purposed old doors or pews. It’s a clean and tidy space with simple artwork adorning the walls including a flatscreen television for fans to watch World Cup matches (Trent was a photographer for the US World Cup soccer team). Outside is a lovely, quiet garden patio perfect for enjoying some fine Boulder weather.

i suddenly feel so thirsty

mmmm… patio dining

Pica’s Boulder opened in June of this year (2010) bringing Baja-style Mexican food to the good citizens of this northern Colorado town. Mexican food. You all know how I bitch and moan about Mexican food in Colorado. I’m married to a guy who grew up in New Mexico and I lived in California for ten years. There are many many flavors of Mexican food, but Boulder never really did it for me.

the menu

Their Mexican food focuses on the bright flavors of fresh and wholesome ingredients with a slight upscale flair. It is NOT Northern Mexican nor is it New Mexican, so if you walk in there judging it as such, that’s really your problem. They offer several vegetarian options and I know Pica’s is gluten-free friendly based on Andrew’s love of the place. I have frequented Pica’s for work lunches and fun lunches, turning many a friend on to their wonderful tacos, burritos, and other offerings. Nichole once said she eats there so often that her baby is half Pica’s! The ultimate vote of confidence though? My stitch-n-bitch crew gathered there for a meal. Right on.

jeremy got a margarita and i had the half lemonade half agua fresca (watermelon juice)

When you enter Pica’s you should not only check out the standard menu board, but have a gander at the daily specials listed on the blackboards behind the counter. I personally love the tacos al pastor, carnitas, marinated shrimp, baja style fish tacos, skirt steak tacos, chicken tinga (I had the chicken tinga sopes which were good, but I liked the chicken tinga more than the sopes), and the wet burrito (carne asada, please!). When Jeremy and I finally went in for a “proper” review, we decided to score some appetizers. Usually, I’m all business. Give me the tacos al pastor and no one will get hurt.

You order at the counter – dine-in or carryout – then sit down and wait for the food to arrive. There isn’t a lot of wait service in the traditional sense, but all of the employees have been polite and attentive when I’ve been to Pica’s.

chips with half guacamole and half salsa

Their chips weren’t typical restaurant tortilla chips that are overly greasy, stale, cold, and over (or under) salted. These were clearly fresh and light – crisp bites with just the right amount of salt. Jeremy gave it the thumbs up. The boy knows his restaurant tortilla chips. I defer to him. Both the guacamole and salsa were obviously made with fresh ingredients and had a nice zingy tang to them. They were more fresh than spicy. I can live with that, although I am a whore for spicy.

jeremy ordered marinated shrimp tacos (2 tacos for $8.95)

on handmade tortillas

The seafood at Pica’s is always fresh. I’ve never had a bad experience. Keep in mind that we are in Colorado – a landlocked state, and I hail from coastal Virginia. The shrimp tacos arrived: plump and juicy shrimp with a creamy cabbage slaw on handmade corn tortillas and a side of rice and beans. The black beans are well cooked (good texture), but not heavily seasoned. These aren’t refritos just in case that was what you were hoping for. I liked that their rice was not mushy or old.

wet carne asada burrito (1 giant burrito for $7.95)

includes lots of additional goodies

The burrito is HUGE and delightful. It is hugely delightful although a little too much to fit into my belly in one sitting. They stuffed carne asada, black beans, rice, lettuce, and assorted grilled peppers into a flour tortilla that can only be described as tarp-like. The whole package is then topped off with chipotle cream sauce, salsa fresca, Mexican cheese, and a zip of sour cream.

on another visit: the lovely tacos al pastor

Pica’s is more than just a restaurant, it is part of the Boulder community. They donated free meals and food to people who lost their homes and firefighters who battled the massive Boulder fire in early September of this year. I’ve followed the initial snafus, the growing pains, and the successes as Pica’s moves into her sixth month of operation. It helped me see and appreciate restaurants in a completely different light. I do love Pica’s, which is why I go back. The food is solid and the flavors come through in the marinades, the sauces, the fresh ingredients. Prices tend to run on the higher end than most taquerias I’ve been to, but the quality is there and I feel it is totally worth it. I think there is room for improvement in providing some spicier fare. But here is what I really value in Pica’s – rather what I really cherish about Trent – he wants to know and he wants to make people happy. He is always open to hearing what the customers want and he will work hard to make it happen. So if you haven’t tried Pica’s yet, show them some love.

Pica’s Mexican Taqueria in Boulder
5360 Arapahoe Ave.
Suite F
Boulder, Colorado 80303
located in the same center as Ozo Coffee, south side of Arapahoe Ave. (cross street Conestoga St.)

22 nibbles at “pica’s mexican taqueria in boulder”

  1. Rosa says:

    What splendid food! So fresh and delicious looking. I love such specialities.



  2. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    I find Mexican food a bit bewildering never knowing a burrito from a tortilla etc. I’ve had very bad experiences with sludgy guacamole and refried beans. This casts a whole new light on it for me – fresh (and I like spice too). Nice post.

  3. Phoo-D says:

    Color me jealous! I miss fresh style Mexican food so much. Despite a large community of Latin Americans in town we have nothing that holds a candle to this. How awesome to have a place like Pica’s in Boulder!

  4. Nan from tasting out loud says:

    I absolutely adore a really good Baja-style fish taco! But, for some reason they are very hard to find around here. Shrimp tacos are my usual stand in and these look totally delicious. But, I’d love to see the fish tacos too just so I can be seriously good and jealous! Great review.

  5. Kristin says:

    Looks delicious! Gorgeous food, & the lemonade & watermelon agua fresca…yum!

  6. Terri says:

    The food looks wonderful. That’s probably what I miss the most having moved from California – great fresh Mexican food. I’m jealous!

  7. My Kitchen in the Rockies says:

    Thanks for the wonderful restaurant tip. I will take note of it and hopefully go and try it soon myself. I love coming up to Boulder for a visit.

  8. vanillasugar says:

    i LOVE shrimp tacos. i live on a coastal cape cod and there are no shrimp or fish tacos to be found anywhere–go figure right? seriously that one pic of the shrimp taco is amazing.

  9. Lisa says:

    I’m not a big fan of Mexican food but these varieties of Pica’s look delicious. I am willing to try some of them when we come to visit you in Boulder next time.

  10. Aleks says:

    I am droooooling. I’ve been reading your blog every so often since 2006 and I am a huge fan. Your straightforward and honest posts are why I keep coming back! Great photography and plentiful sass, keep it up!

  11. TheKitchenWitch says:

    I love it when you do restaurant reviews! I haven’t made it to Pica’s yet, but looking at those photos, I’m going to have to hustle my butt up there.

  12. Denise says:

    We are temporarily living in Pica’s neighborhood and it’s the first place we landed the night we moved, exhausted! It was delicious. It’s funny because I emailed back and forth with Trent about kids meals and he told me about offerings that aren’t on the menu! Woohoo! We will be regulars and I hope you let me know the next time you pop in, I’ll meet you in a heartbeat!

  13. Bing Chou says:

    A very friendly place with great fresh food. I’m a fan as well.

  14. Sarah says:

    i adore Trent. (and, we love that he’s a chef track grad at CSR) pica’s is so yummy and it had such a nice vibe in there!

  15. VancFoodie says:

    Thank you for the drool-inspiring post. If you’re ever in Vancouver, you must try La Taqueria
    They just do tacos, 9 varieties + daily special and all are AMAZING.

  16. knitopia says:

    We will definitely be trying this the next time we can!

  17. Kath says:

    Andrew was the instigator for getting me to try Pica’s as well – (holding an Ignite Boulder meeting at Pica’s was his lure).

    Never been letdown on my 3 visits. Am ready for visit #4!

  18. eatingsumo says:

    oh wow. i wish we had this in singapore

  19. Lindsey @ Sunshine and Jellybeans says:

    oh boy – that looks delicious! My tummy just growled out loud in response to reading that post – beautiful pics!

  20. jenyu says:

    My Kitchen in the Rockies – you won’t be disappointed. The food is great :)

    The Kitchen Witch – definitely swing by to give them a try. They’re fast too!

    Denise – isn’t Trent awesome? Yes, let’s definitely meet up there for lunch sometime (when all of my travel is done!) xo

    Bing Chou – yay!

    Sarah – but of course! CSR is partly how I met Trent :) Funny story, I’ll have to tell you next time I see you.

    Kath – and #5 and #6 and…

  21. Susan says:

    This reminds me that I really need to go there, I’ve been wanting to try it.

  22. Ben says:

    “They were more fresh than spicy. I can live with that, although I am a whore for spicy.”

    – This just made my day.

    Beautiful pictures, nice writing. Thanks a lot for your effort even though as i’m living in germany i’m a little far away from this partictular place-

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