Venga Venga Cantina & Tequila Bar
Drinking in the views of Snowmass Village is that much sweeter from the big deck at Venga Venga, especially when you have a beautiful plate of fresh Mexican food in front of you and a specialty margarita by your side.
Chef Eddy Chimal has been with the restaurant for nine years and leading the kitchen the past five. A 14-year resident of Snowmass Village, the Mexico City native knows what his patrons desire, and if something is missing, they’ll let him know about it. Take the Jalisco shrimp enchiladas, for example.
The shrimp are mixed with corn, rajas (a grilled poblano pepper) and a three-cheese blend. The side dishes–sautéed plantains and rice flavored with a cilantro pesto–make for a colorful plate and a full meal.
“That’s one of the main dishes that has stayed here forever. Every time we try to switch to other dishes, people still come in asking for that,” Chimal said with a smile. “People come in here, wintertime or summertime, and are asking for it. One season it came off, and that was all it took.”
Venga is part of the Richard Sandoval Hospitality line of worldwide eateries, but Chimal always keeps his kitchen in line with the Snowmass crowd. His meet-ups with his international cohorts have come up with fresh ideas to bring home, including the avocado vinaigrette for the salmon salad (which features a mix of Napa cabbage, romaine and red cabbage).
In the offseason, Chimal travels to some of the sister restaurants to compare notes, and once spent a day cooking for Chef Sandoval in Chicago and messing around with vinegar.
“Richard said ‘OK, guys, surprise me. Do something different. Show me what you got.’ And we started experimenting and came up also with a mango vinaigrette and an orange one too,” Chimal said. “It was a lot of fun.”
A refreshing addition to Venga’s summer menu is the ceviche mixto. With baby scallops, shrimp and mahi mahi cooked in fresh-squeezed lime (no water, ever) as the mainstay. Chimal later mixes in cucumber, avocado, carrots and micro cilantro then tops it with pickled red onions. All served at a cool 40 degrees (and don’t forget a cold beer).
His traditional Mexico City ceviche is set apart because of the limes: “When you cook ceviche, that’s the best way – with fresh, fresh limes.”
As with most Mexican establishments, you don’t have to look far to find the carne asada. The Venga presentation sets it apart, not to mention the skirt steak that is marinated for a day then hit with a layer of chipotle rub before being grilled. The full plate includes a unique bowl of charro beans with the black-bean mix enhanced with chorizo, bacon and jalapenos.
“We try to do something different, and the people like it,” Chimal said. “I don’t like to precook anything. Whatever you come here asking for that day, we cook in that moment.”
PRICES: Lunch or dinner, appetizers $11 to $16; entrees $14 to $26; margarita menu $12 to $14.
AMBIENCE: The large space, both inside and out, is a casual place no matter what time of day.
SIGNATURE DISHES: Chicken zarape with hints of applewood bacon and a chipotle sauce make it a staple (“I think it will stay here forever,” chef said); Jalisco shrimp enchiladas keep Venga’s fans coming back; and the salmon salad with the avocado vinaigrette is a healthy option for those looking for a refreshing protein boost.