Tacos for $2 – que loco!
September 14, 2006
There’s a saying in business: Do you want it good, fast or cheap? Pick any two.Aspen’s Taqueria Sayulita might have broken that business mold, serving up tasty Mexican food in a hurry and on a budget.This summer, the normally nocturnal Club Chelsea opened its doors during the daytime to offer fast food – not greasy, American McFood, but authentic Mexican food, sumptuous and easy to plate on the fly.”We just have all this open space during the daytime,” said Greg Jurgensen, general manager at the club. “We thought we’d utilize it – and it’s fast. A lot of folks are looking for a fast lunch.”
Jurgensen recently came back from a trip to Sayulita, Mexico. The journey inspired both the menu and the name of the restaurant.”Down there, it’s kind of stepping back in time,” Jurgensen said. “It’s not a very developed spot. You still walk the street and eat from street-side vendors – real taquerias.”Jurgensen didn’t have to look far to find the right chef. Local chef Marcario Meralopez, who hails from El Colorado, Mexico, was already on staff at Club Chelsea, catering special events. Meralopez has lived in Aspen since 1987. He spent 13 years at the now-defunct Italian Caviar and has put his time at other former Aspen hot spots, including the Ute City Bar and Grill and the Copper Kettle.Meralopez has whipped up a menu of traditional Mexican fare that pleases both the palate and the wallet. The spicy, homemade salsa is to die for, and with prices ranging from $2 (that’s right – $2) for traditional tacos to $10 for enchiladas and shrimp dishes, locals on any budget can afford to fill their bellies.
There’s one thing you won’t find at Taqueria Sayulita, though: bad service. Meralopez’s wife, Rosa, runs the front of the house. Under her careful watch, glasses are never empty, and meals are on the table fast enough to get back to work before the boss knows you’re gone.To help make the Aspen night club feel a little more like Old Mexico, Jurgensen and Meralopez play Spanish-language soap operas on the big-screen TV. (Don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish. Daytime drama is the same in any language.)So far, the restaurant has a small-but-loyal clientele. Jurgensen sees the same faces coming in three or four times a week.”They’re fanatical about it. It’s a great response,” he said. “But we’re not getting the mainstream people. It’s sort of an underground thing.”
Actually, it’s literally an underground thing, with the club occupying a subterranean space on the Hyman Avenue mall.Jurgensen is hoping the restaurant’s limited reputation will grow. The owners will keep it open weekdays during the offseason, and Jurgensen said they might even experiment with extended hours for Monday Night Football on the big-screen (in English). Come winter, he plans to open on Saturdays as well.Taqueria Sayulita is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, reopening at 9 p.m. as Club Chelsea.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org