The Argentos Carne in Denver is an excellent example of good things coming in small packages.
This five-table, order-at-the-counter restaurant is so unassuming it could be easy to miss. That would be a mistake. Occasionally, an Argentine flag is displayed outside. Otherwise, the only clues to what’s inside are the white lettering on the windows and the faded paint above the door announcing “Argentina Street Food.”
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Its location on Santa Fe Drive north of Interstate 25 isn’t exactly inviting, yet this is a surprisingly popular place — especially considering its limited 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. hours.
The owner/chef is Argentine. After taking the orders, he and his crew (I saw two others) in the kitchen behind the counter work only with beef, pork and chicken, either in several sandwich variations or empanadas. After all, the country is known for its carne (meat).
The flank steak sandwich ($13.99), known as the sandwich de vacio, is thinly pounded and marinated flank steak. It’s tender and topped with diced onions and tomatoes served on a small amount of lettuce in a toasted roll. Although the bread is soft and not crunchy, it doesn’t fall apart.
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Choripan ($12.99) is, perhaps, the most traditional of all Argentine street foods. The name comes from chorizo, the sausage, and pan for bread. Grilled sausage is sliced lengthwise. This version of chorizo is made with beef, not pork. It, like all the sandwiches, is served on a toasted roll with diced onions and tomatoes.
The sandwich de milanesa ($12.99) is a battered fried chicken breast cutlet. The bronze-colored, crunchy coating provides a little crunch. Black pepper and lemon are the bright flavors in each bite.
The menu also features lomito (sandwich) made with pork, ham, cheese and egg; a grilled chicken sandwich; and grilled pork. These are large sandwiches and empanadas. No one left our table hungry.
Empanadas are a must try. Each order includes three for $12.99 with a choice of fillings. My favorite was the steak with diced marinated flank steak. The ground beef is seasoned with red pepper and onions; the chicken was less flavorful. The crimped edges are cleverly stamped to indicate which is which. The golden, flaky crust practically melts in the mouth.
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Wedge fried potatoes come with all sandwiches. They’re an excellent combination of crispy and creamy. A small table near the beverage cooler (bottled water, teas and sodas only) features containers for chimichurri, criolla and what my friend who studied in Buenos Aires called pink sauce. All three are great for dipping the potatoes for additional flavor.
The chimichurri is an herb-based condiment with parsley, oregano, olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. I was unfamiliar with the name criolla. Its main ingredients are diced red pepper, onion and tomato. The pink sauce is actually salsa golf made with mayonnaise and ketchup.
Décor is basic but trendy with a black and white color scheme. A few autographed soccer jerseys adorn one wall. One employee wore a modified Argentine team jersey featuring the restaurant’s name. A fun way to honor two things worth celebrating: the World Cup winner and Argentos Carne!