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Taco Express, Jamaican Flavor, San Luis Valley Brewing 

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click to enlarge Taco Express

Taco Express

1455 S. Nevada Ave., 520-5553

People eat at places like Taco Express (or Taco Star, or Taco King, or Taco Empire ... Strikes Back) with the implicit understanding that the food is not, technically, good. Or, maybe I should say that you'll rarely find the best version of, say, a carne asada burrito ($5.35), but you'll always find a version, which is a pretty rocking fact at 1 a.m.

But even at 1 in the afternoon, Taco Express is lively, with a huge Pepsi truck blocking the entrance, next to two cops conducting tense street interviews. This doesn't slow the order of my burrito, however, which quickly delivers two things: chunky guacamole and salty asada. A metallic tomatillo sauce provides needed zing on both it and a carnitas torta ($4.30), a sandwich for people who love to chew. The latter's savory pork is fun to eat, though, and you can snack on the chunks that fall out like popcorn chicken. — Bryce Crawford

click to enlarge Jamaican Flavor

Jamaican Flavor

3016 S. Academy Blvd., 391-0142, jamaican-flavor.com

Few foods teach patience and mindfulness like goat. Little bones must be carefully worked around (or spit out), and chewy pieces make for prolonged mastication. Its oily gaminess is repugnant to some, though it's the most widely consumed animal in the world, says the Goat Industry Council of Australia. (That country is the largest exporter.)

Here, Jamaican eateries are best known for plating nannies and billies, bypassing Jerk recipes for a common curry treatment. Jamaican Flavor's goat curry ($9.50) stews for two hours with garlic, thyme, onions and bell peppers to break down tough tissues. Bearing rich curry flavor sans spiciness, it's delicious, with the lightness of shredded cabbage and carrots accompanying simple butter and vinegar hits, and always-awesome fried plantains. It's pre-made for quick service daily; call ahead for fish dishes that take half an hour to cook. — Matthew Schniper

click to enlarge San Luis Valley Brewing Company

San Luis Valley Brewing Company

631 Main St., Alamosa, 719/587-2337, slvbrewco.com

SLVBC rocks an energetic, community-minded pub vibe, with one of the coolest bars ever, featuring the shiny guts of a vintage safe and neat newspaper menus. But against that backdrop, the brews and eats fail to entirely measure up.

Though we appreciated the locally grown quinoa ($3 extra) on the San Juan Salad ($6.85), it was otherwise pretty dry, with limp lettuce. The slaw on our Blanca Burger ($8.50) proved fresher and crisp, but the bison patty ($2.99 extra) came dry, too, more medium than a requested medium-rare. Our beer sampler ($8.99) batted about 3 for 10 on standouts (its IPA, pale ale and flavorful-but-not-hot Valle Caliente green chile), while others middled for their styles. A fun-sounding kiwi ale brought zero fruit beyond its scant nose, and all misplaced roastiness. Distribution extends just north of Pueblo, Cañon City and Florence if you wish to try the beers for yourself without heading to the Alamosa brewery. — Matthew Schniper

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