Hospitality & Tourism  December 1, 2023

Oaxacan cuisine coming to Longmont

LONGMONT – Teocalli Cocina, which opened its first location in Lafayette in 2019, will bring the cuisine of the Mexican state of Oaxaca to downtown Longmont next April.

The brainchild of third-generation restaurateur Grant Hopfenspirger, Teocalli Cocina will open in nearly 4,000 square feet of the 113-year-old building at 460 Main St. that had been the site of a J.C. Penney department store. Hopfenspirger bought the building in July and is having his restaurant built in a space that until last December was home to Guitars Etc.

“We just got approved to do construction,” said Jackie Ross, Teocalli Cocina’s general manager. “We’re just waiting on the guys to do it.”

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The son of the creator of Gunther Toody’s diners, Hopfenspirger was proprietor of an Outback steakhouse in Louisville for 20 years before realizing his dream of starting a Mexican restaurant, Ross said. “He wanted to open his own concept. He put an ad out and hired two chefs on the spot.”

One was Guadalajara-born chef Johnny Curiel, who developed Teocalli’s menu and whose credits include working for Dave Query at Big Red F Restaurant Group’s Centro Mexican Kitchen in Boulder. The other is Julio Gaspar, who grew up in the Oaxacan town of Puerto Escondido and worked in his family’s restaurant, cooking the day’s fresh ocean catch alongside his mother. He eventually settled in Denver, worked at Zengo and La Sandia, then served as chef de cocina at Lola Coastal Mexican.

“Johnny is our consultant,” Ross said. “Julio and I work as a team. He’s our head chef, and I manage operations in the front of the house.”

Ross said Curiel and his wife, Kasie, will open their own restaurant, Alma Fonda Fina, in December in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood.

The first Teocalli Cocina opened in June 2019 at 103 N. Public Road, Unit C, in Lafayette – “right before COVID,” Ross said. “We survived by changing from in-dining to carry out and were able to keep most of our employees,” she said. “It was a fun time.”

Emerging from the pandemic’s restrictions, Hopfenspirger opened his second Teocalli location on Valentine’s Day 2022 at 5770 Olde Wadsworth Blvd. in Arvada, then began looking for a space in Longmont.

“We want to create an atmosphere that’s inviting for everybody, whether they want something casual or a fancy date night,” Ross said. “We’ll have traditional Oaxacan plates but also familiar a la carte Mexican dishes.”

Ross said the Longmont location will employ “about 60 to 80 for the front and back of the house.

“We might do some kind of speakeasy thing later,” she said, “but for now we just want to get it open and established and then have some fun with it.”

Tortillas are made the traditional way with corn flour, not wheat flour, and thus the menu is gluten free even though that wasn’t the primary goal, Ross said. The menu includes a mole “that’s Julio’s special recipe,” she said, as well as Pescado a las Brazas, featuring a seasonal catch with avocado, cucumber, aguachile, garlic fried rice and black beans done in the style of the Mexican state of Nayarit.

“We put a lot of love into our food and our restaurant,” Ross said. “We’re just excited to come to Longmont and serve up some of the best Mexican food there is in Colorado.”

Oh, and that name, Teocalli?

“Grant just heard the name and liked it, so that’s what we called it when we opened in Lafayette,” Ross said. “But then we researched it and found that it means ‘temple house’ in Aztec.”

LONGMONT – Teocalli Cocina, which opened its first location in Lafayette in 2019, will bring the cuisine of the Mexican state of Oaxaca to downtown Longmont next April.

The brainchild of third-generation restaurateur Grant Hopfenspirger, Teocalli Cocina will open in nearly 4,000 square feet of the 113-year-old building at 460 Main St. that had been the site of a J.C. Penney department store. Hopfenspirger bought the building in July and is having his restaurant built in a space that until last December was home to Guitars Etc.

“We just got approved to do construction,” said Jackie Ross, Teocalli Cocina’s general manager. “We’re…

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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