“I haven’t taken a week off since I came to this country,” says José Santos. Santos moved to the US from San Andrés, a small town in the state of Jalisco, Mexico in 1998. Driven by a work ethic and a love for his family that is almost palpable, his first job in Denver was selling burritos from a pushcart downtown. He still recalls his first day of work that April, peddling burritos clad in sweater and sneakers. Accustomed to warmer temperatures in Mexico, he was caught off-guard by one of Denver’s unseasonal snowstorms. The memory, however, is symbolic of his profound work ethic, and he says with some pride in his first job here: “I never gave up. I was supposed to work from 7 to noon, but I always stayed until I had sold everything.”
In 2008, his persistence paid off, and he bought his own pushcart. A few years later, he owned three, which he located in different downtown neighborhoods. If you went to a baseball game and bought a burrito back then, it was probably from Santos or one of his employees. Today, Santos owns two restaurants: 3 Girasoles (3 Sunflowers) in Clayton and Santos Café and Grill in Lowry, which opened in May.
Santos admits that opening a restaurant during a pandemic is the biggest challenge he’s faced. He wanted to open a second restaurant so his children would always have work and the family could work together. The timing was unfortunate, however; he signed the lease agreement a few weeks before Covid-19 arrived in Denver. He and his children José Jr. and Ana Karen work daily to ensure this venture’s success. “We weren’t able to do the big grand opening we had planned,” says Ana Karen, who designed a sleek interior space that is spotless and modern.
The eclectic menu has something for every appetite at any time of day: a variety of tacos (the al pastor are José’s favorite), chiles rellenos, tamales, fajitas and of course, burritos of all kinds, from breakfast through dinner. “American” fare complements these items with hot wings, salads, and several sandwich choices (panini, burger, BLT). For breakfast, feast on chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, eggs benedict, chicken and waffles, country steak, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. The Santos family makes their hollandaise and other sauces and dressings in-house.
Santos Café and Grill offers smoothies, drip coffee from Mexico, cappuccinos and espressos, and chai lattes, with very competitive prices. You can also enjoy homemade flan or beautiful macrons sourced from a local baker. Open daily at 7:30am, the restaurant stays open until 7pm except for Saturdays (3pm) and Sundays (2pm). Santos Café is at 1141 Syracuse St., tel. 303-484-9391 or at https://santoscafeandgrill.com