Off Menu with Chef Fausto Felix of The Dugout

Ever since I moved to Erie seven years in the past, I’ve discovered myself at The Dugout too many occasions to rely. A lot of my neighbors have misplaced monitor as effectively. We’ve gone there for glad hour, for lunch, for late evening. It’s the place I watched the Avs win the Stanley Cup.

Although the Dugout appears like only a easy sports activities bar, it’s not. The restaurant has its meals chops down. That is the primary place I’ve had a Caesar salad with grilled romaine (in case you’re curious, it’s candy, bitter and smoky) and it additionally served tater-tot nachos earlier than I noticed that dish anyplace else. They have been so good that I put them below the Christmas tree for my husband.

The Dugout’s meals high quality is the results of centered, meticulous effort by Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Fausto Felix who Dugout three years after graduating culinary faculty, and has by no means regarded again.

“One in all my favourite issues to create is a taco,” Felix advised us. “It’s easy, artistic. And if it’s good, that straightforward factor can create a complete, satisfying dish.” How artistic can Felix’s tacos get? He serves a beer battered asparagus taco. It comes with a tamarind glaze, lettuce, pico de gallo, mango and a chipotle aioli including a creaminess that balances the contemporary crunch of the asparagus.

Felix was born in Sinaloa, Mexico the place he discovered to prepare dinner from his grandmother and his uncles. He got here to the U.S. at age 17, attended Culinary Faculty, labored in Las Vegas, after which got here to Colorado. He by no means anticipated to seek out himself in Erie. Someday, he had a chance to develop a restaurant on the Dugout’s present web site. “It wasn’t even in my plans. I didn’t really feel financially prepared.” Felix expands, “However my father-in-law stated ‘you possibly can have a very good restaurant there. Will probably be profitable. The city will begin rising.’”

It has. Because it’s founding, the Dugout has expanded into the retail house subsequent to it.The Dugout is now considered one of three locations he owns, together with Rosa’s Genuine Mexican Meals throughout from The Orchard on I-25 and Pistachios Bakery close to Hwy 66 and 287 in Longmont.

Felix talked about cooks who’ve influenced on him via his culinary journey. One in all them was Emilano Cortez, who ran the kitchen in a Las Vegas-based Italian restaurant Felix labored at after culinary faculty. “He taught me the Italian influences on find out how to use marinades, find out how to end a dish. All of the methods.” Felix expands on Cortez’s affect, “And he talked about the identical household influences I had. His Italian grandmothers and uncles. Like mine, they gave him the fervour for working in eating places that I had.”

Felix has additionally been deeply influenced by folks he’s by no means met. One in all them is Enrique Olivera, the proprietor and head chef at Pujol, the Mexico-Metropolis restaurant at present that’s among the finest on this planet.

“He breaks with all conservative strategies of cooking in Mexico and creates artisan, fashionable, subtle dishes,” Felix says as he explains his admiration. “Like a Posole. It’s a standard soup however he turns it into an elevated dish. And he has three several types of Mole, even one with no protein.”

We talked about my dialog with Richard Sandoval, the Colorado-based world restaurant entrepreneur who was the main focus of final month’s Off Menu column. Felix admired how Sandoval introduced conventional, genuine Mexican dishes to audiences that hadn’t tasted it earlier than. He additionally admired how Sandoval grew his enterprise. “How he can broaden an organization that large. It’s insane. Big. Completely different ideas, however nonetheless all the things has an genuine, Mexican path.”

It’s that keenness for culturally genuine Mexican meals which Felix admires in Cortez, Olivera and Sandoval. Felix needs to convey that authenticity to audiences in Erie, and to diners at Rosas. As we talked, he cooked and served us Baja shrimp, Enchiladas Poblano, and fajitas with New York strip steak. The flavors have been contemporary, the shrimp stood out as the very best and went effectively with each spicy and mango Margaritas. He talked about making mole for Rosas, how he makes use of his spouse’s grandmother’s Zacatecan recipe. He spoke about a number of sorts of ceviche, and the deep metallic pan, known as a cazo, that makes the very best carnitas.

We talked about what he’s actually attempting to do. Along with his restaurant in Erie and with different, future ideas.

Felix shares, “My imaginative and prescient, positive, it’s having a restaurant. Being an entrepreneur is a part of that dream and I prepare dinner with my coronary heart. However it’s additionally to convey to Erie extra genuine Mexican experiences. Carry my tradition. Be greater than a series. Be native.”