Kevin Morrison prefers to keep things simple. But that’s not always how things have worked out for the longtime Denver restauranteur, a taco-loving chef and businessman who has built a layered and sometimes complicated body of work over the past twenty years.
Still, for his latest venture, Morrison, who owns favorites Tacos Tequila Whiskey and Fish N Beer, is going back to his roots — with a new-old food truck stationed at Ratio Beerworks’ recently opened brewery and taproom in south Denver’s Overland neighborhood.
The truck — actually, a trailer — is the same one that Morrison started with when he debuted Tacos Tequila Whiskey, then known as Pinche Tacos, on the 16th Street Mall in 2010.
Over the ensuing years, the trailer roamed the city, appearing at Civic Center Eats, farmers markets, breweries food truck roundups and other events, even as Morrison opened three brick-and-mortar locations, at 1514 York St. in 2011, at 3300 W. 32nd Ave. in 2013, and at 215 E. 7th Ave. (that one closed in January). He also had a store in Scottsdale, Ariz., which is now closed.
But it has been out of service for more than three years, he said, in part because Morrison was focused on those stores, but also due to the pandemic and because Morrison himself was often the only one who could operate the trailer — “and I wanted my Saturday nights back,” he said.
“But after the pandemic, we decided OK, now that events are back on, let’s get creative and figure out where we could put it as a home base,” Morrison explained.
The answer was Ratio, where the trailer will be posted up on the patio Thursdays through Sundays through November and possibly longer. The trailer will serve some of Tacos Tequila Whiskey’s best-selling tacos, along with breakfast burritos (coming soon).
“We’ve been big fans, back since it was Pinche, I loved it,” said Ratio Beerworks co-founder Jason zumBrunnen about Tacos Tequila Whiskey.
Ratio really got to know Morrison, though, when he opened Fish N Beer, at 3510 Larimer St., in 2016, just five blocks down from Ratio’s original location in RiNo. The restaurant added one of the brewery’s beers, a French saison called Dear You, as one of its house beers because it pairs well with fish. Tacos Tequila Whiskey also added Ratio beers on tap.
So, the two teamed up again as Ratio was getting ready to open its new location in Overland, zumBrunnen said. It will also allow both to try out a new concept from Morrison.
That concept is called KTM Mexican Whole Hog Open Pit BBQ. A mouthful, in more ways than one, the idea is to feature South Carolina-style whole hog barbecue, but with “a Mexican influence,” Morrison explained. The pork will be marinated in a vinegar-based chipotle pepper dry rub, roasted in a handmade cinderblock pit using charcoal briquettes, and served on nixtamal corn tortillas made right on site for guests.
“The idea with Ratio is to use it as a creative outlet for the chef side of me,” Morrison said. If the food goes over well, he’d like to do it on a pop-up basis at Fish N Beer as well.
Morrison got his start in Denver working in the kitchen at Barolo Grill before opening the Spicy Pickle, a chef-driven sandwich shop at Tenth Avenue and Lincoln Street in 1999. The store was so successful that he and his former business partner quickly expanded, opening 40 more locations in just a few years. But the business eventually took a downturn and Morrison was later fired by his investors. The last Spicy Pickle closed in 2021.
Morrison popped back up in 2010, however, opening Pinche Tacos to rave reviews. He was one of the first restauranteurs in Denver — if not the very first — to bring “elevated” Mexican-style street tacos, with a gourmet twist, to a new audience in Denver.
But Morrison was forced to change the name of his business after the Colorado Department of Revenue, which approves liquor licenses, and other entities objected to the word “pinche,” he said, which translates roughly to the F-word in some Spanish countries.
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