If there is one thing that we Denver citizens hold close to our heart, it is our Mexican food. Specifically, our burritos. Luckily, we have a multitude of options as to where we get our go-to, made-to-order Mexican fix. But which establishments should we go to? Well, based on a random, anonymous survey of 60 DU students and a little bit of personal (and correct) opinions, we have compiled a definitive ranking of the fast-casual Mexican joints around the DU campus.

4. Salsa Rico


Student’s fave: 3.33%

Student opinions:

“Salsa Rico does not make me feel good”

“Salsa Rico is not that good other than quesadillas and salads, and that’s what I order so I like it there.”

“They take a meal swipe so it’s basically free burritos”


No one has ever raved about the deliciousness of a Salsa Rico burrito. The meat is kind of a strange color and the salsa is pretty bland. The quesadillas are pretty cheesy and enjoyable but wait about an hour and that joy is long gone. Still, in comparison to the other on-campus dining options, Salsa Rico is stellar. It only takes a meal swipe to get a full plate which means that Salsa Rico is basically FREE. And as college students, we know that when food is free, it is automatically 10 times better. So give Salsa Rico a shot. If only the guacamole was included…

Hack: Even though they will tell you the guacamole costs extra, get it anyway. 50% of the time the staff forget to label it and you get it for free. If not, you have still got yourself some delicious guac.

 3. Qdoba

Fast Casual Mexican Joints

Photo by Maria Oh

Student’s fave: 11.67%

Students’ opinions:

“It’s heavenly and the workers are bae.”

“Lots of options and cheaper than Chipotle”

“Qdoba has bad rice and dry chicken”


While not the best, Qdoba is definitely the most underrated Mexican joint on this list. They have a wide variety of options on their menu, including Mexican Gumbo, Taco Salad, and TWO types of queso (original and spicy). Qdoba also has an extensive kids menu which includes a kids bowl for less than $5 that is surprisingly satisfying (and it comes with chips and a drink). The greatest perk of Qdoba? The queso and guacamole is INCLUDED. The workers at the Qdoba on University are always extremely friendly and upbeat but unfortunately, the overall quality of the food cannot compare to its local competitors.

Hack: Get the kids bowl. It is half the price of the regular bowl and completely satisfying. Also you get chips and a drink. Perfection.

2. Chipotle

Fast Casual Mexican Joints

Photo by Santina Renzi

Student’s fave: 31.67%

Student opinions:

Fresh, organic ingredients and you can tell!”

“Best tasting food and the most flavor out of the choices.”

“Chipotle doesn’t have a very broad menu.”


A lot of us came to college as devoted Chipotle fanatics. Why wouldn’t we be? The meat and vegetables are always fresh and organic, prices are extremely reasonable, and they basically created the fast-casual Mexican trend. Not to mention, the Chipotle on our campus is the original Chipotle. For some reason, eating at an establishment with a good history makes the experience all the more exciting. Unfortunately, Chipotle’s lack of options puts it behind our top pick. It is the only establishment that does not have breakfast (which by now, they really should have). They also don’t have queso (which by now, they REALLY should have). Chipotle is always a scrumptious meal and it will always be close to our heart, but it is not the best Mexican joint we have in our area.

Hack: Scrap the burrito and get a bowl. Bowls are proven to have 15% more of the ingredients AND you can get a free tortilla on the side.

1. Illegal Petes

Fast Casual Mexican Joints

Photo by Amelia Schwartz

Student’s fave: 53.33%

Student opinions:

“Great atmosphere and seems more local to CO”

“Queso + sustainable meats + cool employees”

“It is super fresh and not something you can get everywhere”



You will never, ever find Illegal Petes empty. Why? Because it is the bomb. They have everything you could ever want in a fast-casual Mexican joint. The food is always fresh, organic, and delicious. The staff is friendly and speedy — although there is often a line out the door, you will never wait longer than ten minutes. One of the greatest parts about Illegal Petes is simply the menu. There is an extensive breakfast menu (which some argue is even better than their regular menu), a fish option and a potato option. The queso is everything and anything you could ever dream of and every salsa in amazing in its own unique, delicious way. The only negative of Illegal Petes may be that fajita veggies cost extra, but who really needs those extra nutrients anyway? Another perk – Petes closes at 12:00am on weekdays and 2:30am Thursday – Saturday, and at a place like DU where the munchies and drunchies occur frequently, some late night nachos come in clutch. Oh yeah… for all those 21 and over, and Illegal Petes serves alcohol. What else could you want in a Mexican joint?

Hack: Get all of the salsas. It may seem scary but just do it. It is completely worth it if you can handle the heat.