Dinner Break! - Twisters New Mexico Burritos - Denver, CO
Twisters New Mexico Burritos was located on the corner of Evans and Franklin, in south Denver, adjacent to the DU campus. You'd think this would be the perfect location for fast food burritos, with plenty of poor college students nearby...
(Never mind that long established Chipotle across the street...)
The restaurant was originally built in 2002, then as a Carl's Jr. I don't remember what was on this corner before Carl's Jr. was born, and I only vaguely remember it being that. But I did spend a fair amount of time in this neighborhood. Even if it was just a thoroughfare to other Denver neighborhoods.
Once popular late night, post-drinking food option, Jerusalem, was just a couple of blocks east of Twisters. Home to a great Gyros platter, with that delicious yellow rice and pita bread, or the Chicken "Shower-Ma", I seemed to find myself here at least once a month in the late 1990's. Always well after 2am...
Twisters New Mexico Burritos opened up this location on Evans and Franklin, in August, 2011. The small fast food chain, based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, started up in 1998. Just over a decade later, they were trying to expand north into Colorado. With several opening around the suburbs, this location was the first inside Denver. It was an ambitious move for the chain, an attempt to create a splash in an already saturated market the size of Denver.
I never tried their food. I was aware of their store from driving Evans as often as I did, while living in Colorado, from 1996 to 2018. A former co-worker of mine, who was from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was familiar with Twisters from living there, liked their food. He said their breakfast burritos were excellent. But he told me the Colorado stores weren't as good as the ones in New Mexico. And I don't do eggs...
Abandoned Twisters became a property of interest to me, as I'd drive Evans east every weekend to document the demolition of the burned down Rockies Inn, at Evans and I-25. And later, the former Criterion Shopping Center, on Colorado Blvd. (story coming eventually). I didn't know when Twisters closed, but I saw there was no signs of activity under their colorful signage.
When I found out that Twisters ceased operations at this location, I stole the To-Go menu from the stash of local menus, we kept in the office at the printing company I used to work for. We kept a small library of take out menus from nearby eating options for our shifts, or clients visiting for press checks. I figured this menu may become useful in a future story, once I started taking pictures of the place.
Early Sunday morning, on May 7, 2017 was the day I decided to stop by Twisters and walk around the property. The sky was nice and cloudy, which is my preferred backdrop for abandoned building pictures. While the building was really small, I was very happy with what I got that morning.
According to what I was able to glean from Yelp reviews, Twisters closed this location in December, 2016. Just over five years after opening. Reviewers painted a picture of Twisters starting off as serving good food at cheap prices with decent service. Which then fell off and became all sorts of terrible towards the end.
This is the only picture I have of Twisters when it was open. Taken October 4, 2015. It was a nice and clean looking building back then.
So let's get a look at it now!
By now, I mean May 7, 2017, when I took these photos.
This used to be the drive thru menu board. The menu itself has been removed and replaced by tagging, because Urban Decay... Those south facing Twisters windows were darkened, so I couldn't take a picture through the glass.
Yelp to the rescue!
Public restrooms were just beyond the wall, but once you cleared those, you can see the limited seating options inside Twisters. Thanks to this very small cell phone image, which actually enlarged fairly decent...
Rounding the drive thru corner, there's more blacked out windows with more tagging around them.
A better shot of the drive thru lane, taken from Franklin Ave. The drive thru window sits at the end of the building.
Peering into that window for a look at Twisters the kitchen area.
Looks pretty clean!
Twisters tagged up north exit door, which opens into the drive thru lane. Not too many unobstructed access options for this restaurant on such a small piece of land.
Looking through the tagging on the door for an idea of what Twisters was like when it was open. The cashier area and fountains were obviously set up on the left, with very limited seating on the right and back walls. Restrooms and kitchen access at the far end.
Even if the New Mexico Burritos were top notch, there's simply not enough room for even a moderate sized crowd in here. For that reason alone, I could see why Twisters didn't last. Just as Carl's Jr. didn't before it.
At least they were courteous enough to thank you and the end of their drive thru!
But I like this sign better!
The drive thru exit was sandwiched between the building and a one way access drive off Franklin. That stupid Jeep parked at the end, blocked me from driving into Twisters the way I wanted. Not sure why the driver of it thought that was an acceptable place to park. Just pull all the way in and use one of the multiple open spots. That no Twisters patrons would be using today. Or any other day again...
This side of Twisters faces west, and would be considered the front door. For whatever reason, I neglected to take a picture of that promotional poster in the window. So, that's a mistake on my part. Twisters served Tetley Tea, is basically what it had to say. The windows all had the shades pulled down, but the front door was left uncovered. Meaning I could still take a picture of what you'd see if it was open.
Which would be the fountain area, and the front register! With the menu boards behind it!
This is why I signed up for Yelp. I've never written a review, nor do I ever intend to, but I do love reading the old Yelp reviews of closed businesses. Not only can you find valuable information about past businesses that isn't easy to find elsewhere, but the negative reviews are great!
Like this one, posted just a month or so before Twisters closed in December, 2017. Before griping about the poor quality of the food, Mrs. Yelp Reviewer wrote: "When I pulled up, all of the employees were outside the store smoking and no one wanted to help me!" Gee, that sounds an awful lot like the Pizza Hut in Englewood, that I used to work at 22 years ago!
Good thing there was no Yelp, back when I was giving rides to pizza for rent money...
Another great thing about Yelp, the photos! Forward thinking people (like me) would sometimes take pictures of the businesses that they would go on to complain about. Then after that business closed, I could find them online and use them to paint a better overall picture of what used to be!
Just inside the front door, looking to the right. And there's the tubs of Tetley Tea! Featured so prominently on the last remaining piece of Twisters advertising, still attached to the building!
And to your left, the cashier area and menu boards!
But you can't read the menus on the wall because of the poor resolution of the photos on Yelp...
Good thing I stole that Twisters To-Go menu from my old job!
See, I have you covered for all of your unattainable dining needs!
I could see how entering and leaving this restaurant could be difficult with the heavy traffic on Evans Avenue. Likely affecting their business almost as much as the poor food and service did. But at 6:30 in the morning, I was able to make a left turn out of the parking lot with ease. And right into the 7-11 across the street!
Man needs an early morning Slurpee!
At the time of this To-Go Menu's printing, Twisters had four locations in Colorado. In addition to their 15 restaurants in New Mexico, most in Albuquerque. I never saw the Aurora restaurant because I was rarely in that part of town.
And I never saw the Parker location because Parker...
But I did see the Lakewood store without knowing it beforehand...
In April 2018, as I was preparing to move out of Colorado, one of my early morning photo taking tours led me west down Colfax Avenue. Eventually, I found an abandoned Wendy's, featuring their late 1980's style of architecture. Obviously long closed, it was an unplanned stop on my random route that day. The sign out front was a familiar shape that I just couldn't place. Round circle with a diagonal slash through it, but was completely painted over in bright yellow.
I parked the car and walked around the mystery ex-Wendy's, but still had no ideas of it's last identity, until I peered in the entrance doors:
This sign had previously been taped to the door, but had fallen off and was now laying on the floor. Since it was directing you to Twisters other three Colorado locations, that meant the Denver one was still open when the Lakewood restaurant closed. According to The Googles, both the Parker and Aurora, Colorado, Twisters are still open for business today, along with another 18 restaurants located near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I'll give the former Lakewood Twisters some attention at a later date...
There wasn't much going on at the former Denver location, but I'd still snap a picture from time to time when I drove by. On October 1, 2017, I saw the red awning that used to run across the front of Twisters, had been removed.
Well, that's somewhat interesting...
Criterion Shopping Center (and the Rockies Inn) was long gone, so I wasn't driving east on Evans every week any longer. But on March 31, 2018, Twisters suddenly looked a whole lot different. Someone had taken over the property and was renovating the building. The Twisters sign was gone, now replaced by something I couldn't recognize.
Three weeks later, work was continuing on ex-Twisters, but I still didn't know what was coming in next. The sign looked like a chicken, but it wasn't any common chicken logo I recognized...
The last time I drove by Chicken Twisters was May 13, 2018. So this would be the last picture I'd take of Twisters. Whatever it was going to be next was not open yet, so I most likely wouldn't know before I moved to Minnesota at the end of the month.
I've since learned that shortly after I left the state, a new restaurant opened here named: "Birdcall", which specializes in chicken strips and sammiches. Their Yelp reviews started off very favorable, and haven't fallen off in the three years since. Unlike what happened with Twisters...
Just because I enjoy a good chicken sammich, I'd like to try it out. The pictures look damn tasty. But since it's almost 1000 miles away from where I live now, I probably wont get back to it anytime soon...
So in my mind, this building is still an abandoned Twisters!