A Passion for Tacos

Osito Opens at Freedom Street Social in Arvada

Article by Allison Bankston

Photography by Chelsea Chorpenning & Eric Donzella

Originally published in Arvada Lifestyle

Tacos have come a long way in recent decades with increasingly more unique, complex designs and ingredients. That makes it even more impressive that Osito, one of Arvada's newest eateries, is standing out with its innovative approach to high-quality, fast-casual cuisine.

Osito opened in July at the new Freedom Street Social in Arvada. Freedom Street Social is a modern twist on the open food courts of the 1980s. This new food hall is a hub for culinary stars to shine and for people to try a variety of yummy treats with friends--all in a common, sleek seating area. Osito is one of eight food concepts at Freedom Street Social, which includes a full bar and community space.

The Culinary Creative Group is the company behind Osito's development. The group has designed, opened, and managed many critically acclaimed restaurants in Denver and Aspen and also in New Orleans, Louisiana under their company's ownership umbrella or through strategic partnerships. Osito is the latest in a long list of successful projects.

Mister Oso in Denver is essentially the Latin parent restaurant to Osito. The group wanted to carry the spirit of Mister Oso into a more casual environment. Osito features smoked meat tacos, mission-style burritos, and snacks such as queso, empanadas, Frito pie, and a rotating variety of frozen margaritas. 

Chef Blake Edmunds is a partner with Culinary Creative specializing in Latin cuisine. “Osito is a fun, stripped-down version of Mister Oso.” It's not just street food. “We offer our tacos in the fashion of a BBQ style format, placing all of the components on the platter separately, so that our guests can build their perfect tacos.” The tortillas come on the side, so they stay fresh and don't get soggy, and everything is designed for a unique-to-each-customer, optimal taco experience. Blake has been a chef for 17 years and says it's about creating layers of depth and flavor, making their tacos unique. 

Blake's team at Osito serves the braised coconut pork tacos with a citrus mojo sauce, fried sweet plantains, jalapeños, and pickled red onion—with lots of rich and savory flavors combined with the sweetness of the plantains. “I like to have acid, salt, sweet, bitter, spice, texture—it all has to have a little of all that. If you can hit on 5 of the 6 points, it makes a great hit.” 

Chanelle Kawamura, Managing Partner and General Manager of Mister Oso, is from Hawaii and spent time living in Buenos Aires. She says in both places, groups gather together to share dishes. “Osito reminds me of that as well as the luaus in Hawaii. It's that same spirit of connection with passion for preparing food with love to share with others.”

A special condiment that goes on the Osito guacamole is a great example of the restaurant's innovation. It's made with sikil pak, which is Mayan in origin. They take pepitas--which are pumpkin seeds, pistachios, pumpkin seed oil, olive oil and grind them into a modern condiment with historically traditional flavors. 

Chanelle says Culinary Creative Group is constantly growing with plans to open a new Mister Oso with multiple facets at the Denver Airport in 2023, along with other locations. “It's especially exciting to be expanding in Arvada, which is growing rapidly with new businesses and opportunities for people.” 

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