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Off Menu with Chef Fausto Felix of The Dugout

Off Menu with Chef Fausto Felix of The Dugout


Ever since I moved to Erie seven years ago, I’ve found myself at The Dugout too many times to count. Many of my neighbors have lost track as well. We’ve gone there for happy hour, for lunch, for late night. It’s where I watched the Avs win the Stanley Cup.

Though the Dugout looks like just a simple sports bar, it’s not. The restaurant has its food chops down. This is the first place I’ve had a Caesar salad with grilled romaine (if you’re curious, it’s sweet, bitter and smoky) and it also served tater-tot nachos before I saw that dish anywhere else. They were so good that I put them under the Christmas tree for my husband.

The Dugout’s food quality is the result of focused, meticulous effort by Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Fausto Felix who Dugout three years after graduating culinary school, and has never looked back.

“One of my favorite things to create is a taco,” Felix told us. “It’s simple, creative. And if it’s good, that simple thing can create an entire, satisfying dish.” How creative 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 adding a creaminess that balances the fresh crunch of the asparagus.

Felix was born in Sinaloa, Mexico where he learned to cook  from his grandmother and his uncles. He  came to the U.S. at age 17, attended  Culinary School, worked in Las Vegas, and then came to Colorado. He never expected to find himself in Erie. One day, he had an opportunity to develop a restaurant at the Dugout’s current site. “It wasn’t even in my plans. I didn’t feel financially ready.” Felix expands, “But my father-in-law said ‘you can have a good restaurant there. It will be successful. The town will start growing.’”

It has. Since it’s founding, the Dugout has expanded into the retail space next to it.The Dugout is now one of three places he owns, including Rosa’s Authentic Mexican Food across from The Orchard on I-25 and Pistachios Bakery near Hwy 66 and 287 in Longmont.

Photo credit: George Hudetz

Felix talked about chefs who’ve influenced on him through his culinary journey. One of them was Emilano Cortez, who ran the kitchen in a Las Vegas-based Italian restaurant Felix worked at after culinary school. “He taught me the Italian influences on how to use marinades, how to finish a dish. All the tricks.” Felix expands on Cortez’s influence, “And he talked about the same family influences I had. His Italian grandmothers and uncles. Like mine, they gave him the passion for working in restaurants that I had.”

Felix has also been deeply influenced by people he’s never met. One of them is Enrique Olivera, the owner and head chef at Pujol, the Mexico-City restaurant currently that’s one of the best in the world.

“He breaks with all conservative methods of cooking in Mexico and creates artisan, modern, sophisticated dishes,” Felix says as he explains his admiration. “Like a Posole. It’s a traditional soup but he turns it into an elevated dish. And he has three different types of Mole, even one without a protein.”  

We talked about my conversation with Richard Sandoval, the Colorado-based global restaurant entrepreneur who was the focus of last month’s Off Menu column. Felix admired how Sandoval brought traditional, authentic Mexican dishes to audiences that hadn’t tasted it before. He also admired how Sandoval grew his business. “How he can expand a company that big. It’s insane. Huge. Different concepts, but still everything has an authentic, Mexican direction.”

It’s that passion for culturally authentic Mexican food which Felix admires in Cortez, Olivera and Sandoval. Felix wants to bring 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 were fresh, the shrimp stood out as the best and went well with both spicy and mango Margaritas. He talked about making mole for Rosas, how he uses his wife’s grandmother’s Zacatecan recipe. He spoke about multiple kinds of ceviche, and the deep metal pan, called a cazo, that makes the best carnitas.

We talked about what he is really trying to do. With his restaurant in Erie and with other, future concepts.

Felix shares, “My vision, sure, it’s having a restaurant. Being an entrepreneur is part of that dream and I cook with my heart. But it’s also to bring to Erie more authentic Mexican experiences. Bring my culture. Be more than a chain. Be local.”


Deborah Cameron
Deb brings a passion for community journalism and for the local food scene. She started out as an intern and over the years grew into our current Cuisine Editor. She has appeared in multiple publications including the Longmont Leader, The Left Hand Valley Courier, Ms. Mayhem, Finance101, and Ask.com. When not writing she's eating, road tripping, dog-parking, or watching high school softball. She moved to Colorado from Seattle in the early 2000s after spending a year traveling the U.S. in a teal Ford Escort hatchback. She lives with her husband, two teenagers, and a rescue dog named Charlie.

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