Comida Cantina Still Pleases With a Winter Brunch Menu
Shrimp and grits for brunch at Comida Cantina.
All photos by Ashling Struve
The Source is one of Denver's hottest artisan food markets and has also garnered plenty of national praise since opening in 2013. Among the fifteen merchants, Comida Cantina, a modern taqueria that transformed into a permanent storefront from its modest Mexican taco-truck beginnings, is the only one open for brunch. That brunch menu was good enough to earn a Westword Best of Denver award for best eggs Benedict last year, but Comida has since added a few new dishes to the weekend menu, prompting another visit for a mid-morning meal.
Brunch is all that Comida serves on Sundays, when the taqueria is open only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There's almost never a wait and plenty of parking (you can also make reservations for the patio in summer), making getting in easy as empanadas. In this weather, I'm glad my only option is inside seating -- summer visits have prompted quick meals because the backless stools are insanely uncomfortable and the patio lacks charm, fenced in as it is by a rock wall and surrounded by dilapidated warehouses. The dining area and bar are more welcoming, with views of the open kitchen and a lively view of the Source's other tenants.
Grit with a little glam is what you'd expect for a warehouse conversion in RiNo. Graffiti art decorates the walls interspersed with industrial metal beams and functional garage doors that open onto the patio. With an open floor plan, different spaces are sectioned off for the various specialty vendors. If you have time to kill, drool over the hanging meats at Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe or peruse Mondo Market's oils and cheeses, one of the few tenants open that early on the weekend.
You'll have no problem vanquishing a hangover -- or developing a new one -- as Comida's brunch drinks include the delicious margs they serve at night. In fact, the entire drink menu is available, plus brunch-only, super-spicy Bloody Marys (made with vodka or tequila) and bottomless Comosas -- sparkling wine mixed with house-made grapefruit ginger syrup). We, however, needed a post-holiday recovery day and opted for fresh squeezed OJ (extra pulpy, just how I like it) and grapefruit juice. Comida's wait staff also serves coffee or tea brought over from Boxcar Coffee, the vendor next door, which is a cool way to try a few of the Source's purveyors at once.
The menu offers Mexican takes on a number of brunch staples; Comida changes things up seasonally so there's always something new that seems tailor-made to my tastes.
I was disappointed that one of my favorite summer dishes, the grits and eggs -- with delicately poached duck eggs, is not on the current menu. Please, please bring them back soon -- the combination of dense grits, a house-made sausage patty and a zingy chimichurri are craveable year-round.
Shrimp and grits appeared to be a suitable winter replacement, but I was a bit nervous since Acorn, right across the way, serves one of my favorite versions in the city, so Comida had a lot to live up to. A completely different flavor profile and texture than the creamy, home-style version at Acorn, Comida's featured plump, wild red shrimp (tails on) on a bed of chunky heirloom grits, interspersed with thin apple slices for sweetness, cracklings for porky crunch, and a ring of green chile for spice. Comida's version was complex and completely unique -- my worries proved unfounded.
My roommate, who loves the summertime lemon lobster Benedict, opted for the Comida Benedict this time around, with poached eggs, chorizo Hollandaise, fresh greens, Comida ham, and avocado layered on a buttermilk biscuit. It was a beautiful presentation with bright colors that popped off the plate, but we were both a little underwhelmed until we realized that we had read the description wrong and that the dish did not include chorizo; the flavor of the sausage was instead just part of the Hollandaise. It's still a great Benedict, if a little rich and fatty compared to the lighter summer version.
While there, we ran into our neighbor, who was devouring a plate of huevos rancheros, a staple on the menu all year. After trying a bite of his, I almost stole the plate, which featured artful layers of color -- corn tortillas, black bean refritos, roasted poblanos, and three cheeses, eggs, ranchero sauce, salsa verde, and crema. It's clear why this is an all-season menu mainstay.
Unlike many other brunch spots around town, Comida's Sunday specials come in smallish portions, so you need to order a few extras, whether it's a side of the jalapeno potato hash or an order of lemon queso-fresco pancakes, to leave feeling full. An insider tip: you can order just one pancake, served with a delicate blueberry jalapeno syrup (that's not spicy at all), rather than the plate of three listed on the menu -- as I discovered too late. But c'est la vie, who's complaining about too much sugar?
Infuses spirits at Comida's bar.
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