When Comal Heritage Food Incubator launched a year ago at 3455 Ringsby Court in the TAXI development, it was more than just a restaurant. Comal is part of Focus Points, a community outreach organization that helps low-income families with education, employment and health initiatives in the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods. But Comal also serves great food, and it proved it at a first anniversary celebration on October 17.
Comal's patio space is as large as the dining room itself, so chef Tim Bender and his staff, consisting primarily of recent immigrants and refugees from the surrounding neighborhoods who want to learn catering and restaurant-management skills, take advantage by cooking outdoors when weather permits. A large concrete planter has been converted into a fire pit, and Bender recently added a steel comal so that fresh tortillas and other Latin American foods can be cooked on its searing-hot surface. There's also a wood-fired oven for baking (don't miss the pita bread on Fridays) and a smaller fire pit for grilling meats.
Slavika Park, who runs the workforce-development side of Comal, says that the educational aspect of the restaurant has evolved over the past year. In addition to Latin American cooks, the kitchen also has Syrian and Iraqi trainees; Comal serves their food on Fridays. While the majority of participants have been women, a few men have also been through the program, which now also helps cooks develop skills to help them land jobs at nearby restaurants like Acorn and Comida. Several of the trainees who have completed the program now have business licenses for catering or operating their own food trucks, and many others have found restaurant jobs.
Last night's party showcased dishes from several of the program's success stories, including posole, Salvadoran pastries, tacos made with fresh tortillas, carne adobada, chile verde, chicken kabobs, hummus and saffron rice.
Comal is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, with Latin American cuisine served the first four days of the week, and Syrian and other Middle Eastern dishes served on Fridays.
For more information, call 303-292-0770 or go to Comal's Facebook page.
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