For the past four years, Comal Heritage Food Incubator has served as a training ground for residents of the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods looking to get a leg up in the food-service industry. It has also served delicious food made by immigrants from Mexico, Syria, Ethiopia and other countries.
The past six months have proven as tough for Comal, operated by Focus Points Family Resource Center, as for the restaurant industry as a whole. But the little cafe at 3455 Ringsby Court has slowly emerged from COVID-related restrictions and is now back to serving lunch four days a week. Things look a little different these days, since indoor seating is limited, but Comal's spacious patio, surrounded by raised vegetable beds, makes for a peaceful place to enjoy the Mexican dishes turned out by the women participating in the program under the guidance of executive chef Arden Lewis, who joined Comal in June 2019.
Comal has also changed up the way it builds its daily lunch menus. Instead of tasking one of the chefs to come up with the whole menu, all of the women are pitching in one dish each from a list of fan favorites, so you're likely to find something you like no matter which day you come in. And many of the ingredients for salads and salsas are still coming from Comal's garden, since tarps were deployed to save plants from the snowstorm earlier in September.
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Comal is serving Mexican cuisine from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday through Friday, while Monday lunch service is being provided by the Prieto's Catering food truck, owned by Comal graduate Erika Rojas.
Syrian cuisine was previously the Friday special, but the mother-daughter team of Vian Al-nidawi and Sara Nassr moved on to open their own catering company, Zaki Mediterranean Cuisine. Nassr says the beginnings of Zaki were difficult because she and her mom planned on opening in early 2020, but the pandemic put a temporary halt to business. After a much-delayed start, she adds, the catering company is finding new customers, and she and her mom have been adapting to serving smaller groups while COVID restrictions remain in place.
Also serving Denver is La Catrina Grill, a catering company run by Comal graduate Silvia Hérnandez, who has added prepared meals to her list of services, and who participated in Meals for Unsung Heroes in April and May, helping to get food to front-line workers at grocery stores and health-care facilities.
Comal officially turns four in October, and while special dinners have been on hold at the restaurant since March, you can help the nonprofit eatery celebrate by stopping at its stand at the Lost City Market, a pay-what-you-can food and farmers' market at 3459 Ringsby Court, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday through October 28.