First look: Comida, Rayme Rossello's cantina, opens today at The Source

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After months...and months...and months of hungry impatience on the part of Denverites yearning for a year-round culinary showroom, The Source, a promising -- and pioneering -- new project from urban developers Mickey and Kyle Zeppelin, the progressive trailblazers behind the TAXI development in River North, unveils its first tenant today: Comida, Rayme Rossello's Mexican cantina, will open at 11 a.m.

See also: Comida is opening a second location at the Source in River North

And Rossello, who began her career with Proto's Pizza in 1999 before rolling out the Comida food truck in 2010 and capitalizing on its street cred success in 2012 with a brick-and-mortar by the same name in Longmont, isn't just the first resident of The Source to open her doors: She was also the first to sign a lease.

"Signature, independent restaurants are a very large component of The Source, and Comida was an ideal fit, not least because this is a project that requires vision and boldness -- and Rayme has both," says Zeppelin, whose behemoth, grafittied epicenter of cookery, cuisine and liquid assets has been in the works for three years. "Her ideas and strong convictions are representative of where this project started, where it is now and where it's going," he adds.

Rossello met Zeppelin and his wife Andra, now the editor of Eater Denver, just three weeks after she opened Comida in Longmont -- and while she admits that she was in absolutely no hurry to open a second location, an e-mail from Andra spiked her interest. "She sent me an e-mail saying that she and Kyle were doing this new project in Denver and wondered if I'd be interested in sitting down and talking about it," recalls Rossello. And the meeting that followed, says Rossello, solidified that interest. "It wasn't that they just wanted me to be a part of this -- they wanted me to be at the front of it, and while this process has really stretched me, I feel really appreciated and proud to be a part of it."

"Some people would say she's a badass," quips Zeppelin, who stresses that Rossello's confidence -- and the fact that she "takes the clearest path to where she's going" -- was exactly the kind of tenant that The Source, which occupies a former foundry, was looking for. "There's no drama with Rayme; she's someone who really cares about what she's doing and she stepped up and saw the same potential and vision that we saw," he says.

Still, signing those lease papers required a hefty sacrifice: Rossello needed to acquire a small business loan in order to finance the cantina, and the only way to do that, she reveals, was to sell her home in Boulder. "I sold my house to do this project, but life is all about taking risks, and I'm 100 percent convinced that I made the right decision," she says. "I've been living at TAXI for the past several months, and watching the progress of The Source from outside my window has been amazing -- the risk was completely worth it," she insists, breaking into a wide smile while standing inside her new 140-seat restaurant, an urbanized ode to taco culture that's similar in menu and design to the Boulder original.

But there are significant differences, too, including a mezzanine -- complete with a retractable garage door -- that overlooks the wide open expanse of the communal section of The Source, which occupies a whopping 25,000 square feet. Comida's open kitchen, longer than the one in Longmont, peeks over a thirteen-and-a-half-foot community table, and there's a double-sided bar with seats on both sides offering two opposite views: one side peers into the cantina, while the other side eyeballs the action inside The Source's main thoroughfare. But the most marked difference, says Rossello, is the fact that she's ringed by like-minded restaurateurs, artisan food purveyors, wine geeks, beer nerds and spirit scholars. "I'm surrounded by amazing tenants doing some really great things, and we're all here to bring people together under one roof and build a community," she says.

The kitchen, commanded by Martin Campos (formerly of Jax Fort Collins and Beano's Cabin, in Beaver Creek) and Josh Cosgrove, most recently of the Downtown Aquarium restaurant, turns out fantastic street tacos (the griddled ones are super-addictive), tostadas, gorditas, quesadillas, tortas and several appetizers and side dishes, all of which can -- and should -- be paired with wines, beers and a full spectrum of bewitching cocktails, including margaritas.

Comida, which will be joined by more than a dozen other dwellers in the coming weeks, including Acorn, Crooked Stave, Mondo Food (a boutique cheese shop), Boxcar Coffee Roasters, Meathead (a full-service butcher shop), Babette's bakery, Proper Pour (a specialty wine shop), CapRock Farm Bar and Americanum Provisions (a produce-driven market), will be open seven days a week, beginning at 11 a.m.

I stopped in yesterday to peek at the space (and eat tacos, of course) and snapped a gallery of photos. Herewith, the first look of The Source's first inhabitant.

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