Imagine visiting your grandmother's house for dinner — only to find someone else's grandmother cooking in her kitchen.
Something similar happened at Los Parceros, the Colombian restaurant founded by Joaquin Contreras in 2013 at 5922 East Colfax Avenue. A couple of years ago, Contreras sold the place to a Venezuelan friend who took over the Colombian menu while adding recipes from her own country.
La Rola, a food truck that also has a counter at Zeppelin Station. Chaparro says the food at Los Parceros was always good under the previous owner, but it just wasn't what years of regular Colombian customers had come to expect.
"People have called me crazy for acquiring a restaurant in the middle of COVID, but that's the reason I did it — because it has great opportunity to grow," Chaparro says, explaining that out of his various businesses, he's choosing to focus primarily on Los Parceros right now. "I want people to feel like they can bring their families and know that the owner is present."
The food appeals to a wide variety of customers because of its homey nature, familiar flavors and mild spice, Chaparro says. "At Zeppelin Station we get very specific customers, but this one has a little bit more diversity," he adds. "I'm seeing more Park Hill and Mayfair customers, as well as people from Colombia."
The national dish of Colombia is bandeja paisa, a heaping platter of rice, beans, chicharrón, ground beef or steak, chorizo, fried plantain and a fried egg. The chorizo is milder in flavor than its Mexican cousin, and firmer, so it's served grilled in the casing rather than crumbled. And the chicharrón is also distinct to Colombia; it comes as a strip of skin-on pork belly scored along one side and grilled so that it curls into the shape of a bear claw. Colombian pork belly is chewier than braised versions found in modern American restaurants, so be prepared for more texture than you might expect.
Another popular meal is sancocho, a beef rib and chicken soup bobbing with big chunks of potato, yuca and plantain. The soup comes with a side of rice with lime and avocado; Chaparro advises you to fish out the big pieces of vegetable, chop them up in the rice, and use a spoon to scoop up the long-simmered broth with bites of the rice mixture.
Whatever you order, expect more food than you can comfortably eat in one sitting, and make sure you wash your meal down with a tropical fruit juice: Lulo, maracuyo, guanabana, mora, guayaba and tamarindo are among the options, and there's also agüepanela, a refreshing (but not tart) limeade made with dark cane sugar.
"Colombian food can bring you back to traditional home cooking," Chaparro concludes — the kind of home cooking you long for, even if you've never had it before.
Los Parceros is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and opens at 9 a.m. on weekends. Call 720-379-3808 for more information, or to ask about private dining for small groups available after 8 p.m.