Comal, a lunch eatery and restaurant incubator, is now open in the former Fuel Cafe space on the Taxi Campus. The casual spot will serve a rotating menu focused on the cuisines of Mexico, El Salvador, and Peru, curated and prepared by a group of local culinary entrepreneurs ... with a twist.
The restaurant is part of a community outreach program aimed at giving low-income women residents of Globeville, Elyria and Swansea job training and economic resilience. The three neighborhoods have been considered the poorest and most blighted ones in the city for years. The heritage food incubator comes to the RiNo neighborhood in partnership with nonprofit, Focus Points, an education-focused organization.
"In the spirit of integration, Comal will help bridge the gap between neighborhoods that are literally adjacent to each other but worlds apart," said Slavica Park, director of economic and workforce development at Focus Points. "Since food transcends all barriers in bringing people together, we hope to begin to shift the dynamic, even offering classes led by entrepreneurs to teach the community about cooking, culture and history."
Comal translates to the traditional griddle use to cook tortillas in Mexico and Central America. The regular menu will offer homestyle Mexican combo lunch platters, including a choice of soup or salad, one of three daily entrees with rice and beans, and grab-and-go options, such as pupusas, tamales and burritos.
The classes at the incubator will operate in eight-month cycles, teaching participants skills in marketing, financial literacy, computers and English, as well as culinary arts, ideally setting the women up to ultimately launch their own ventures. In addition to the lunch service, running Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m, the Comal group will offer off-site catering, with 60% of all revenue paying the women for their time and effort. The other 40 percent covers operations and educational costs.
Focus Points brought on executive chef Tim Bender, whose resume includes Chinook Tavern, Blackbird Public House and Black Pearl. He committed to helping the Comal group, bringing their kitchen skills up to high-quality standards. Upon greeting his team of 15 last week at a soft opening lunch, he noted they didn't need much assistance with recipes, rather his focus would be on learning operations, sourcing, presentation, timing and standardizing dishes for a restaurant setting.
Disclosure: The editor is married to one of the developers behind Taxi, the development in which Comal resides.