The past 19 months pushed the restaurant industry to its limits. In a year where dining establishments were forced to switch gears to survive, it’s difficult to categorize the restaurants with pre-pandemic norms.
What qualifies as “the best” restaurants in the nation over the past year? Does it minimize the unprecedented struggle of the industry?
Nevertheless, last Tuesday, the New York Times published The Restaurant List 2021. The interactive list allows diners to explore new and classic food experiences after a year and a half of closures and restrictions.
While the restaurants are not ranked, the final list reflects the “rich mosaic of American dining.” And as part of that culinary mosaic are two Colorado restaurants.
Even though they are very different in food and style, the New York Times list included Boulder’s Frasca and Denver’s Comal Heritage Food Incubator as among the “most vibrant and delicious restaurants in 2021.”
Comal Heritage Food Incubator
In Denver, Comal Heritage Food Incubator just celebrated its fifth anniversary on October 15. The restaurant serves a variety of international meals in the Five Points neighborhood. From Mexican to Ethiopian cuisine, the restaurant’s menu constantly rotates depending on who is in the kitchen.
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Who is working in the kitchen is a big part of Comal Heritage. In addition to a rich menu, the mission of the restaurant consists of training immigrants and refugees in the food industry. The goal is to help immigrants develop entrepreneurial skills in order to one day establish their own businesses. As a result, the menu rotates as participants prepare and perfect dishes from their own cultural heritage.
You might get succulent carne asada one week and lamb shoulder marinated in Iraqi spices the next. That is the wonder of Comal Heritage Food Incubator.
Comal’s team always looks to help others. During the pandemic, they prepared soups and meals for families from their neighborhoods. Additionally, they delivered meals for the Denver Metro Emergency Food Network.
Frasca Food and Wine
Frasca has become a staple in Boulder over the past 17 years. The refined eatery had a specific mission from the beginning — to bring the authentic flavors of the northeastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia to a small town in Colorado.
The New York Times wrote, “The Rockies are a long way from Trieste, but the flavors here make the journey beautifully.”
The elegant Italian restaurant is not new to praises by the press or even accolades. Just in 2020, Frasca was nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant. It also won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality in 2019 and one for Outstanding Wine Service in 2013.
The restaurant is currently serving its autumn menu and offers indoor and outdoor dining.
Check out the complete interactive New York Times list of the best 50 restaurants across the U.S. on nytimes.com.