Silvia at Lost City Delivers a Build-Your-Own Bowl Concept With Deep Affection

On Wednesday, November 17, Comal Heritage Food Incubator co-founder Silvia Hernandez opened her solo counter-service debut from within Lost City‘s confined kitchen. Housed in a particularly bustling corner of the sprawling mixed-use Taxi by Zeppelin campus in Rino, Silvia at Lost City is a fully-actualized build-your-own-bowl concept that draws inspiration from her mother Goyita’s cooking and her experiences in kitchens in and around Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta. The concept follows a four-month stint where she served only breakfast out of the same space. While the project has largely been a one-woman show, Silvia was joined by her daughter Sabrina Hernandez in August.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Silvia spent much of her life in the service industry, having studied gastronomy at CONALEP — or the National College of Professional Technical Education — in her native Mexico City. Her mother — whose family hailed from Oaxaca — largely acted as a sous in kitchens across the megalopolis, instilling Silvia with a love of cuisine from an early age. Though, much of her formative culinary experience would take place in Puerto Vallarta, where she spent 13 years after being drawn there to work what would ultimately be a scam job that had her working for a piece of an overpriced timeshare rather than real wages. Despite a rocky six months following her arrival, she ultimately used the experience to fuel a career that allowed her to absorb the flavors of the region, melding them with the styles she had grown up preparing.

Having helped to establish Comal in 2016, Silvia has had her hands full, contributing to the massive Denver Metro Emergency Food Network, which got over 300,000 meals into the hands of low-income families and the elderly throughout the pandemic’s most harrowing days. Silvia at Lost City was developed with long-time collaborator Rachel Feinberg, who encouraged Silvia to do bowls despite the chef’s initial hesitation.

While the food at Lost City is steeped in nostalgia, the orchestration and the chef’s commitment to making every last bit in-house make the dishes feel profoundly personal. Tradition abounds. Even so, the fare is hardly traditional. Silvia’s menu at Comal was always distinct, but each bite had at Lost City tastes of a chef who has truly found a way to translate her personality palpably into her cooking. It’s an impressive feat, especially considering the necessarily varied results that come when customers construct their dish from a plethora of bases, proteins, toppings and sauces.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The base ingredients range from more classic Mexican favorites — calabacitas and elote — to more commonplace southwestern toppings. Tortilla strips, Pepper Jack and fajita peppers are all part of the plan. Built over a base of either tricolor quinoa, brown rice or mixed greens, the bowls highlight the proteins. Pork al pastor, chipotle shrimp, Caribbean chicken and mushrooms rancheros are available to be mixed and matched exactly as patrons please. The house-made sauces — most notable the creamy jalapeno and chipotle crema — illustrate Silvia’s deftness with employing condiments as binding forces rather than simply as added flavors.

Much like Silvia’s previous projects, Silvia at Lost City is a deeply personal reflection of a chef who has always viewed food as the viable thread that connects all the places and communities she so clearly cares for.

Silvia at Lost City is located inside Lost City at 3459 Ringsby Ct., Denver. It is open Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

All photography by Adrienne Thomas.