Denver’s culinary scene has always packed an abundance of flavor. Everyone who moves here can find a small piece of home in the form of a taco, an arepa or a dumpling. However, there is one flavor palette Denver has yet to discover – Puerto Rican cuisine.
That was Kadishia Cardona’s dream when she and her mother, Mayra Garcia, decided to open Sabor del Campo (Taste of the Countryside), a virtual kitchen that offers pickup, delivery and serves authentic Puerto Rican food. The mother-daughter duo wanted to bring a piece of Puerto Rico to the city where everyone could enjoy the hearty dishes that Cardona’s mother would make for her growing up.
“That’s how the dream started,” said Cardona. “With that passion of being able to bring our food and our culture to the city of Denver.”
From Orlando to Denver
Cardona moved to Denver back in 2017 after accepting a job opportunity with Snapchat. She recalled the day she moved here and immediately googled ‘Puerto Rican food in Denver’. It brought up zero results.
“I was so upset. I told my mom she needed to move here. I basically moved my mom here from Florida because I needed her food,” Cardona joked. “That’s how that passion started. [Puerto Rican food] is lacking here and we realized it is definitely needed.”
Aside from necessity, Cardona was committed to making her mother’s dream come true. Garcia has worked her whole life in kitchens, working in fast-food restaurants and as a freelance caterer for weddings and small events back in Orlando. However, her dream was to have her own kitchen and make her own food. Just a year later, in 2018, Garcia moved to Denver with her daughter.
The concept first started as a Puerto Rican food truck but it quickly shifted into a cloud kitchen at 2045 Vallejo St. The idea has become more popular lately as business owners can start by renting a kitchen space instead of opting for the traditional, and more expensive, brick and mortar restaurant. It minimizes costs and it is easily accessible for pickups and deliveries by major apps like Doordash or Uber Eats.
After being open only a few weeks, Cardona quickly saw customers sharing pictures online of their food orders. “It’s emotional and amazing to see people post pictures of food I have been eating my whole life,” said Cardona.
A Taste of Puerto Rico
Sabor del Campo’s menu doesn’t hold back. If you are looking for Puerto Rican food, it’s as authentic as it gets. Appetizers start with empanadillas ($4-8), similar to empanadas in other countries. You can have your filling of choice — ground beef, shrimp, cheese or the classic empanadilla de jueyes, or king crab empanada.
The main course will always have the option of pernil y arroz con gandules ($18), a typical holiday dish in Puerto Rico. It includes roasted pork shoulder, with traditional Puerto Rican seasoning and yellow rice with green pigeon peas. You can also order other Puerto Rican delicacies like fried sweet plantains ($4.50), tostones ($4.50), yuca with garlic sauce and red beans.
While Cardona and Garcia plan for these items to always be on the menu, they want to constantly change and add new dishes as the weather changes and the requests come in. They recently added alcapurrias ($4.50) to the menu, a fritter made out of mashed green plantains stuffed with ground beef. It is a delicacy that will remind anyone who has been to the island of a day at the beach with an iced cold beer.
Cardona and Garcia are happy with the turnout. Every time Cardona sees a 787 area code, Puerto Rico’s area code, when an order comes in, she can’t help but be excited. But it is not just boricuas calling to order. Cardona said she’s noticed many people from the Latin American community ordering as well. She also hears from people who have visited the island and miss the food.
“Everyone who calls us [to order] has a story,” Cardona said. “About why they are ordering from us which I love. I love hearing those stories.”
Even though Garcia now has her kitchen, to cook her recipes as she pleases, the dreams don’t stop there. The mother-daughter team has a goal to open a dine-in location possibly by the summer, hopefully still in the center of Denver.
In the meantime, they continue to switch up the menu and offer the variety of flavors and textures that Puerto Rican cuisine has to offer. Just like mami used to make.
Sabor del Campo is located at 810 Vallejo St, Denver. It opens Wednesday to Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It is a virtual kitchen, available only for pickup or delivery via Uber Eats and Grubhub.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas.