Updated: Feb 11
Small immigrant-run restaurants have laid the foundation for the hippest restaurants in Denver.
There is a very specific food scene within Denver that exists today because of its rich history and I want to talk about it because it gets me excited about food!
What is this specific food scene I’m talking about? Trendy cultural restaurants that offer Denver residents a taste of many things that originate outside of the United States borders, and I don’t think it’s possible to fully appreciate them unless we can understand their humble roots.
A New City
Denver has always been a city of immigrants. In the 1800’s a wave of people came to the Rocky Mountains looking for gold and set the stage for ongoing immigration that we still see prolifically today; “between 1990 and 2000, Denver’s foreign-born population grew by more than 178 percent, and the 2000 Census showed that 17 percent of Denver residents were foreign-born, with most hailing from Latin America.”
People from all over the world - Ethiopia, Peru, Poland, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Vietnam, Somalia, Asia Pacific and other places - now call Denver home. And although immigration and assimilation looked different across these cultures, there was a universal gift immigrants brought with them: food - recipes and ingredients from their home countries that would ultimately become the fundamental building blocks for the specific food scene that exists in Denver today.
Since starting to “walk across the bridge” to other cultures and learn about the people behind the restaurants we visit, all of which are small, family-run staples in their respective neighborhoods, I’ve noticed a relevant theme: an eagerness for these restaurants and the people running them to share their food, and by extension their culture, with the Denver community.
My Delicious Observation
I’ve discovered that many of these restaurants originally served as a local meeting spot for others in their immigrant community. They were the “watering hole” and the “family kitchen” where those from a common culture went to connect with one another and feel in community in a foregin place.
Now, in the 20 to 30 years since, these restaurants have expanded to serve primarily those outside of the originally intended community, and the interest Denver residents have in exploring culture through food has organically caused the influx of trendy cultural restaurants that have put Denver on the national food map.
It was the diversity of food around the city that served as one of the roots of The Same Plate initiative. The desire to connect people through cultural food grew from the understanding that smaller, decades-old restaurants that originally popped up a necessity for community now serve one far greater than what was originally intended and we all have something to be gained from that. Currently The Same Plate hosts monthly events where we establish relationships with these cultural restaurants before we meet, which allows hungry people to experience a real, authentic food connection. We would love for you to join us at our next event.