Sunnyside Salsa Maker Talks Chiles, North Denver Murals

Nick Sandoval, founder and chef of Sunnyside Salsa

For Nick Sandoval, his salsa is about “flavor, balance, and heritage.” Sandoval grew up near 43rd and Clay, where his mother still lives. His wife grew up across the street from La Raza Park. “I’m a northsider born and raised.” After Columbian Elementary, Skinner Middle School, and North High School (class of ‘98), he had the opportunity any Broncos fan would love: working at Mile High Stadium (when it was just called Mile High Stadium), which included getting to watch the team play from the sidelines. “We get one life to live,” said Sandoval and he’s out to try everything.

Sandoval explained he’s a “jack of all trades.” He’s worked for the grounds crews for several of Denver’s sports teams, sound for Denver concert venues, he’s a graphic designer…and of course he makes salsa. 

Growing up, Sandoval said salsa was more than a condiment — it was community. “People share stories talking over salsa…my mom made really good salsa. I have a few cousins who make really good salsa. I thought ‘let me compete with them.’”

He didn’t set out to sell his creations; he just made it at home and brought it to work and parties, but people quickly started asking for more. He started canning it in jars and selling it, unlabeled, to his friends, family, colleagues, their friends, family, colleagues, and the side gig grew.

To make the jump to a commercial product he started cooking it, which changed the flavor profile, and he’s been tweaking the recipes to get it just right. Now Sunnyside Salsa has two products: the original recipe and “Fuego,” which he warns is for lovers of a truly hot salsa. He mixes up the standard recipe and uses scorpion chiles which can reach 2,000,000 scovilles. To put that in perspective, most jalapeños range from 2,500 to 8,000; cayenne range from 30,000 – 50,000. In other words, most people will love the original and the daring will love the fire.  

The current label is designed to make people think of a standard North Denver pitched roof home (salsa is synonymous with home, he explained), but it’s going to be changing soon. They’re using their jars to highlight some of North Denver’s amazing muralists. From classic Northside murals that still adorn the neighborhood to reviving painted over murals, his new partnership is a way for Sandoval to highlight others in the community. 

Sunnyside Salsa’s labels will soon feature murals from North Denver artists

Two of the first artists Sandoval is working with are Jerry Jaramillo and his son Jay Jaramillo. Together they created “Mother Earth” which adorns the outside of Cherry Bean coffee. Jerry Jaramillo also created “Primavera,” a mural that has been removed but is given new life through the partnership. Labels have QR codes so buyers can learn more about the artists and the murals. 

The new jars should be available in the next few weeks but the salsas can be bought now. Sunnyside Salsa can either be purchased on his website or at Leevers Locavore on 38th Ave. He’s currently in discussions with a few local restaurants about using Sunnyside Salsa at the tables and in recipes. You can also follow them on Facebook or Instagram @SunnySideSalsa. 


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