- Pho Duy, 945 South Federal Boulevard
- Pho 95, 1002 South Federal Boulevard
- Ba Le Sandwich, 1044 South Federal Boulevard
- Saigon Bowl, 333 South Federal Boulevard
- New Saigon, 630 South Federal Boulevard
Pho Duy, 945 South Federal Boulevard
The Denver area has dozens and dozens of pho shops, most of which serve up decent bowls of noodle soup. But only a few really stand out, and the one that rises to the top is Pho Duy, which is located in a strip mall on Federal Boulevard. The menu is as spare as the decor. Save for a few specialties and spring rolls, there’s not much offered beyond pho – but the kitchen doesn’t need to make anything else to pull in crowds. Its intensely layered broth, which tastes like it comes from a very well-seasoned pot, supports nests of springy noodles, thin slices of beef, brisket or offal, and all the fresh herbal produce you can stand. Ribbon it with sriracha or ask for a little of the restaurant’s homemade hot sauce for a punch of heat.
Pho 95, 1002 South Federal Boulevard
Pho 95 is another contender for the best pho-maker in town. We’re suckers for the brimming bowls of rich beef broth filled with tendon, tripe or rare steak and noodles, sided by heaps of bean sprouts, cilantro and saw-leaf herb. But we also love almost everything else on Pho 95’s menu, including bun (noodle bowls), spring rolls, egg rolls and a plate of thin pork chops, coated in a sweet-savory marinade and grilled crispy.
Ba Le Sandwich, 1044 South Federal Boulevard
There are a few places to get great banh mi sandwiches in town, but our favorite is Ba Le, a tiny shop that turns out the city’s best version, packing crisp-crusted baguettes with pate, pickled carrots, jalapeños and cilantro, among other fillings. You’ll have to take your sandwich to go – or perch on the planter outside to eat it – but at less than $5 each, this is lunch on the cheap.
Saigon Bowl, 333 South Federal Boulevard
Saigon Bowl has held down its spot in the Far East Center for more than fifteen years, but it would probably take a lifetime to eat your way through its extensive menu. The kitchen cooks up a vast array of bun and pho, but it also turns out stir-fried frog’s legs, jellyfish salad, lobster tail, a variety of simple and traditional fish preparations, and our favorite Vietnamese fondue pot in town. Chinese specialties have also snuck onto the list – just as they have in many places in Vietnam – to expand the authentic tastes of southeast Asia.
New Saigon, 630 South Federal Boulevard
New Saigon, which I review this week, is one of the oldest Vietnamese restaurants in Denver, and it’s still one of the best. The kitchen serves up a broad spectrum of dishes from Vietnam, one of the best countries for eating in the entire world. A smart way to sample much of what New Saigon has to offer is the rice-paper wrap platter, which holds all the goods to make your own spring roll-style wraps out of soft-shell crab, grilled shrimp, pork and egg rolls. But no matter what you order here, you’re sure to be pleased. That’s what earned the spot our Best Vietnamese Restaurant award in the Best of Denver 2011 – and what makes it the Vietnamese eatery to beat in the Best of Denver 2012, which hits the streets on March 29.
Sunny Gardens - 6460 East Yale Avenue 80222 - Denver
|(303) 691-8830||6460 East Yale Avenue, Denver, CO 80222|
Spice China, 269 McCaslin Boulevard, Louisville
We spend a lot of hours searching out the most authentic representations of Szechuan, Taiwanese and North Chinese specialties this city has to offer, but there’s also a special place in our hearts for the more Americanized dishes. Louisville’s Spice China definitely has a decent list of more or less authentic Shanghai-based specialties, and it also serves up some of the best Americanized Chinese food – including kung pao, mu shu and lo mein – we’ve had in the area.
King’s Land Seafood Restaurant, 2200 West Alameda Avenue Alameda Square
is a good bet for Chinese food, not least because it’s home to King’s Land Seafood restaurant, a joint that’s been turning out a worthy array of dim sum for more than a decade. During prime hours, trolleys roll through the massive 300-seat spot, and the women pushing them plunk down dumplings, porridges, stir-fried vegetables and hard-to-identify parts of animals at each table. Just make sure you get there before 3 p.m., which is when the carts stop rolling.
Zoe Ma Ma, 2010 10th Street, Boulder
Edwin Zoe noticed a lack of real Chinese food in Boulder, so he imported his Chinese mother from a coastal town in Shandong Province to make her recipes and fill the gap. From a tiny space just off the Pearl Steet Mall, Zoe Ma Ma turns out fantastic noodle dishes that span northern Chinese and Szechuan specialties, delicious dumplings and zong zi, bamboo-wrapped packets of rice, pork, mushrooms and lotus seed. And while the regular menu contains satisfying staples, we’re most enamored of the daily specials, one of which is the fiery, rib-sticking Szechuan braised-beef noodle soup.
Super Star Asian, 2200 West Alameda Avenue
A few months ago, Super Star Asian made the decision to expand, which will double the number of seats in its Alameda Square dining room. Why? Because the place was perpetually packed, thank to its ability to sate dim sum aficionados with its massive selection of handmade dumplings as well as please anyone after rarer Chinese delicacies, like shark’s fin soup and steamed chicken feet. There really is something for everyone on this menu, and it might be the best restaurant in Denver to spot a chef on his or her day off.
Star Kitchen, 2917 West Mississippi Avenue
We usually go to Star Kitchen for dim sum, and we’re not the only ones. At lunch time –especially on the weekends – the restaurant is a chaotic sea of people, with families huddled around tables, the adults passing dishes back and forth on a lazy Susan while kids dart in and out of aisles, bumping into staffers pushing carts loaded with steamers and platters. And we can eat bun after bun and dumpling after dumpling until we explode, one reason the place earned our Best Dim Sum designation in Best of Denver 2011. But the restaurant also maintains a tome-like menu of non-dim sum dishes, and the seafood specialties in particular are worth your attention.
China Jade, 12203 East Iliff Avenue, Aurora
This Aurora strip mall spot has two menus. One features Americanized Chinese dishes like egg rolls, lo mein and mediocre kung pao – not a single one of which is really worth a second glance. The other menu, though, lists the good stuff: crispy pig intestines, tendon, thinly sliced smoked pork belly and steamed buns. It’s a vast offering of some of the best Chinese-Chinese dishes, laced with garlic and ginger and heat.
Lao Wang Noodle House, 945 South Federal Boulevard
When Chung-Ming and Tse-Ming Wang moved to Colorado from Taiwan, they brought their culinary specialties restaurant. And here in the Mile High City, we’re lucky enough to get a real taste of their former home, with bowls of Taiwanese beef noodle soup loaded with five spice, pan-fried pot stickers and pig’s ear. Their xiao long bao – or soup dumplings – are worth the trip alone.
JJ’s Chinese Seafood, 2500 West Alameda Avenue
Fish tanks flank the walls of this Alameda joint, from which the kitchen plucks specimens – like lobster – to turn into dinner. And to be sure, JJ’s turns out some excellent seafood dishes, employing jellyfish, razor clams, squid, shrimp and scallops, all specialties of the Cantonese chef. But the massive menu at JJ’s goes beyond ocean life, too, covering everything from pedestrian sesame chicken to crispy pig’s intestine to duck tongue with basil in XO sauce.
Tao Tao Noodle Bar, 10400 East 6th Avenue, Aurora
Tao Tao resurrects many favorites from the Federal location of Chopsticks China Bistro, which same owners David Lee and May Sung moved to the suburbs before closing last year. American-Chinese staples such as kung pao and Happy Family are supplemented by authentic Chinese-Chinese dishes, including dim sum and a raft of platters featuring intestines, jellyfish and tendon. The couple also took the opportunity to expand their offerings, adding more specialties from Shanghai as well as a handful of noodle dishes from their native Taiwan, listed in the breakfast section alongside Chinese morning rice porridges and dumplings, even though noodles are available all day. Don’t miss the juicy pork dumplings here, either.
Chef Liu’s Authentic Chinese Cuisine, 563 South Chambers Road, Aurora
Chef Liu’s is another spot with a “secret” menu, and it’s one that features specialties from all over China, including Beijing-style pork with bean paste, fried pork livers and dan dan noodles. But truly, Chef Liu’s specialties are the Szechuan dishes, from mouth-numbing beef to cumin-rubbed lamb to Szechuan chicken. The best way to approach dinner here may be to have your server order you a feast of interesting items, though everything that comes out of the kitchen is excellent. And that’s what earned the restaurant Best Chinese Restaurant in Best of Denver 2011.
Hong Kong BBQ 1048 South Federal Boulevard
An honorable mention goes to Hong Kong BBQ, a spot at 1048 South Federal Boulevard that serves up noodles, porridge and, yes, Hong Kong-style barbecue dishes. It’s a favorite of Cafe Society editor Lori Midson.
Thai Flavor 1014 South Peoria Street
At Thai Flavor, the curries are what shine, made by Surin Thanon, a native of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, and served in a no-frills Aurora dining room. The star of the show is the panang curry–creamy with coconut milk and laced with the heat of chili peppers, tempered with fresh lime, garlic, and herbs, and dotted with tender cuts of meat.
Thai Diamond Cafe 1560 Kipling Street
Among a vast menu of hot curries and a host of other traditional Thai plates, it’s hard to go wrong. Complex, savory favorites like Pad Thai are coveted by the loyal flocks that return to Thai Diamond Cafe, along with comforting bowls of Tom Kha Gai, a hot and sour soup scented with lemongrass, swimming with chicken, mushrooms, and lime leaves in a delicate coconut broth.
Thai Pot 1350 S Colorado Blvd #900, Denver, CO 80222
This pint-sized Thai spot on Colorado Boulevard is about to move into some new digs: In January 2014, Thai Pot will move a stone’s throw away from its current location, where patrons can still find aromatic Thai basil chicken, shrimp red curry, and drunken noodles, in a range of heat levels.
Snow Thai 406 East Colfax Avenue
This Colfax newcomer has quickly been decorated with praise from the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and although the owner is from Burma, Snow Thai turns out healthy portions of Thai standards, like flavorful Pad Thai and spiced curries. To top it off? every entree comes with a freshly-made eggroll, on the house.
Liang’s Thai Food 16th and Tremont Street
This friendly downtown cart serves up simple, authentic Thai food to a snaking lunch line, and everything is made from scratch on Liang’s one burner. The expansive menu runs the gamut from Panang and massaman curries to pad Thai, spicy sour soup and pad see ewe.
J’s Noodles Star Thai 945 South Federal Boulevard
J’s Noodles Star Thai crafts its dishes in a simple (and tiny) space that seats no more than a handful of customers. Still, they come in for traditional plates of larb, ground meat mixed in a spicy lemon dressing with onions, cilantro, roasted rice powder and mint, and a legendary pad Thai.
US Thai Cafe 5228 West 25th Avenue
US Thai is actually owned by a Laotian, and the cuisine tends to favor northern Thai. The balanced offerings dreamed up in the open kitchen include habit-forming curries and noodles, which if you’re not careful, can scorch your taste buds for your next few meals. Play it safe and order the medium heat – it will still make you sweat.
Udom Thai 7547 South University Blvd.
For staples like papaya salad, thom yum, and thom kha (plus chef specialties like pork belly with broccoli and addictive mango sticky race), Udom Thai is one of greater Denver’s most coveted Thai spots, especially for Littleton residents. But for those willing to venture just a little bit further, it’s worth the drive.
Wild Ginger 399 West Littleton Boulevard
Wild Ginger is one of a handful of global cuisine options in Littleton and a comfortable place to train your palate in the tastes of Thai flavor: an Americanized heat scale that ranges from mild to hot-hot is available across the board in all dishes, like traditional noodles and curry. Kudos to a more expansive selection of desserts.
Star Thai 8048 West Jewell Avenue, Lakewood
Yet another nondescript strip mall gem, customers swear by the bright, complex green curry and plates of pad Thai, all customizable on the heat scale. And although the space might feel questionable, the Thai dishes, along with a small section of Chinese specialties influenced by one of the native Chinese owners, make the place truly shine.
Thai Monkey Club 102 South Broadway 4122 East Colfax Avenue
To many, Thai food is associated with a sweat-inducing heat, and at Thai Monkey Club they’ve made something of an endurance test out of this association, offering a six-level heat index not intended for the faint of heart. Whatever your poison, it can be cooled down with a refreshing papaya salad or creamy Thai iced tea.
Thai Street Food 11650 Montview Boulevard, Aurora
Utumporn Killoran’s works of food art made their mark on patrons when she began turning out her dishes from a cart on the 16th Street Mall. A few years and a move to a brick-and-mortar later, Killoran delights with plates influenced from her home in the Issan region of Thailand, from standby curries to the coveted noodle jelly salad, earning Thai Street Food Westword’s award for Best Thai Food this year.
India’s Castle 9555 East Arapahoe Road, Centennial
Since 2005, India’s Castle has offered authentic tastes of Punjab, a state in the northern region of India. Tapestries and cozy lighting make a comfortable setting as you feast on kormas, curries, flaky samosas and creamy saag. And as an added bonus on Fridays, you can experience India Castle’s weekly belly-dancing night.
Azitra 535 Zang Street, Suite C, Broomfield
Azitra, dubbed an “Indian culinary nirvana,” is a departure from your typical Indian restaurant in both design (modern and minimal) and menu, which is divided into two categories: contemporary offerings and traditional entrees. The contemporary offerings range from a tulsi-scented salmon filet in spiced coconut creme to a masala-spiced rack of lamb; goat curry, spiced vindaloo and steamed biryanis satisfy cravings for old standbys.
Yak & Yeti Restaurant & Brewpub 7803 Ralston Road, Arvada
Yak & Yeti serves up perfectly-spiced Indian and Nepalese fare – with the additional draw of award-winning beers, brewed in-house and inspired by Indian flavors. Diners can enjoy a Himalayan IPA or Chai Stout while cleaning a plate loaded at the all-you-can-eat buffet. That spread is packed with carnivorous and vegetarian options, including daal, paneer pakora, tandoori breads and meats, masala, vindaloo and Tibetan thupka. For added atmosphere, it’s all served in the oldest house in Arvada.
Namaste India 5545 Wadsworth Bypass, Arvada
Two students from Nepal opened Namaste India in Arvada this year, adding to the area’s ethnic mix. The extensive menu includes homestyle favorites: sauce-laden, lightly-spiced meats and curry, plus vindaloo, masala and saag that will please almost any palate – although our reviewer thought the kitchen could be a little more adventurous.
India’s Best 1500 West Littleton Boulevard, Littleton
India’s Best, a family-run Indian joint opened by restaurant vet Hardial Singh, turned a former strip-mall bar into a passage to India. The atmosphere may be bare-bones, but the menu has everything you could want, from clay-oven meats marinated in yogurt, garlic, and ginger, to endless variations of curry, masala, korma and vindaloo. Don’t miss the lamb madras rubbed with hot spices, or the tender butter chicken.
Masalaa 3140 South Parker Road, Aurora
Masalaa has carved out a special spot for itself in the area’s array of Indian options: It’s food of southern India, all vegetarian, and mostly vegan and gluten-free – but there’s no compromising on flavor. The sprawling menu has many interesting options, featuring a host of fresh vegetables and a vast array of spices. The shabnam curry, for example, mixes mushrooms and green peas, then cooks them with onions and a tomato gravy tempered with curry leaves and red chili. A favorite spot.
Bombay Bowl 575 Lincoln Street
Bombay Bowl, the fast-casual Indian concept, was inspired by a need for quality Indian food, fresh and cheap. The menu at Bombay Bowl caters to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, offering bowls, plates and rolls with your choice of tikka masala, saag, curry, channa masala or peeli daal. Add spiced tofu, chicken or beef, plus naan, samosas or a creamy mango lassi, and you have an exotic, healthy, inexpensive meal to go.
Namaste 3355 South Wadsworth Boulevard, Lakewood
If you’re heading to Namaste, make sure you’ve emptied the rest of your day. The vast menu, which ranges from traditional Indian to Tibetan, has something for everyone, and the lunch buffet alone could keep you occupied for hours. Food can be ordered as hot as you can handle.
India’s Restaurant 7400 East Hampden Avenue
India’s Restaurant has been turning out plates of authentic Indian specialties for the last two decades, and continues to do it well. Expect expertly-spiced curries, tandoori meats fresh from the charcoal-fired clay oven, and a host of beautifully prepared vegetarian dishes, including creamy dal makhani and spiced aloo gobi. The service is friendly and efficient, and the setting is upscale and exotic. The winner of our Best of Denver 2013 Best Indian Restaurant award – and with good reason.