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8 Reasons to Drive to Aurora

By Ruth Tobias
February 19, 2014

We’ve long sung the culinary praises of this sprawling community east of Denver proper, where a remarkably diverse immigrant population opens Sichuan cafes next to sushi bars next to Persian markets. The following slideshow features just a handful of our favorites; see also our mini-spotlight on Aurora's African cuisine and our recent report on Italian-fusion neighborhood joint Cody’s Cafe and Bar

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Dah Won Rice Cake

    Dah Won isn’t the most inviting place to browse: it looks more like a storage space than a showcase for tteok (the Korean word for rice cake). But the rather shy owner will come out of his shell to explain his array of rainbow-colored, chewy-soft treats. They aren't necessarily meant for dessert: the example pictured at bottom, for instance, is straight-up savory, made from brown-rice flour, red beans, black beans and chickpeas, as well as jujubes that add the barest hint of sweetness (dried figs, apples and almonds do the same for the variety at the top, based on black rice). Some tteok are soft as jelly, others more cake-like, but all are intriguing.

    2222 S. Havana St. Unit I, Aurora; 303-369-7890

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    El Camaron Loco

    Covered in splashy murals and nautical knick knacks, this colorful Mexican seafood shack dishes out dozens upon dozens of platos de mariscos - from ceviche to stews and enchiladas. We vote for the vibrant camarones campesinos, shrimp pan-fried with onions and zucchini, topped with queso blanco and accompanied by rice, salad, salsa verde and (hooray) homemade tortillas. 

    513 Havana St.; 303-326-6644

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Kim Ba Vietnamese Cuisine

    The dining room at this Vietnamese oldtimer is tiny, cramming 15 tables into a shopping-plaza storefront that barely has room for the requisite pictures of footbridges and fishing boats. And the menu is relatively short compared to some of its counterparts on Federal Boulevard. Yet the flavors are big and bold - as with this vegetarian specialty, in which meaty chunks of eggplant and onions come draped in a black bean-studded curry so rich and thick it’s like coconut gravy. A garnish of scallions and chili flakes adds the right touch of brightness.

    2495 S. Havana St. F-31, Aurora; 303-745-1637

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Paris Baguette Bakery

    Right next door to Dah Won, this little bakeshop is run by the sweetest Korean mom and pop - who, oddly, never seem to have baguettes. But they do make fried yeast buns of all kinds. On any given day, you’ll find them stuffed with everything from sausage or potatoes and onions to sweet potatoes. We especially love the versions filled with pastry cream (pictured left), green-bean paste (right) and the angel-food cake (back), delicately flavored with mugwort.

    2222 S. Havana St. Unit J, Aurora; 303-755-2070

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Piper Inn

    From the parked hogs and covered smoking patio out front to the wood paneling, neon signage and pool tables within, this is a real-deal biker bar - that just happens to serve old-school Chinese food on top of the requisite wings and burgers. Why? Well, let’s just say it’s a classic tale of hard-working immigrants that you should ask your Wrangler-clad server about. Don't miss the opportunity to wash down fried-beef wontons with a pint of PBR.

    2251 S. Parker Rd., Aurora; 303-755-0771

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Pisco Sour Restaurant & Lounge

    Technically, this Peruvian eatery sits right on the border between Denver and Aurora, but it's close enough in our book - especially when we’re craving heaps of ceviche, veal-heart kebabs and all manner of potatoes. Don’t miss the sea bass marinated in crema de rocoto (pictured), and be sure to order the frothy namesake cocktail as you kick back in the comfy dining room, which oddly looks a lot an English pub - right down to the cheering soccer fans.

    8501 E. Colfax; 303-222-7777

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Silla Restaurant

    Aurora’s got loads of good Korean food, but we’re partial to this no-nonsense little place - and, as the crowds here go to show, we’re not alone. For one thing, Silla does all the classics right: from bulgogi and galbi on the tabletop grill to bibimbop and the cold buckwheat-noodle stew known as naeng myun. But what really seals this place's must-try status are the outrageous wang mandu: jumbo dumplings stuffed to the bursting point with fiery kimchi.

    3005 S. Peoria St., Aurora; 303-338-5070

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Thai Flavor

    An emphasis on seafood is just one reason this casually cozy strip-mall hideaway is our go-to for Thai eats. We included its wonderful eggplant, egg and shrimp salad in a recent roundup of funky Asian favorites, but the options go on and on: from the fried fishcakes called tod mun pla to shellfish-filled jungle curry to the perfectly plump steamed mussels (pictured) accompanied by a zingy, light dipping sauce that’s more like Vietnamese nuoc cham than the sweeter, thicker variation present at most Thai tables. 

    1014 S. Peoria St., Aurora; 720-859-7648

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