The notion that Denver lacks ethnic diversity is long-held and widespread. It is also totally false. From Ghanian red red to the kothu parotta of Tamil Nadu to Caribbean conch fritters, there's food in this city covering every inch of the globe — all you have to do is leave your comfort zone. Here are just 10 dishes we love to start you down the path.
Kangaroo pie at The Great Australian Bite
Billing its grub as “real Aussie tucker,” this cheery slice of Oz in Aurora specializes in meat pies of all kinds. Kangaroo, however, is the way to go — with lean, gravied cubes of loin as well as potatoes, onions, carrots and celery spilling out from beneath the tender crust. To complete your trip Down Under, textbook mushy peas are a must.
6710 S. Cornerstar Way, Aurora; 303-699-2700
Tahdig at Surena Persian Cuisine
From Costa Rica to Korea, rice eaters everywhere prize the burnt grains on the bottom of the pan. But no one showcases them quite like the Iranians, who create a nutty, crunchy-soft cake from it. At this date-night-worthy suburban retreat, it eats like a meal thanks to the ghormeh sabzi – an earthy yet mellow herb stew with beef and beans ladled on top.
Pan de pollo Salvadoreño at El Tamarindo
A chicken sandwich is a chicken sandwich is a chicken sandwich – unless it’s a Salvadoran-style one. Then it’s a special little snowflake indeed. At this Central American cafe on East Colfax, it comes heaped with chunks of dark meat and coleslaw-like curtido on a bolillo roll alongside watercress sprigs for garnish and the pièce de résistance: a bowl of pollo guisado, or rich, tangy chicken stew, for dipping.
7700 E. Colfax Ave.; 303-320-5490
Hayashi at Kiki’s Japanese Casual Dining
Despite its obvious Western roots, most Americans are oblivious to the wonders of Japanese-style chopped beef in velvety tomato gravy. But it’s as good as comfort food gets – and better still at this University Hills longtimer, where a lunch order comes complete with green salad and miso soup.
2440 S. Colorado Blvd.; 303-504-4043
Utopenci at Sobo 151
Part American sports bar, part old-school Czech tavern, this Baker mainstay wears its split personality on its menu sleeve, presenting wings and burgers on the one hand, goulash and schnitzel on the other. And then there's the knackwurst – pickled in a snappy, oniony brine and plated with rye on the side to ensure happy snacking for the staunchest Eastern Europhile.
151 S. Broadway; 303-778-1560
Tefteli at Masha and the Bear
Studded with rice and smothered in tomato fried cabbage, the meatballs at this quirky Russian bakery/cafe will soothe the soul of anyone who loves dill. (Everyone else had better stick to coffee and pastries, because the herb holds heavy sway here.)
12101 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora; 303-229-7993
Cross-bridge noodles at Hasu Sushi & Grill
Here's Exhibit A in the argument that Denver’s international dining scene is only as robust as we allow it to be: This Cherry Creek Asian kitchen opened with an extraordinary selection of regional Chinese specialties it had to discontinue for lack of neighborhood interest. But one gem remains – Yunnanese cross-bridge noodles. Available off-menu with your choice of seafood, beef or chicken, the stew bubbles with cough-inducing spicy dried chiles and numbing peppercorns, balanced by brilliant greens.
250 Steele St. #104; 303-722-9968
Yassa at The Pikine Grill
Lamb skewers, fish croquettes, hibiscus tea — this Senegalese food truck serves up all sorts of vibrant West African fare. Don't miss the yassa, a hearty, lemon-scented chicken-and-egg stew with potatoes, carrots and onions over rice. Hot sauce is hardly necessary, but then again it doesn’t hurt. (Well, maybe just a little.)
Chileatole at Tamayo
Atole is a warm, sweet corn beverage beloved in Mexico; lesser-known chileatole is its savory, soupy counterpart. The kitchen at Richard Sandoval’s modern Mexican fixture in Larimer Square ladles up a luscious bowl that's thickened with roasted poblanos, kicked up with the heady epazote herb and, finally, sprinkled with fried masa croutons and pequin oil.
1400 Larimer St.; 720-946-1433
Focaccia al formaggio di Recco at Lo Stella Ristorante
Liguria, aka the Italian Riviera, is home to myriad specialties famed the world round, from torta pasqualina to classic basil pesto. As served at Portofino-native Alessandro Polo’s Golden Triangle trattoria, this dish of thin, crisp and flaky Recchese-style focaccia, layered with salty melted stracchino cheese, also deserves its place in the canon – and on your table.
1135 Bannock St.; 303-825-1995