Adrian Miller’s Top 5 Soul Food Dishes in Denver

By Ruth Tobias  |  June 4, 2014
Credit: Ruth Tobias

Adrian Miller has been our go-to for expert advice on soul food (and Southern food, and barbecue) for years. But since the publication of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time - otherwise known as the winner of the 2014 James Beard Award for Reference and Scholarship  - he’s been in demand from every corner of the world. Just today, for instance, the Washington Post published his story on African American chefs in the White House, based on a documentary project long close to his heart, one that he’s currently funding through Kickstarter. Yet somehow, just in time for National Soul Food Month, he found a moment to share his favorite local dishes with us. 

Coconut Cake at CoraFaye’s Cafe
Coconut cake (pictured bottom) "is definitely a Southern- and soul-food favorite. But because of the refined ingredients, it came about as something you’d have only once in a while,” explains Miller. “CoraFaye’s version is really moist. Get the Kool-Aid too: every soul-food joint needs to have a red drink. In soul-food circles, red is a flavor. It can be Kool-Aid, fruit punch or pop. We don't get caught up in describing something as cherry or strawberry.” (By the way, CoraFaye's serves a mean oxtail too.) 2861 Colorado Blvd.; 303-333-5551

Cornbread at Boney’s
“Soul food-style cornbread is on the sweet side. Boney’s recipe [pictured top] is appropriately sweet, but doesn’t taste like cake,” according to Miller, who praises this downtown smokehouse’s collard greens as well: “They’re tender but still have some texture, not boiled to death so they’re falling apart. And they’ve got great flavor from the smoked meat and spices.” (P.S. You can find out more about Boney’s here.) 1543 Champa St.; 303-825-9900

Fried Catfish at Welton Street Cafe
“It’s not too greasy, with a nice, crunchy crust and flaky flesh. They serve it bone-in, so it has more flavor,” Miller says of the catfish (below) at this Five Points kitchen, which also earns his nod for best chicken and waffles. 2736 Welton St.; 303-296-6602

Pork Neck Bones at Flava
Paying “homage to the funky cuts of meat used in the soul-food tradition,” this Aurora joint makes what Miller calls a “very comforting and satisfying” plate of neck bones and rice in a “nice, rich gravy.” 15343B E. 6th Ave., Aurora; 303-856-3590

Seafood Gumbo at Kirk’s Soul Kitchen
“If someone’s going to be a stickler,” Cajun-Creole gumbo “actually represents another culinary genre,” Miller admits. And he goes to great lengths to define these terms in his book. But “this is the kind that I would make at home; it’s more on the brothy side. Ever had gummy gumbo, almost like gravy? This is not that. And it has a nice quantity of veggies and meat in it.” 14107 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora; 720-474-1996