May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and what better way to celebrate than through food? From the cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines to those of Korea, Japan and India, as well as both the Cantonese and Szechuan styles of Chinese cooking, the Denver metro area is packed with a wide variety of Asian food options.
We’ve rounded up some standout eateries that are owned by members of the local AAPI community to get you started, though there are many more to support this month and beyond.
Adobo’s Filipino fusion dishes take the shape of tacos, burritos and more.
3109 Federal Boulevard
1309 26th Street
The flavorful menu at Adobo reflects owner Blaine Baggao’s Filipino heritage and New Mexican upbringing. His business, which started as a food truck in 2016, now serves food at RiNo’s First Draft and at its stand-alone West Highland restaurant. Expect green chile, chicken adobo burritos, lumpia, smoked wings and more at our 2023 pick for Best New Mexican/Filipino Mashup.
Thoa Nguyen, owner of Banh & Butter Bakery.
Banh & Butter Bakery Cafe
9935 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora
Thoa Nguyen’s parents are the former owners of New Saigon Restaurant and its attached bakery, and she studied pastry in France. Those experiences inspired her to launch Banh & Butter in April 2022, an endeavor that we named the Best East/West Bakery this year. On offer are Nguyen’s signature crêpe cakes, green tea cruffins, and other almost-too-pretty-to-eat pastries, along with a variety of banh mi sandwiches, including its popular lemongrass grilled pork. You can also enjoy beverages like ube foam cold brew and iced Vietnamese coffee served over flan.
Bibimbop at Bop & Gogi, served in a stone pot bowl.
Mile High Asian Food Week
Bop & Gogi
10639 East Briarwood Avenue, Centennial
7541 South University Boulevard, Centennial
This fast-casual Korean eatery with two locations in Centennial is an ideal pick for your lunch break or a quick and easy dinner. Specialties include kimbop and Korean-style seaweed rolls, but the must-order is the sizzling bowl of bibimbop topped with spicy bulgogi and served in a hot stone bowl.
2648 South Parker Road, Aurora
This longstanding Asian-owned eatery is our 2023 pick for Best Vietnamese Restaurant
. The family-owned spot is known for its homestyle fare
, including large, steamy bowls of pho and housemade ginger ale. But the Indian-inspired lamb curry may be an even greater reason to visit, as this lemongrass-laden dish is owner Mama Le’s specialty.
Spicy fried chicken tossed in Sichuan chili, a favorite at Hop Alley.
3500 Larimer Street
Restaurateur Tommy Lee’s RiNo establishment is one of the 100 restaurants we can’t live without, and after recent renovations, it now has an expanded dining room with even more space for fans of dishes like bone marrow fried rice, la zi ji (Szechuan fried chicken), dan dan noodles and Beijing duck rolls. Beyond the food, Hop Alley boasts a lively atmosphere with a hip-hop playlist that makes a meal here feel more like a party.
Enjoy affordable Japanese bowls at this fast-casual restaurant.
2390 South Colorado Boulevard
5535 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada
Kokoro, a fast-casual Japanese eatery, is built on affordability and convenience. Both of its locations have drive-thru service for a quick fix of satisfying options like curry, tempura, sushi, ramen, Yakisoba noodles and rice bowls topped with Red Bird chicken or juicy, thin-sliced beef.
1201 East Colfax Avenue
At Lucky Noodles, Thai street food favorites are the draw. Its OG red curry, vegetable-pork dumplings and Tom Yum noodle soup are owner and chef Ploy Limpapath’s specialties. Savor these and other delicious bites within the plant-decorated restaurant or on its outdoor patio.
A variety of Filipino staples appear on Manila Bay’s menu.
13800 East Mississippi Avenue, Aurora
There aren’t a lot of Filipino options in the metro area (though another one is slated to open next year), but Manila Bay is a favorite thanks to it airy atmosphere and hearty, family-style plates of pancit, dinuguan (pork blood stew), chicken adobo and jumbo shrimp in crab fat. Refreshing sips of buko pandan horchata break up the meal, and the ube ice cream-topped halo halo is a must-try dessert.
Meet & Eat Bistro’s mapo tofu sprinkled with ground Szechuan peppercorns.
Meet & Eat Bistro
10021 East Hampden Avenue
Located in the Kennedy neighborhood near the Aurora border, Meet & Eat Bistro specializes in Szechuan fare, offering items that are tough to find at other eateries in town, including steamed eggplant with salted egg yolk and fried lamb with cumin. One must-try is the mapo tofu, which is bolstered by a generous sprinkle of ground Szechuan peppercorns on top, plenty of savory ground pork, and super-silky cubes of soft tofu.
Chili oil and Màlá seasoning give these mozzarella sticks a kick.
Meta Asian Kitchen
1526 Blake Street
Meta Asian Kitchen’s owners Ken Wan and Doris Yuen recently closed its Avanti stall as they prepare to launch their first brick-and-mortar, MAKfam in Baker. While that concept won’t open until this fall, Meta Asian Kitchen continues to serve favorites like bao buns, dumplings and its spicy take on mozzarella sticks from the kitchen at Honor Farm, the haunted bar with an upstairs tiki hideaway on Blake Street.
Misaki Sushi, one of several Asian-owned establishments inside Stanley Marketplace.
2501 Dallas Street, Aurora
As founder of the Asian Restaurant Association and co-owner of Misaki Sushi, Charlene Thai is highly involved in the Denver AAPI community. Her Stanley Marketplace eatery opened in 2018 and has since gained recognition for its laid-back ambience and high-end sushi. Be sure to order its namesake roll, a crowd favorite crafted with tuna poke, avocado tempura, mustard yuzu sauce and seared tuna.
Mukja’s Korean street cheese dog “trifecta.”
Mukja is a family-owned and -operated food truck that specializes in Korean street food, namely cheese dogs. These deep-fried delicacies on a stick come in four flavors, including Jalapeño Poppin’ Cheese, elote, Hot Cheeto, and classic Korean street cheese. Wonton nachos and kimchi fries are other creations by owner Julia Rivera, who, along with her children James and Kayla Makowski, won the Food Network’s Food Truck Prize Fight just last month.
Pho King Rapidos’ pho banh mi, soon available at Avanti Denver.
Pho King Rapidos
Pho King Rapidos
3200 Pecos Street
This popular food truck from owners Long Nguyen and Shauna Seaman launched in 2020 serving a menu that mashes up Vietnamese cuisine with Mexican and New York City influences. Now it’s making two big moves: It will debut a stall at Avanti Denver on May 9, and soon it will open a brick-and-mortar in Park Hill along with Yuan Wonton owner Penelope Wong and Sweets and Sourdough, an artisan bakery.
Korean barbecue is one of two dining experiences to enjoy at Seoul K-BBQ & Hot Pot.
Seoul K-BBQ & Hot Pot
2080 South Havana Street, Aurora
The On Havana Street district in Aurora is home to a large number of diverse eateries, including this one, which nabbed our 2023 pick for Best Korean Restaurant is one of fifteen spots owned by busy restaurateur JW Lee. Here, patrons can choose from two traditional Korean dining experiences: all-you-can-eat hot pot or Korean barbecue cooked at your table and served with a wide variety of banchan (small side dishes).
Dim sum and other Cantonese dishes are Star Kitchen’s specialties.
2917 West Mississippi Avenue
This popular spot has been a staple in the Little Saigon district for over fifteen years. Its family-style plates of Cantonese fare hit the spot at all hours, and it regularly draws a long line for its weekend dim sum brunch, where you can load up on options like barbecue pork buns, shrimp dumplings and egg tarts from the roving carts.
Tea Street owners and siblings Victoria and Patrick Lam.
4090 East Mississippi Avenue
Tea Street’s menu boasts dozens of bubble tea flavors. Taro and jasmine milk are classics, but siblings and owners Victoria and Patrick Lam welcome you to try its less common ingredients like pandan, chrysanthemum and winter melon. Through AAPI Heritage Month, Tea Street is hosting a bingo card activation in partnership with local Asian-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations. These include Jade Mountain Brewing Company, Meta Asian Kitchen, Mukja, Pho King Rapidos and Yuan Wonton, as well as nonprofits Asian Girls Ignite and Colorado Asian Culture & Education Network. Bingo cards can be collected at any participating vendor and should be submitted to Tea Street’s Instagram account by May 28. Prize winners must cover three vertical, horizontal or diagonal squares, and an extra entry is gained by blacking out the board.
Many Tokio dishes require Japanese imports and hours of cooking.
2907 Huron Street, #103
Tokio’s owner and chef Miki Hashimoto aims to transport guests to Japan’s vibrant capital at this Five Points favorite. Time- and labor-intensive ramen bowls are the primary draw, with a variety of options, including the heavy cream- and cheese-infused Cremoso Diablo, though it also serves sushi and a variety of small plates.
6500 West 120th Avenue, Broomfield
Tu’s Kitchen opened this year and has quickly become a favorite in the local AAPI community. The Broomfield eatery serves traditional Vietnamese dishes, including pho and a large variety of vegetarian options. Though unfamiliar to some, don’t shy away from the house specials, including lẩu mắm và rau (fish hot pot) and mì khô, hủ tiếu khô (dry egg noodles, pork and shrimp served with a flavorful bowl of broth).
Though untraditional, the fare at Urban Village Grill leans into the chef’s Indian heritage.
Urban Village Grill
Urban Village Grill
8505 Park Meadows Center Drive, #2184, Lone Tree
Enjoy a modern take on Indian fare at this Park Meadows Indian eatery from chef Charles Mani. Boneless tandoori chicken, coconut curry and dal makhani, which simmers in a tomato-butter sauce for 24 hours, are some favorites. There are also outdoor grilling stations, where guests can sear marinated meats while enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
A blend of spices creates bold flavors at US Thai Cafe.
US Thai Cafe
5228 West 25th Avenue, Edgewater
This longstanding Edgewater eatery is known for its bold, authentic and fiery flavors. Drunken noodles, pineapple fried rice and panang curry are favorites on the menu, but go easy on the spice unless you’re accustomed to the burn from Thai chiles — even the medium level is sure to make you sweat.
The plant-based “hot flamingo roll” at Wellness Sushi.
2504 East Colfax Avenue
Co-owner and chef Steven Lee made a brave move in opening Denver’s first plant-based sushi and Japanese restaurant, but his courage and creativity has paid off. Westword recently named Wellness Sushi one of the city’s best vegan restaurants, and here, vegans and omnivores alike can dig into flavorful renditions of teriyaki “beef” onigiri, spicy “tonkotsu” ramen and a wide variety of maki rolls.
The signature chili-garlic wontons at Yuan Wonton.
Last year, the popular Yuan Wonton was our pick for Best Food Truck, and this year, it nabbed our Best Dumplings award. Owner and chef Penelope Wong has gained local fame herself; she was named a James Beard Award semifinalist this year and was one of our people to watch in 2023. The food truck typically pops up all over town, often selling out pre-orders in minutes, but soon it will be easier to get a taste when its Park Hill brick-and-mortar debuts. The space will also be home to Pho King Rapidos and Sweets and Sourdough.