Denver is known for many things—its access to the Rockies, 300 sunny days a year, rising tech sector and bustling night life, to name a few—but one thing that many see as lacking is the food scene. Although Denver hosts hundreds of breweries and taprooms with some of the finest beers in the country, there’s somewhat of a general consensus amongst residents that the city’s culinary offerings don’t quite match the diversity and quality of its brews.
While this notion can be heavily debated, Denver eateries have a high standard to meet—that is, they must appeal to the young and picky “foodie” types that inhabit the inner city—which, when you add the staggering number of vegan and gluten-free eaters into the mix, may seem like an impossibly tall order. But there’s one niche market that’s seen tremendous growth over the past few years: Chinese food.
While it’s not always the go-to option for city fare, Denver has recently seen an uptick in quality Chinese food establishments. Here’s a list of the most popular and highest-rated Chinese eateries in the city, in no particular order.
Located at 3421 East Colfax Avenue, Q House was recently featured in 5280 Magazine’s Best Restaurants of 2019. Although it’s only been in operation since May of 2018, Q House has already built a reputation thanks to chef Christopher Lin’s Taiwanese-inspired dishes and knowledge of Chinese cuisine. Utilizing ingredients such as Sichuan peppercorns and pickled mustard greens, Q House offers vegan and gluten-free options as well as a variety of Asian-inspired cocktails. The braised pork rice dish is especially popular.
Within the heart of Denver’s RiNo neighborhood lies an old soy sauce factory-turned restaurant known as Hop Alley. Owned by restauranteur Tommy Lee of Uncle fame, Hop Alley offers an eclectic menu of Chinese dishes ranging from Taiwanese to Sichuan to Hunan and Cantonese. At the bar, each animal of the Chinese zodiac is featured as a different cocktail, along with draft ciders, craft beer, and wine. A few popular dishes to try include the soft-shell crab and Japanese eggplant.
Szechuan Tasty House
Despite the name, Szechuan Tasty House’s menu offers Chinese fare from many different regions of the country in an Imperial style. The chef hails from the city of Tianjin (south of Beijing), where he cooked for many years before relocating to the US. Imperial offerings include dong po pork knuckle, hong shao rou (pork belly), and zha jiang mian—noodles topped with stewed pork and cucumber. To get the most authentic experience possible, order from the Chinese menu.
Hong Kong Café
Nestled in an unassuming strip mall on the border of Denver and Aurora lies the Hong Kong Café, one of Denver’s highest-reviewed Chinese restaurants. On the menu, you’ll find dishes that range from Chinese-American favorites to regional specialties, including—to no one’s surprise—Hong Kong. As if you needed any more reasons to check this place out, it holds a 4.5 star rating on Yelp with over 400 reviews—no easy feat.
Yum Yum Spice
Located on University Blvd near DU, Yum Yum Spice’s ultimate claim to fame is it’s dry hot pot menu, which offers protein options ranging from pork intestine to duck heads, gizzards, and bullfrog (don’t worry, there’s also beef and shrimp options for the less adventurous diner). Your protein of choice gets tossed with a variety of vegetables, hot chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns for that distinctive numbing sensation. If you go with a hot pot item, be prepared for the heat—both in temperature and in spice.
Zoe Ma Ma
Originally a Boulder establishment, Zoe Ma Ma opened a second location in the heart of downtown Denver in 2014. The name refers to Anna Zoe, the mother of owner Edwin Zoe, whose Taiwanese-inspired dishes include stews, dumplings, potstickers, and meatballs. Their soups, however, shine as the real specialties: the duck-wonton noodle soup and a Sichuan-inspired braised beef noodle soup are to die for.
Sunflower Asian Café
Located off of Mineral Avenue in Littleton, the Sunflower Asian Café offers two distinct menus: one with Americanized staples such as orange chicken and lo mein, and the other with regional specialties ranging from tea-smoked eel to Nanjing salted duck to a variety of fish-based dishes such as the Sichuan-style boiled fish. The owners, who are from the Jiangsu province of China, are known for their friendliness. Just make sure to ask for the Chinese menu when you arrive!
While this list certainly isn’t comprehensive, it’s enough to get you started on your crawl of some of the best Chinese eateries in Denver.