Ohana Island Kitchen
Laura Shunk

When Louie and Regan Colburn started slinging poke out of a walk-up window in 2016, the Hawaiian classic was hardly a bump in the Colorado culinary scene. Fast-forward six years and one pandemic later, and now there seems to be a poke spot on every corner. While most rely on endless customization options and toppings, Ohana's simple, classic take remains the best. As in Hawaii, the poke here is served in a way that lets the ahi tuna itself shine. All you have to do is choose between shoyu and spicy — and decide how many Spam musubi you're getting on the side. ("At least two" is the correct answer.)

Pho 79

Along the stretch of South Federal Boulevard where noodle houses outnumber lowriders on a Sunday night, a handful of no-nonsense Vietnamese spots, most serving rice plates and steaming bowls of pho, have stood the test of time, and Pho 79 is the standout. The restaurant's decor is warm and inviting, and the menu is comforting in its simplicity (no analysis paralysis here). The broth — a true test of any pho shop's worth — is stout and flavorful, and the accompanying bean sprouts, jalapeños, basil and lime wedges are always fresh and crisp. That said, we rarely pass up the opportunity to order one of the house specialties: bun bo Hue, a spicy soup studded with thin-sliced beef, pork sausages and unctuous pork hock.

Ramen Star
Mark Antonation

The best ramen starts with the noodles, and Ramen Star is nearly alone in Denver in its dedication to fresh ramen noodles made in-house daily. The process is time-consuming and difficult, but it results in springy, flavorful noodles that hold up in a hot bowl of broth down to the very last spoonful. Chef/owner Takashi Tamai fills his bowls with both traditional and unique ingredients, from supple chashu pork to crisp-skinned potato pierogi. Serious ramen lovers go straight for the tsukemen, which offers thick noodles served separately so that you can dip them in an intense, velvety broth. We'll slurp to that!

Seoul ManDoo
Mark Antonation

Is bigger better? Once you sink your teeth into an imposing "giant dumpling" (really, that's what they're called on the menu!), you'll never go back to diminutive dumplings. The baseball-sized giants come stuffed with chopped noodles, veggies and a variety of meats, each one threatening to burst its perfect pleats. But if you're into something dainty, Seoul ManDoo sells standard-sized steamed or fried mandoo, too, and you can even buy a frozen pack to take home and cook whenever you get a craving. With Seoul ManDoo, you can go big and go home.

Blue Ocean Asian Cuisine (Little Chengdu)
Mark Antonation

This sparsely decorated Denver Tech Center strip-mall spot, which still bears the "Blue Ocean" sign and online presence of its predecessor, offers an array of traditional Chinese dishes found on a lengthy Chinese menu that's MIA online. The main draw at Little Chengdu: noodles hand-made by the owner at a small station outside the kitchen entryway, where he pulls them with mesmerizing efficiency — something you can't find anywhere else in the city. He works solo, running both the front- and back-of-house operations, so plan to take your time when you visit. But visit often, so that you can eat your way through other specialties, too, like hot pot cooked at your table and handmade Szechuan wontons stewed in chili oil.

Savory Vietnam
Molly Martin

Opened by the daughter of the founders of New Saigon in 2019, Savory Vietnam has a cavernous dining room and, somehow, an even bigger menu. While the sheer number of options can be overwhelming, the dozens of soups, salads, noodle and rice dishes, stir-fries, hot pots and chef's specials reflect the wide range of styles and influences in Vietnamese cuisine. Go with a group that likes to share, and start with a mounded platter of finger food and fresh herbs that you wrap in rice paper to create your own rolls. Then dig into other selections, all of which arrive from the kitchen vibrant with color, aroma and flavor — like a tour of a busy street market.

Long Shots Bar and Grill
Eric Gruneisen

Located right off of I-70, this Wheat Ridge bar is a familiar stop for truckers, bikers, sports fans, and...Vietnamese food lovers? Skip right past the burgers, wings and green chile-drenched burritos and you'll find a full menu of Vietnamese favorites, including pho, spring rolls, rice noodle bowls and more. Long Shots' deliciously inauthentic take on the banh mi, simply dubbed a "Vietnamese sandwich," includes your choice of marinated grilled steak, chicken, pork or lamb, with cucumber, cilantro, lettuce, jalapeños and green onion served on two thick, golden slabs of buttered Texas toast. It's a long shot from a regular banh mi, but it's also particularly tasty — especially when enjoyed alongside the kitchen's crispy fried green beans and an ice-cold beer from one of the bar's many taps.

Woody's Wings N' Things
Molly Martin

Don't judge this place by the cartoon chicken logo that looms over the entryway. This Woody's, a sparsely decorated strip-mall joint in Westminster (which is not affiliated with the Aurora or Arvada locations), sees a steady flow of diners who fill the booths and long tables. They flock here not for the wings (though there are a couple of varieties available), but for the binder full of dishes with their roots in the Indochina peninsula. Much of the Woody's staff hails from Cambodia, the source of many of these dishes, but there are also items whose origins lie in Thailand, Vietnam, China and Laos. From Thai duck larb to canh chua, a Vietnamese sweet-and-sour fish soup, a stop here is a crash course in Asian cuisine.

Thank Sool Pocha
Mark Antonation

In an age when dining out is serious business and frequenting restaurants is your patriotic duty, settling down for a meal at Thank Sool Pocha is just plain fun. The place is hopping, with families speaking Korean and English while digging in during the early evening hours before being supplanted by groups of all ages focused on knocking back tiny glasses of soju. There are dishes for adventurous eaters (steamed sea snails and cow-stomach barbecue) as well as those who aren't so interested in investigating intestines as food (mix-your-own rice balls, kimchi pancakes and Korean fried chicken). All of it is served in a lively, convivial atmosphere that's so comfortable you'll feel like a treasured regular by the time your check arrives.

The Porklet
Mark Antonation

The Porklet, with its adorable porcupine logo, is so named because pork cutlets are the specialty, jacketed in an almost painfully crunchy breadcrumb shell and dripping juice with each bite. But you'll also find two kinds of fried chicken on the menu at this little joint that's small on space but big on flavor. There's a chicken version of the house cutlet, called the Chicklet, of course, served sliced and presented on a wire rack to keep the bottom as crackly as the top, but there are also meaty wings that somehow manage to maintain their crunch beneath a sticky layer of sauce. Choose from sweet honey butter, tangy Buffalo, savory Garlic Bomb or the messiest of them all, the Black & White BBQ. It's okay to make a pig of yourself with fried chicken this good.

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