For many years, the drive-thru at 2215 South Broadway was a neighborhood stop for dip cones, sundaes and Blizzards. But the Dairy Queen that dispensed those treats closed in 2019, and the building stood vacant. Earlier this year, though, a new tenant started serving up something a little different but equally refreshing. Bambu, a California-based chain specializing in Vietnamese chè (sweet, layered drinks and desserts) and coffee, took over the drive-thru.
Bambu first came to Denver in 2017 with shops on South Federal Boulevard and near the University of Denver. While the first one is no longer open, the second chose to relocate from 2058 South University Boulevard — though the move took a little longer than anticipated, according to owner and CEO of Bambu Franchising Marc Geman. After closing the DU spot at the end of 2019, Geman discovered the vacant drive-thru and signed a lease last summer.
If you're going to open a food-service opertion during a pandemic, a takeout-only shop with outdoor tables seems like the right choice. The overhaul took a fair amount of work, Geman says, since upgraded drive-thru technology needed to be installed and the interior had to be reconfigured to accommodate the many options on Bambu's menu.
Boba drinks are familiar to most people in Denver these days, but che drinks and desserts (some of which can be slurped through a straw while others are best eaten with a spoon) are more unusual. But over the past several years, Bambu has streamlined its menu to offer the best and most popular items to the widest range of customers. "It's the mission of this company to introduce these kinds of beverages to a wide American audience," Geman explains.
Hot, iced or blended Vietnamese coffees are a good start, and they can be ordered with flavors like mocha, hazelnut and coconut. Fruity, tea-based drinks are also a good bet, and colorful frozen smoothies come in flavors ranging from strawberry-banana to jackfruit and purple taro. Bambu uses fresh ingredients; Geman points out that whole coconuts are cracked for their coconut water and white flesh every day. Add-ins such as pandan jelly and boba pearls for the che are also prepared in-house; sweetened red and white mung beans, basil seeds, and fruits like longan and lychee are popular che additions. Yogurt parfaits, ice cream mochi and pandan waffles are also available.
Some of the drinks take several minutes to build, and Geman notes that many customers order several at a time to take to waiting co-workers or family. but there's ample parking if you hit the drive-thru and your order isn't ready promptly. "We have nineteen parking spaces and we offer curbside service," he says. "And we also have an online app to order and pay, so our customers can walk up, go through the drive-thru, pull up and park or even get delivery."
If you're curious but a little baffled by the many options, just pick one of Bambu's eleven signature che combos and get ready for a riot of flavors and textures. Think of it as Dairy Queen gone international, with chilly treats for Denver's fast-approaching sunny days and hot summer.
Bambu is now open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Visit the Denver drive-thru's online menu for options and ordering.
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