The Denver Tech Center is "an area distinctly lacking in interesting ethnic food," I said in last week's review of Street Kitchen Asian Bistro. In fact, I almost expanded that sentiment to cover everything south of Hampden Avenue, an area filled with fast-casual and upscale chains that tend to overshadow the independent restaurants that do exist in the area.
Not every reader agreed. "As someone who has worked in the Tech Center almost exclusively for the past fifteen years," wrote Mantonat, "I'd be happy to show you around for some tasty ethnic food. In fact, in terms of diverse dining, there are more options than just about any other part of town if you choose to look beyond the corporate chains."
As proof, he served up a list that includes Pho Saigon, Yolanda's Tacos, El Azteca, Shiraz, Karl's German Deli, Chicago Mike's, Yazoo, Jabo's, Little Bangkok, Ali Baba, Yanni's, Bara Sushi, Bambu, Pho Vy, Saigon Landing and Chinook Tavern.
But what makes a restaurant "ethnic," anyway? I wasn't thinking about Jabo's -- a Louisiana-inspired barbecue joint that I reviewed last February, which serves up some of my favorite links, brisket and pulled pork in the city -- when I used the word "ethnic." Nor would I apply the term to Chicago Mike's -- which does a great hot beef -- or Yazoo, a Tennessee-style 'cue joint across the street from Jabo's. I associate the word "ethnic" with "foreign" -- and not just "foreign," but usually "cheap." I doubt I'd use the term "ethnic" for a French bistro where I'm dropping beaucoup bucks.
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India's Castle, which I included on my list of Denver's five best places for lunch near the Tech Center, certainly fits this definition. And so would Shiraz, one of the only Persian places in the region -- and therefore worth a trip even if you're not working or living near the Tech Center.
But the comments got me thinking about more than dictionary definitions. They got me thinking about some of the hidden gems outside of Denver city limits. And so I'm inspired to head back to my former stamping grounds -- I grew up less than a mile from the office parks of the Tech Center -- to see what I might have overlooked in the past few years. And I'll be visiting other suburbs, too, looking for the hole-in-the-wall ethnic spots in Lakewood, Westminster and Arvada, and reporting back on my best finds over the next few months.
Do you have suggestions for places outside of Denver city limits that I shouldn't miss? Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave your ideas in the comments section below.