Sap Sua in Denver Lands on Esquire's Best New Restaurants List | Westword

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Sap Sua Named One of the Fifty Best New Restaurants in America by Esquire

"They’ve made their moms proud," the publication writes.
Bắp cải luộc is Sap Sua's buzziest dish.
Bắp cải luộc is Sap Sua's buzziest dish. Casey Wilson
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Between the arrival of the Michelin Guide Colorado and a slew of impressive openings, 2023 has been a big year for the Denver dining scene. Now, one local eatery is celebrating another notable achievement.

The husband-and-wife team of Ni and Anna Nguyen opened Sắp Sửa at 2550 East Colfax Avenue in June, but it was getting buzz long before that, first as a cart in Longmont and then as a series of pop-ups with a menu centered on "non-traditional Vietnamese food," Anna explained to Westword when the brick-and-mortar restaurant made its debut. "What that means for us is that everything is very inspired by the traditional dishes in terms of flavor and the feelings that evokes."

Before the first guest was served in its permanent home, the restaurant landed on our December 2022 list of the most anticipated openings, and then it gained national attention when Bon Appétit named it one of its eight most anticipated openings of summer 2023.

"So many people have believed in us from so early on," Anna said as the restaurant opened. And now another national publication has recognized the eatery. On November 28, Esquire published its list of the fifty Best New Restaurants in America, 2023, and Sắp Sửa was the only Colorado eatery to make the cut.
click to enlarge two people holding pies
Ni and Anna Nguyen, owners of Sắp Sửa.
Chris Marhevka
Like Bon Appétit's, Esquire's commentary on the restaurant highlights a cabbage dish that is particularly special to Ni. "After work, Ni Nguyen's mother, Hien, was exhausted," the magazine reports. "Her son remembers the simple dinner she would prepare: boiled cabbage with fish sauce and egg-yolk dressing, a dish called bắp cải luộc. Let Sắp Sửa, the restaurant that Ni and his partner and co-chef, Anna Nguyen, just opened, be a comfort to working parents: Every humble childhood memory could hold inspiration. This classic Vietnamese dish is transformed into a confited cabbage that, like the rest of the menu, is handled with brio and love. They’ve made their moms proud."

This marks the first time a Denver restaurant has landed on Esquire's radar for that list. In 2020, it recognized three Colorado establishments on its roster list of the "100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose" — Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, the Silver Grille Cafe in Fort Collins and Alpino Vino in Telluride, but nothing within city limits.

But the Mile High is now a culinary scene to watch, with chefs and owners like the Nguyens leading that charge.

While the cabbage has become the buzziest dish on Sắp Sửa's menu, diners shouldn't overlook the rest of the lineup, which has evolved as new dishes continue to be added. Ni and Anna's approach to running their restaurant includes listing every single staff member on the menu itself, a shift from the norm in which only the executive chef and/or chef de cuisine is given visible billing. They've been transparent on social media, too, posting proudly about the new dishes being created by staff members, like chef Theo Bodor's take on đậu hũ dồn cà chua, fried tofu in tomato stew with peanuts and rice, which is on the current menu.

Just before Thanksgiving, Sắp Sửa debuted the Bakehouse, a weekend-only daytime bakery that marks a return to Anna's culinary roots. While it has since announced that the venture is "on pause" for the rest of the holiday season, we're already looking forward to its return next year as this team continues to impress. 
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