Noodle bars, noodle houses, noodle joints: Call them what you will — as long as you call them addictive and delicious. Most also offer a selection of small plates, soups and stir-fries, but the noodles are always the main attraction — a bouncy nest of ramen, a tangle of rice noodles submerged in pho broth, a heaping plate of pad Thai. Here are our ten favorite Asian noodle houses in Denver, in alphabetical order. Slurp on!
701 Grant Street
Restaurateur Frank Bonanno was early to the Denver noodle game, adding Bones to his Governor's Park arsenal right between Luca and Mizuna in 2008. Choose from soba, udon or ramen dressed in traditional garb or outfitted outlandishly in carbonara or pork green chile.
What to order: Ditch notions of authenticity and dive into that carbonara, with pork belly and a poached egg swimming in a Parmesan black-truffle broth that will have you tipping the bowl to your lips to down every last drop.
42 South Broadway
Chef Lon Symensma's one-room tour of Southeast Asia is a noodle bar and more. While maybe half of the entrees at any given time (the menu changes regularly) are noodle-based, what's there is always shirt-spatteringly good. Whether you're in for Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian or otherwise, you'll always find the true flavors of those countries, occasionally with fun and modern touches.
What to order: The northern Thai coconut curry has been on the roster since day one. Simultaneously rich, bright, creamy and crunchy, this is a customizable tribute to khao soi, served in a split-level lunch pail with fried noodles on top and zippy broth beneath.
8. J's Noodles Star Thai
945 South Federal Boulevard
The rice is nice at this South Federal stalwart, but if you're in the mood for a noodle or two, this is your west-side stop. Start with a salad of slippery bean-thread noodles with a bracing lime-and-mint dressing before moving on to heartier fare like a beefy drunken-noodle plate or soy-slathered pad see ew.
What to order: You're in a Thai joint in Denver, so you must be craving pad Thai — and you're in luck, because J's has a double feature. Stick with the standard or opt for the country-style pad Thai for a warming dose of tamarind and fish sauce.
7. Katsu Ramen
1930 South Havana Street
Aurora's Katsu Ramen was an instant hit from the get-go when it opened a year ago, with lines out the door for lunch and dinner. Things have simmered down a little since then, but the bubbling pots of ramen broth — six styles, to be exact — still draw faithful fans. From light shoyu to angry-orange tantanmen to rare hiyashi chuka (chilled ramen), there's something for every mood.
What to order: Katsu's rice and ramen combo starts you out with a trio of dumplings before plunking down two full bowls at your table. Our love of pork draws us to the cream-thick tonkotsu ramen, sided with a chashu bowl of braised pork. We know, it's pure piggy excess — but we like to leave waddling.
6. Osaka Ramen
2817 East Third Avenue, 303-524-9229
2611 Walnut Street, 303-955-7938
More ramen, you ask? The golden Japanese treasure might just be the emperor of all noodles. When done right, the perfect spring and chew of the ramen combined with swirling, salty broth and thin-cut meats can't be beat. And chef Jeff Osaka, who went from zero ramen bars to two last year, does it right, whether your preference is a delicate chicken broth or a surprisingly power-packed vegetarian bowl based on Thai green coconut curry.
What to order: Choose from five ramen styles and slurp until you hit the bottom of the bowl, but just remember that a plate of My Wife's Donuts — little, deep-fried pillows hiding spheres of chewy mochi within — awaits. These can't be skipped, no matter how full you think you are.
Keep reading for more of the best noodle houses in Denver...
5. Pho Duy
925 South Federal Boulevard
Pho Duy has been a favorite for years, and its new location (right next to the old one at Federal Boulevard and Kentucky Avenue) keeps the hits coming in a bigger, more modern space. All of the usual suspects are there: rare steak, brisket, tendon, tripe and flank. But you'll also find less common treats like marinated rare steak, shrimp, Vietnamese meat roll (like ultra-dense meatloaf) and a vegetarian bowl that's worth a trip on its own.
What to order: We'll know you're a pho monster if you order the monster-sized large bowl. A medium is more than enough to get us sweaty and stuffed. And ditch your trepidation at the door: This is the place to finally try tendon and tripe.
4. Pho Le
1195 South Federal Boulevard
If Duy is tops for pho, Pho Le is where to go when you're ready to explore the remainder of Vietnam's vast noodle offerings. Egg noodles, vermicelli, banh tam bi as thick as chopsticks and other rare wonders await those willing to stray from Le's admittedly delicious pho mainstays.
What to order: If you're feeling adventurous, get a bowl of hu tieu mi nam vang: two kinds of noodles beneath a heady broth bobbing with quail eggs, shrimp, thin slabs of pork heart and riblets. The condiment dish alone is worth the price, just to see the variety of traditional greens beyond pho's standard basil and cilantro.
2907 Huron Street
Pull up a stool at chef-owner Miki Hashimoto's hidden sushi and ramen bar in the Prospect neighborhood (that's in the western shadow of Coors Field, in case you're curious) and peruse the noodle menu — you'll have twelve bowls from which to choose, all writhing with ramen, udon or rice (which are really just really short noodles, right?). Start with something from the bincyo-tan list first, though, for some charcoal-grilled skewers — a rarity in Denver restaurants.
What to order: If you're looking to skip the meat, try Tokio's unique "ramen air" broth, made with pureed sweet potatoes, pumpkin, soy milk and miso.
2215 West 32nd Avenue
A seat at Uncle during prime weekend hours is still like finding Willie Wonka's golden ticket, even after more than three years of feeding ravenous ramenites. But go early (in the day and the week) for wet or dry noodle offerings packed with flavor and originality.
What to order: Everything, from original recipes featuring duck and apple or kimchi and shredded pork, to traditional hits like shoyu with chashu or spicy chicken. Just be sure to ask for an umami bomb — a thick spoonful of either caramelized miso pork or spicy seven pepper.
1. Uncle Joe's Hong Kong Bistro
891 14th Street
Uncle Joe's noodle slate may be small, but what's there is worth a foray into the bustling heart of downtown. Recipes come from China's island city and feature layered flavors of hard-to-come-by sauces and wok hai — that special something added by a searing-hot and well-seasoned pan. Grab a seat at the bar for some clever cocktails and a plate of something far from standard, overly sweetened takeout fare.
What to order: Uncle Joe's was founded in Hong Kong (ours is only the second in the world), and the Law family (which owns both) brings back dried scallops to make its own XO sauce in-house — which is then added to a shrimp-and-scallop dish with tight coils of noodles called "rice pillows." Try it and thank us later.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.