Writer Laura Bond just took us on a tour of King Soopers Store 124 in Glendale, one of the most diverse supermarkets in metro Denver. While it's encouraging to find small pockets of specialty goods at big-name grocery stores, where do we turn to when we're looking for a fresh stack of Ethiopian injera bread, a bag of buckwheat for grandma's Russian soup recipe, or just the right cheese for stuffing gooey Salvadoran pupusas? Denver and the surrounding suburbs are packed with international markets ranging from mom-and-pop shops attached to cafes or delis to sprawling superstores that rival any Walmart. Here are the ten best in town, listed in alphabetical order.
1. Carniceria La Sierra
3170 West Alameda Avenue
Turn into the parking lot when you see the mural of the cow slicing itself into steaks; there you'll find one of the city's best Mexican butcher counters, packed full of thin-sliced beef, marinated pork and many other specialty cuts for grilling, braising and roasting. And if you hit the market on a Saturday, La Sierra also makes big slabs — sheets, really — of crackling-fresh chicharrones. In the back, there's a small cafeteria serving tacos, enchiladas, soups and other traditional Mexican dishes. Stop for a combo plate and then grab some tamales to go. Que rico!
2. East Side Kosher Deli
499 South Elm Street
For the determinedly kosher (or determinedly local), the East Side Kosher Deli is indispensable. This oasis just north of Mir Park stocks everything from candies and snacks to Hanukkah candles and kosher ramen. There's a bakery, a very busy deli counter, a fish department (specializing in lox, of course) and, in the back, a small restaurant offering the expected deli sandwiches, blintzes, knishes from the bakery, herring salad and chopped liver. What's unexpected are the kosher versions of everything from Korean short ribs to north African lamb stew to sesame stir-fry.
3. H Mart
2751 South Parker Road, Aurora
This cavernous international grocery store on the edge of Aurora and Denver is a wonderland of Asian goods, from live seafood to exotic produce to specialty kitchen equipment. If there's a restaurant dish you love but have never been able to replicate at home, H Mart has that missing ingredient you need to make it shine. Hundreds of noodle styles — fresh, frozen or dried — line the shelves and pack the refrigerated sections, and you'll reel at the myriad varieties of rice available to pull off Thai, Korean, Chinese, Japanese or Vietnamese dishes. Korean at heart but international in scope, H Mart could easily stand in for King Soopers or Safeway for weekly shopping trips, only we'd just spend way too much money stocking up on sauces, spices and frozen dumplings once the necessities were in the cart.
4. Panaderia La Guatemalteca
10329 East Colfax Avenue
At the corner of East Colfax and Hanover Street, you’ll find the small and tidy La Guatemalteca well stocked with Central American groceries and other sundries. There's also a small bakery counter featuring sweet cookies, buns and breads and a lunch counter with a very short menu of daily offerings. There’s a sign on the building facing Colfax, but you’ll need to turn the corner at Hanover Street to find the parking-lot entrance and front door. Most impressive is the selection of different types of flours used as thickeners for soups and sauces and for traditional Guatemalan baked goods.
5. M & I International Market
909 South Oneida Street
M & I stocks primarily Russian groceries and specialties and boasts a fresh bakery (with both sweet and savory options) and an awe-inspiring deli counter packed with meats, sausages, fish and prepared foods. Stock up on buckwheat and barley or hit the deli on your way home from work for a tub of fresh-made borscht, kebabs and cabbage rolls. Kosher foods are also available, along with a small selection of products from around the world.
Keep reading for five more markets.
6. Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant & Grocery
306 South Ironton Street, Aurora
Two doors open to the Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant and Grocery; pick either one. If you go in through the market, you can peruse fresh baked goods and packaged Ethiopian specialties before heading for the dining room. The other door leads directly to the restaurant, decorated with palm-leaf awnings that straddle the tables, supported by bamboo posts. Heavy, rough-hewn chairs and a bamboo coffee bar add to the village ambience of the charming little space. Although there's no menu, friendly staff are happy to talk to you about the different types of kitfo and tibs offered. Orders come with generous amounts of injera bread (the same that you can purchase next door to take home) and vegetable stews made from lentils, chickpeas and rich spices.
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7. Mi Pueblo Market
9171 Washington Street, Thornton
There are several branches of Mi Pueblo around town, but not all are created equal. The best of the lot is the Thornton outpost, with spacious aisles laden with all manner of Latin American foods. A bright and well-maintained produce section stocks staples like apples, tomatoes and greens, but also includes rarer finds from seasonal tropical citrus fruit to fresh herbs like epazote and guaje seed pods. If you're looking beyond Mexican fare, you'll find Puerto Rican beans and sodas, Peruvian chiles and sauces, and the perfect Central American cheese for stuffing pupusas. Up front, there's a cafeteria where you can take a load off and enjoy a plate of tacos or grab family-sized packs of slow-cooked meats and housemade tortillas.
8. Pacific Mercantile Company
1925 Lawrence Street
Sakura Square's longstanding market is the go-to spot for all things Japanese, from single-serving tubs of natto to everything you need to make sushi at home: nori, rice, fresh fish, rice-wine vinegar, wasabi and even rolling mats. Wander the aisles for colorful, cartoonish bags of snacks or get serious and go for a wok in the cookware section.
9. Pacific Ocean Marketplace
12203 East Mississipi Avenue, Aurora
At 57,000 square feet, the Aurora outpost of this trio of Asian superstores clocks in as the largest seafood and Asian market in Colorado. In addition to shelves lined with products from Vietnam, China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, the Philippines (to name just a few countries represented), there's also a 10,000-square-foot seafood counter and several prepared food stations where you can pick up whole barbecued duck, steaming tubs of noodles or fresh-rolled sushi. While the other two locations (2200 West Alameda Avenue in Denver and 6600 West 120th Avenue in Broomfield) aren't quite as spacious, you'll still find everything you need to whip up restaurant-style dishes at home.
10. Zamzam Halal International Market & Deli
7449 East Iliff Avenue
The smell of fresh-baked bread greets shoppers at Zamzam, a halal market selling a wide range of Middle Eastern specialties. Two bakery ovens turn out pita-style flatbreads and slow-baked breads, while the butcher counter stocks a variety of lamb and goat cuts. Bulk spices, lentils, whole grains and other pantry items line the shelves of the small but well-stocked shop.