Aurora’s incredible food scene is constantly invigorated by people on the go
“Gateway to the Rockies”, as the nearby city of Denver is called, became a landing point for African Americans arriving from the southern United States due to “The Great Migration”, and continues to be called home by asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees from more than 47 countries. Many have started businesses that allow diners to experience the flavors of their native lands. Here are eight sit-down, independent restaurants whose menus have been shaped by migration. They are worth the trip from Denver!
Soul Food CafÃ© by Cora Faye
Priscilla Smith cultivated a following for her soulful Southern cuisine while running a restaurant in Park Hill. Smith moved to Aurora several years ago, and her current location is near the busy intersection of Colfax and Chambers. Stop to savor crispy fried chicken, smothered pork chops and other dishes from Smith’s Alabama family recipes for over a century. For a dreamy finish to your meal, order a slice of iced coconut cream cheesecake and two pillows for your inevitable post-meal nap.
15395 E. Colfax Ave., 303-333-5551. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; 11am-7.30pm Tuesday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday to Saturday. corafayescafe.com
Cuba Bakery & Cafe
People of Cuban descent who live in the Denver area highly endorse this place. Here you will find a delicious mix of savory and sweet dishes. Everything is served cafeteria style, so diners can feast their eyes before making their choice. We love the chicharron served here as a long strip of pork skin, meat and fat fried to crispy perfection. There’s also the traditional ropa vieja (translated as “old clothes”), which is pulled beef in a spicy tomato sauce. Whatever you choose for your entree, an ideal finish is a pastry filled with guava. A word to the wise: If you want a chance at getting the Saturday oxtail special, you have to show up before noon.
15028 E. Mississippi Ave., 303-752-2822. Open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday. cubabakeryandcafe.com
The Madras Cafe
In the Denver metro area, Indian restaurants typically feature northern cuisines. The Madras CafÃ© deliciously highlights vegetarian dishes made in South India. Start your meal with bajji, a popular fried street snack with a chutney dip. The plantain version is the most traditional and is reminiscent of an orange donut. We advise you to zoom in on the section of the menu dedicated to âSouth Special Curriesâ. Lightly sauced, well-seasoned okra fry is earthy and soul-satisfying. For dessert, you will love the halwa made of finely grated carrots, condensed milk and clarified butter.
5422 S. Parker Road, 720-541-7293. Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday; 11am-2.30pm, then 5.30pm-9.30pm from Tuesday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., then 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. themadrascafe.com
Plates by the pound BBQ
The only thing that’s been more on a roll than barbecue chef Aaron Gonerway is his generous helping of “OG Pulled Pork” that he serves to people lined up around the block on Saturday mornings. True to its Texas family roots, Gonerway makes great beef brisket, and that’s the decision to make when ordering. Another standout is the baked potato which is really “loaded” with grilled meat. We were also pleasantly pleased with the potato salad, smoked baked beans and banana pudding. Pity!
11601 E. Montview Blvd., 720-697-0082. Open Saturday from 11 a.m. while supplies last. platesbythepoundbbq.com
Barbecue at Silla Korean Restaurant
Silla proudly claims to be the “oldest Korean restaurant in Colorado”, and its owners should be proud. Standard Korean dishes are excellent and can be habit forming. We suggest starting with the hubcap-sized kimchi jeon pancakes and the deep-fried pork-filled delicacies called goon mandu dumplings. If you order the bulgogi – marinated, lightly sweetened, thinly sliced ââstrips of meat – you’ll have the option of cooking it yourself at the table or letting the kitchen take care of it. We left it to the experts and devoured the sizzling plate of cast iron beef bulgogi accompanied by an array of side dishes of fresh and pickled vegetables. For a change of pace, our bibimbap bowl consisted of grilled calamari with a mix of sautÃ©ed vegetables and a fried egg over rice.
3005 S. Peoria St., 303-338-5070. Open 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday to Tuesday, Friday to Saturday. sillabbq.com
Sugar’s Caribbean Fast Food
The first time you stop here, you’ll probably curse the map app you used. Yes, you are in a residential area and there are no signs for a restaurant nearby. Do not worry. Just follow the inviting aroma and pulsating music to the back of the house. This weekend-only Jamaican take-out ârestaurantâ is actually short of the back porch converted by owner Sugar (that’s the only name the owner uses). His culinary adventures began long ago as a child watching his loved ones cook. As an adult, Sugar was “running a boat” with friends (meaning having a barbecue). After months of rave reviews, he thought he should make some money cooking. I am grateful for this revelation. I don’t know why, but Jamaican cooks have a thing with oxtails, and Sugar’s version doesn’t disappoint. Six pieces of meat bathed in a rich brown gravy are nestled in a generous serving of peas and rice. You’ll also love the lightly spiced jerk chicken, fried red snapper smothered in a spicy sauce, and flaky, meat-filled (beef or chicken) hand pies called âgalettes.â All of these pair well with a homemade non-alcoholic hibiscus drink called âsorrelâ or a chilled bottle of Red Stripe beer.
1140 Lansing St., 720-231-6460. Open Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
This restaurant is one of the star attractions at Mango House, a complex that includes immigrant-related businesses, a food court and services. We were absolutely wowed by the salad of fermented and lightly seasoned tea leaves with a crunchy mix of cabbage, lentils and fried peanuts. We forgot the social graces while sipping the “weh da no,” a spicy pork curry punctuated with potatoes. Her ginger mint spritzer was fresh and delicious. An absolute must for dessert is the banana paratha of fried batter filled with banana with a drizzle of Nutella.
10180 E. Colfax Ave., 626-628-5430. Open from noon to 7 p.m., Thursday to Saturday. orderurbanburma.com
Grilling in Yemen
Much of the Middle Eastern food served by our community restaurants represents the cuisines of Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria (collectively known as the Levant). Since 2013, the Yemen Grill has expanded our understanding of Middle Eastern food history. Typical dishes are lamb and chicken mandi, traditional pit-cooked meats served over rice. Yet it’s the whole fish that makes the phone ring for takeout orders. Typically, fried fish is tilapia and grilled fish is pompano. We love the grilled pompano, which evokes the blackened fish dishes of Cajun fame with its superbly seasoned charred crust. It is topped with sliced ââonions and parsley, a side salad with tahini and a mound of fragrant rice. You can add a little spice with a spicy tomato relish that’s a lot like salsa. Wash it down with a lightly sweetened mango drink streaked with mashed strawberries.
2353 Havana St, #D15A, 303-369-1998. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday to Sunday; 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
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