Eat your words! There are plenty of ethnic restaurants near the Tech Center

Jabos-017.jpg
Mark Manger
I love Jabo's as much as the next person -- but is it really ethnic food?
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.

Yvonne pointed to many of the same spots, adding Thai Lotus, Bucci's, Venice and Sushi Kazu.

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.

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 laura.shunk@westword.com, or leave your ideas in the comments section below.

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3 comments
Jeff
Jeff

Further in Greenwood Village: Sahara Restaurant has good Lebanese and Moroccan, and Chicken Kabob has a great (albeit limited) Persian menu too.  Lori wrote about the latter as a "favorite food find of the week" a few months ago.  They're both in the same shopping center as Chicago Mike's.

GFTW
GFTW

I thought John Holly's in Lone Tree was pretty good.

Mantonat
Mantonat

Perhaps "ethnic and/or regional." The common ground is that you generally know what's going to be on the menu before you walk into the place. There may be a few surprises, but it's the attention to detail and quality of the ingredients that makes one stand out over another. A BBQ joint is very similar to a pho restaurant in that they have limited menus of items from a specific geographical region that people are very opinionated about and loyal to. Places like this specialize in the comfort food of a specific sector of people. Any variation on the original recipes from the homeland are frowned upon. Perfection of the cuisine is all about nailing the platonic ideal of the dish that exists from childhood memories or first-time experiences with the food. I included Chicago Mike's, Yazoo, and Jabo's because they all fit this criteria (even if I did it with a wink). I could also have included Pat's. You don't mess with a Philly cheese steak and many Philadelphians probably scoff at the lack of authenticity (although I wouldn't know having never eaten one in Philadelphia).

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