The eternal flame of saganaki burns on at Pete's Greek Town Cafe

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
So far in a month of eating Greek, I've come across some filling and wolfable short-order sandwiches at Yianni's, a fresher and lighter version of similar food at Melita's, and an old favorite in a newish location -- Yanni's in Greenwood Village -- that's putting out plates of what's as close to coastal Greek cuisine as you'll find on the Front Range. I've had a few dishes that just weren't very good and some sides that were all but inedible, like a bowl of stewed green beans at Chef Zorba's. And because July has an extra week this year, I made one last stop where I found almost all of the above in a single location on Colfax: Pete's Greek Town Cafe.

See also: Melita's leaves the pressures of city life outside the door

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Melita's leaves the pressures of city life outside the door

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
For more than a year, Mark Antonation ate his way up Federal Boulevard. With that journey done, he's now exploring different cuisines from around the globe right here in metro Denver, one month at a time, in Ethniche.

Last week I drove to the outlands of Lakewood for a taste of short-order Greek cooking. This week, I walked -- hitting Melita's Greek Cafe and Market, located about as close as it gets to the dead center of Denver. It was more of an amble than an odyssey, but the truncated trip yielded a pleasant lunch without having to sacrifice any of my men to mythical perils.

See also: Flavor and generosity await the curious at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant

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Yianni's Gyros Place: a Greek island on the far end of Colfax

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Getting Greek food on Colfax Avenue is as natural to Denverites as leaving the snow on the sidewalks for the sun to melt or pushing the stroller into a bar to enjoy a pint or two of IPA with the baby. A stretch of the road near East High School was even designated Greek Town in the late 1990s, thanks to Takis Dadiotis, then the owner of Pete's Greek Town Cafe. Greek Town hasn't quite blossomed into the ethnic neighborhood that Dadiotis envisioned, but Colfax, at least along the trendy stretches in Capitol Hill and near Congress Park, has cleaned up its act a little and now presents modern storefronts and hip restaurants along with the usual host of cart pushers, bus-stop lingerers and scowling punks. West Colfax, though, is a different story. Revitalization efforts have added fast-casual joints and modern strip-mall facades, but much of it, especially west of Denver city limits, still has the feel of drive-through territory. This is where you'll find Yianni's Gyros Place (10450 West Colfax in Lakewood ), a simple short-order joint opened in 2010 to serve Greek favorites to locals weary of the cross-town drive.

See also: The ouzo still flows at Yanni's Greek Restaurant

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The ouzo still flows at Yanni's Greek Restaurant

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
For more than a year, Mark Antonation ate his way up Federal Boulevard. With that journey done, he'll now explore different cuisines from around the globe right here in metro Denver, one month at a time, in Ethniche.

Yanni's Greek Restaurant styles itself as a taverna in the traditional sense: a place for family and friends to gather over coffee, drinks, food and conversation. Yanni's moved to the Landmark development in 2009 from its longtime home on Monaco to take advantage of the new high-rise residents in the complex and office workers from the surrounding Tech Center. Even if the exterior feels a little sterile -- this is a retail-and- restaurant enclave surrounded by hulking glass, stone and steel corporate offices -- walking into the dining room somehow vanquishes any nearby emanations of commerce and corporate-speak.

See also: Chef Zorba's offers diner spirit and Greek comfort




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Chef Zorba's offers diner spirit and Greek comfort

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
A real neighborhood diner with actual neighbors.
For more than a year, Mark Antonation ate his way up Federal Boulevard. With that journey done, he's now exploring different cuisines from around the globe right here in metro Denver, one month at a time, in Ethniche.

Denver doesn't have a reputation for great Greek restaurants. Whether that's because of demographics or eating habits, few of us would get in a shouting match to defend the Greek food scene here compared with that in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland or even Tarpon Springs, Florida, which boasts the highest percentage of Greek-Americans anywhere in the country (due to an influx of sponge divers in the early part of the twentieth century, not because of snowbirds seeking better weather). While there are no sponge colonies in the immediate vicinity of Denver, the Greeks who settled here certainly left their mark, most notably in the form of the golden dome of the Assumption of Theokotos Greek Orthodox Cathedral, which hovers over a wedge of land between Alameda and Leetsdale in Glendale. And Greek restaurants pepper the metro area, with a heavy concentration on or near East Colfax -- which is where you'll find Chef Zorba's, just off Denver's favorite street on a calm and tree-shaded block of Congress Park.

See also: Flavor and generosity await the curious at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant

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Flavor and generosity await the curious at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
For more than a year, Mark Antonation ate his way up Federal Boulevard. With that journey done, he'll now explore different cuisines from around the globe right here in metro Denver, one month at a time, in Ethniche.

Sometimes life jars you out of your routine into a realization that there's a whole world of social interaction and commerce that goes on without your input, your money or your involvement. In a city the size of Denver, shops, restaurants and businesses survive and even thrive despite not being the center of things -- at least, not your center. Feeling small is a little scary; some don't take it well. Opening up to something different or new means first acknowledging that there's something in the world you don't know much about, and that that something doesn't much care. But then, it only takes one step through the door and an honest "hello" to dispel anxiety. Trepidation gives way to curiosity, and curiosity vanquishes ignorance. It happened to me in what looked like an inconsequential strip mall off Havana Boulevard in front of Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant and Grocery. It didn't take much effort; I just opened the door.

See also: Axum Restaurant -- an unexpected stop in Colfax's Ethiopian zone

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Axum Restaurant -- an unexpected stop in Colfax's Ethiopian zone

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
For more than a year, Mark Antonation ate his way up Federal Boulevard. With that journey done, he'll now explore different cuisines from around the globe right here in metro Denver, one month at a time, in Ethniche.

Ethiopian cooking relies on spice blends, each mixed according to time-honored family recipes, like berbere and mitmita. Generous doses of seasoned clarified butter -- niter kibbeh -- add richness and depth to meats and vegetables alike. Each kitchen presents variations on themes of slow-cooked or quickly sautéed beef, lamb or chicken, with a fixed catalog of spices that present differing flavor profiles depending on the cooking technique. Subtle differences -- an extra grind of cardamom pods here, higher heat on the onions there -- mean big differences on each platter when compounded by many ingredients over hours of cooking. The version of awaze served at Axum, for example, may be as different from the dish at Eatopia (which I visited last week) as New Mexico's chile verde is from Colorado's.

See also: Doubling down on mitmita and berbere at Eatopia Ethiopian Cafe


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Doubling down on mitmita and berbere at Eatopia Ethiopian Cafe

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
For more than a year, Mark Antonation ate his way up Federal Boulevard. With that journey done, he'll now explore different cuisines from around the globe right here in metro Denver, one month at a time, in Ethniche.

Driving to Aurora to eat Ethiopian cuisine seemed a little counterintuitive, at least when my planned route -- straight east on Colfax Avenue before heading south on Havana -- took me past the majority of Denver's favorites along Colfax. But after visiting Queen of Sheba -- one of the city's oldest and most popular Ethiopian restaurants -- last week, I wanted to give a new place a shot. Eatopia, which opened less than a year ago, maintains a website and online menu with specialties and descriptions that read as unique and tantalizing enough to justify the extra miles on the odometer. So I picked up my friend Greg, and some thirty minutes later we pulled into an empty parking lot in an empty strip mall on a quiet street just off the otherwise bustling intersection of Havana and Mississippi.

See also: Wott's happening at the Queen of Sheba on Colfax

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Wott's happening at the Queen of Sheba on Colfax

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
For more than a year, Mark Antonation ate his way up Federal Boulevard. With that journey done, he'll now explore different cuisines from around the globe right here in metro Denver, one month at a time, in Ethniche. Last month was Hawaiian. And June? Ethiopian.

Heading away from Capitol Hill on Colfax, skirting Cheesman Park, sliding past Congress Park into neighborhoods east of Colorado Boulevard, a driver might be tempted to gawk at the wondrous mixture, reading each sign for the clues and markers of good food and drink. But the shifting traffic, unpredictable pedestrian movements and lane-hogging RTD buses make for difficult and dangerous sightseeing, much less fully absorbing the boggling diversity of bars, restaurants, shops and people. Better to sit in the passenger seat, piloted in an eastward path, from where patterns can be observed and analyzed. Ethiopian restaurants, whether wrapped in the red, yellow and green bands mimicking the country's flag or like the Queen of Sheba, crouching demurely amid innocuous markets, barber shops and thrift stores, reveal themselves in spurts and clusters, adding their complex and welcoming blend of spices to the roiling kitchen of Denver's most awe-inspiring stretch of asphalt. This is definitely the metro area's primary, though not only, Ethiopian zone.

See also: Trucking around Denver in search of Pacific Bonsai

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Trucking around Denver in search of Pacific Bonsai

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
The elusive unicorn of Denver Hawaiian cuisine.
For more than a year, Mark Antonation ate his way up Federal Boulevard. With that journey done, he'll now explore different cuisines from around the globe right here in metro Denver, one month at a time, in Ethniche.

This is not a story about Hawaiian food. This is a story about Colorado spring weather and food trends and trying to track down a good meal despite a string of minor bad luck. It's a story that includes a couple of pints of beer and some serendipitous tacos al pastor and a good deal of driving in heavy city traffic, in sudden thunderstorms, and without a clear ending in sight. What began as a simple mission to eat Hawaiian fare from the Pacific Bonsai food truck at Station 26 Brewing Company may have eventually resulted in musubi, Hawaiian barbecue and even a scoop of creamy macaroni salad, but the journey illustrated more about Denver than the destination.

See also: Aloha Hawaiian Barbecue: Hello and goodbye to Thornton


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