The Chile is Chili at Brewery Bar II

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Green chili. Red chili. Chili rellenos. Chili con queso. The word stood out on the menu like an intentional affront, dismissing all notions of regional American-Mexican food with a simple refusal to differentiate between two vowels at the end of a single, all-important word. At Brewery Bar II, though, the difference between chili and chile isn't something you talk about; you'd only provoke mistrust and apprehension. In fact, talking about food too much is probably just a bad idea. Football, power tools, shipping and receiving, the price of a gallon of gas: These are all fair game. But food is just a big mess of ingredients you shovel in between swallows of beer, not something you have opinions about, unless that opinion is a muffled, "Hey, this is pretty fuckin' good," spoken around a mouthful of cheese and pork and flour tortilla.

See also: In the Thick of It: Colorado Green Chile at Tacos Jalisco

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In the Thick of It: Colorado Green Chile at Tacos Jalisco

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
When I first moved to Denver and began visiting this city's Mexican restaurants, I paid more attention to places like Tacos Jalisco than to what I thought of at the time as Americanized Mexican food. I was searching for that most ambiguous and hollow of food finds: authenticity. My quest was for cuisine as it is prepared and served in Mexico, specifically in the state of Jalisco. But since I'd never been to Jalisco, I didn't really know what that was. My goal now is both easier to define and easier to find: Colorado-style green chile. And if a place that supposedly serves the cuisine of Jalisco seems like the wrong place to look, the truth is that most Mexican restaurants that have survived in Denver for more than a few years have absorbed influences that have been here for decades. The kitchen at Tacos Jalisco happens to turn out a pretty decent batch of green chile, even if you'll never find anything like it in the restaurants of Puerto Vallarta or Guadalajara.

See also: Bonnie Brae Tavern's Green Chile Defines the Colorado Style


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Bonnie Brae Tavern's Green Chile Defines the Colorado Style

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Bonnie Brae Tavern lights up University Boulevard with neon.
Green chile is nearly ubiquitous in this town: It pops up on menus at everything from traditional Mexican restaurants to old-school diners to upscale eateries. In Colorado, there are as many ways to make it as there are traditionalists who argue about which of those ways is right and which is a desecration of the noble, fire-roasted chile that gives the sauce its name. Did I say "sauce"? Of course, I meant stew. Or maybe soup. See what I mean? Finding a standard for even the most basic of comparisons becomes more of a chore than a joy. So rather than focusing on the perfect, I'd rather enjoy what I know I like -- starting with the simple pleasure of the thick and spicy concoction dished out at one of Denver's oldest restaurants, Bonnie Brae Tavern, which has served the surrounding neighborhood since 1934 under the same family name.

See also: Twelve Denver Restaurants That Have Hit Fifty -- and Are Still in the Family

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In No Hurry for Curry at Thai Flavor

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Pad Thai with pork at Thai Flavor.
Sometimes even the most exotic meal is just dinner -- a warming plate of food and a couple of beers in a quiet booth. The spices and presentations may seem a little unfamiliar, or at least far from the American comfort-food canon, but as long as there's nothing too fussy -- food that needs to be assembled before you can eat it or cooked over little gas burners or hot plates -- the focus can shift from the act of dining as a means of cultural exploration to the primary goals of not having to cook at home, eating something nourishing in good company, and soaking in the vibe of a Saturday night. Thai Flavor certainly has its share of intense flavors and presentations, but mostly it's a comfortable little place that feels lived-in and welcoming.

See also: Thai Pot Offers a Warm Welcome -- But Not With Spice

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Thai Pot Offers a Warm Welcome -- But Not With Spice

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Thai Pot's unassuming exterior hides a lively interior.
At two o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, the place was hopping, the staff was clearly in the weeds and people were starting to pile up at the door, scanning for available seats in the dining room or at the bar. Luckily, there was just enough turnover that a line didn't form; with steady snow and temperatures well below freezing outside, the door had to stay shut to keep in the warm air and the good-natured clamor that was completely hidden to anyone in the parking lot. A sports bar at the height of a big college football game or maybe one of those trendy new microbreweries that are popping up all over Denver? Not even close: We were at Thai Pot Cafe, an innocuous strip-mall joint that happens to be a favorite in the Virginia Vale neighborhood just off the main drag of South Colorado Boulevard.

See also:Thailicious Adds Serene Charm to Busy Sheridan Boulevard

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Thailicious Adds Serene Charm to Busy Sheridan Boulevard

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Thailicious in Edgewater, overlooking Sloan's Lake.
Edgewater, with a population of just over 5,200, may have the highest ratio of Thai restaurants per capita of any spot in Colorado. Fans of Thai cuisine in the metro area are already familiar with the vibrant flavors and tongue-melting heat of U.S. Thai, but newcomer Thailicious, open less than a year, adds another dose of pungent, bright and tropical warmth to the tiny town on the western shore of Sloan's Lake.

See also: Suvipa Thai Adds Variety to Federal's Vietnamese Zone

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Suvipa Thai Adds Variety to Federal's Vietnamese Zone

Categories: ethniche

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Suvipa Thai didn't have to do much to make its dining room presentable for guests: a new coat of paint in the small, square room and some flowers on the tables, and everything was ready to go. The previous tenant, Pho De, had already painted over the lime green and sky blue of Lotus Vegetarian, which must have gone through a couple of buckets of primer to cover the burgundy and black of Vietnam Grill, which had occupied the space only two years ago.

If the aromas from the kitchen are any indication, that's where all the work has been done: Suvipa Thai is as dedicated to putting out dead-on versions of its owner's homeland cuisine as the three restaurants that came before it. That cuisine just happens to be Thai this time instead of Vietnamese.

See also: From Vietnam Grill to Lotus to Pho De to Suvipa Thai

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A Surprising Schnitzel in an Unlikely Location

Categories: ethniche

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A stop at Williams & Graham for a cocktail on Friday night yielded the expected result: a creative, tasty and unique mixed drink from expert bartenders. But what wasn't quite so expected was the pork schnitzel on the food menu -- a dish that doesn't show up with much frequency outside of German and Eastern European restaurants.

See also: Williams & Graham Rates As One of the World's Fifty Best Bars...Barely

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Helga's Serves Schnitzel With a Side of Kitsch

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Helga's German Restaurant and Deli hides midway between a Holiday Inn Express and a JCPenney (both high on the list of depressing businesses), in a warren of seemingly permanent road construction and suburban mall sprawl. There's also a U.S. Army recruiting office and a Chuck E. Cheese's nearby, just to give an idea of the hipness factor of the neighborhood. But bright, cheery exterior murals of Bavarian castle scenes greet guests at Helga's, with some slightly distorted (maybe even Cubist) Teutonic youths in dirndls and lederhosen beckoning you to drop by for a liter or two of lager.

See also: Golden Europe Has More Schnitzel Than the Rest of Denver's Restaurants Combined

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Golden Europe Has More Schnitzel Than the Rest of Denver's Restaurants Combined

Categories: ethniche

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All photos by Mark Antonation
Wedging four people into a tiny booth at Golden Europe was no easy task: accommodating the lefties in the group, making sure I had room to take photos of my food, sitting comfortably without becoming entangled in the lace curtains above the table. It was a tight fit, and made me wonder why people built so big -- the Czech owner and his son were both a good head taller than me -- would put such tiny booths in their restaurant. That is, until one of my dinner companions mentioned that the restaurant had once been a Pizza Hut (or some similar corporate food entity). That made a little more sense, but it didn't make things any easier once the platters of food began to arrive, contending for space with half-liters of beer, bottles of Gewurztraminer, side dishes and gravy boats, while the four of us attempted to pass bites around and grapple enormous portions without spilling anything.

See also: Polished Tavern Serves Grandma's Cooking Under Disco Lights

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