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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Polished Tavern Serves Grandma's Cooking Under Disco Lights

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Sitting alone at the bar early on a Tuesday evening probably isn't how the management at Polished Tavern envisions guests experiencing the full impact of the place. But I'm not the only one going solo; a few other single drinkers and diners occupy other bar stools, while one or two couples are in the booths behind me. Dance music streams from the sound system, although not too loudly, and the last of the day's light streaming in from the low windows facing 15th Street competes with the blue and purple club lighting. The neon and LED glow will soon win out, but for another half-hour or so, Polished is just a simple tavern serving hearty food to hungry diners.

See also: Old-School Meets Old World at Cafe Prague in Morrison

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Old-School Meets Old World at Cafe Prague in Morrison

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
Cafe Prague is nearby in Morrison, but a world away.
I can drive from my house to Morrison in about the same amount of time that it takes me to drive to downtown Denver, but I rarely go. Once a year to a show at Red Rocks, if I'm lucky, but otherwise I've probably had dinner in the almost-mountain town just a handful of times in my life. But my quest for good schnitzel knows no geographic or geological boundaries, so even if Cafe Prague is on the other side of a psychological border that makes Aurora and Centennial feel closer than the nearby town that just happens to have a hogback between me and it, I'll make the westward journey for the promise of some breaded veal.

See also: Sobo 151 Offers Czech Food and Dive Bar Comfort

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Sobo 151 Offers Czech Food and Dive Bar Comfort

Categories: ethniche

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Mark Antonation
October is a month of transition -- change defines the weather, the length of the days, the leaves in the trees. October is the month to dress a little warmer, grab a bigger beer and indulge in some hearty, traditional food. German food and beer seem appropriate even if Oktoberfest in Munich officially begins while the calendar still shows summer.

In Denver, German restaurants are scarce, but certain dishes follow culinary paths that cross international borders. For the next month (plus this last day of September), I'll be looking for schnitzel in its various forms. Many of the Slavic and German restaurants that serve variations on schnitzel populate the periphery of the city, but I'm starting near the center, at Sobo 151 Czech Bar and Grill, where the breaded cutlet also goes by its Czech name rĂ­zek.

See also: You're Actually Welcome at Little India

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