Federal Boulevard is an Asian-food paradise that deserves more praise

Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we will offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems). 

Denver’s Federal Boulevard spans an Asian and Latino cuisine paradise that only occasionally gets the high praise it deserves.

Longtime Denverites know it, as do chefs, foodies and the occasional tourist. But the diverse, working-class corridor just south of Colfax Avenue seems to fall under the radar for some younger transplants, and they’d do well to diversify their eating while getting a more balanced view of the city.

In this case, that’s a less polished, less bourgeois one where the people who make and deliver your food can actually afford to live. (See also: the Korean, Ethiopian and Mexican-food paradise of Aurora.)

There, newcomers will realize that toothsome vegetarian food is more affordable than at some central-Denver hotspots. They’ll see gallons of pho and noodle bowls and bánh mì sandwiches and boba tea. Thai delicacies and fiery hot soups to warm the soul. Soup dumplings and pot stickers as rich comforts. And that was just a single block — albeit my favorite one, between West Kentucky Avenue and West Ford Place (just before West Mississippi Avenue).

There you have my holy trinity of Lao Wang Noodle House (Taiwanese), J’s Noodles Star Thai II (Thai) and Pho Duy (Vietnamese). All offer sprawling, generally affordable menus with authentic, rapid-fire preparation. I like my pad kra pao Thai-hot, and my xiao long bao dumplings in a handsome, steaming basket. My pho? It had better be bigger than my head.

Fortunately, all of these things are nearly always true. My wife, a former food writer and Denver Post columnist, at one point had several of her articles pinned up in these restaurants, given how much of the street we’ve eaten through over the years. We’re both hopelessly in love with it.

Some of our favorites have come and gone, such as the authentic Chinese joint Chopsticks (formerly at Mississippi and Federal), which boasted the best hot-and-sour soup and Chongqing chicken I’ve ever had. Pho 95, too, used to sit a block away, in the same parking lot as Ba Le sandwiches and around the corner from Star Kitchen’s dim sum palace (Pho 95 is still around, just further south).

There are wonderful taquerias and old-school food trucks and all kinds of other excellence. But stopping into a bakery like New Saigon instantly reminds you that there’s a whole, rich food world out there that gets ignored by downtown boosters. Yes, Federal is not immune to crime and traffic and blight and even creeping gentrification. Cool new places like Pho Now are starting to fill empty storefronts, and for the better.

But the density and quality of diverse, authentic food shames almost anywhere else in the city. Not that any of us should feel ashamed for enjoying a good meal (anywhere), but when you’ve got a field of gems like this in your backyard, you bring a shovel.

Subscribe to our new food newsletter, Stuffed, to get Denver food and drink news sent straight to your inbox.

Source: Read Full Article