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Around the World in 10 Dishes: Flatbread Edition

Exploring the global food scene on the Front Range, dish by dish.

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If you’re a stickler for precision, you could insist that the catchall "flatbread" is misleadingly broad. You could point out that a cracker isn’t a pancake isn’t pizza and debate the finer points of batters versus unleavened doughs versus proofed doughs.

But if you just want to explore the glories of the category, the broader the better. After all, flatbreads have evolved over millennia throughout much of the world to incorporate ground cereals and legumes and root vegetables, cooked on bakestones and in beehive ovens and cast-iron pots; they’re topped, stuffed, dipped and even used as tableware without much concern for dictionary definitions. So in our book, it’s a flatbread so long as it contains some sort of flour and resembles a disk more than a loaf. Case closed, mouth open with these 10 globe-spanning examples.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Amira Bakery

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4101 E Evans Ave
Denver, CO 80222
(303) 745-1766
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This no-nonsense Lebanese cafe specializes in manaeesh, a savory pie with a pizza-esque crust but an array of toppings that locates you nowhere near Naples—more like Nabatieh. The definitive version stars za’atar, a tart-earthy spice blend based on thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. Coming a close second is lahmbajeen, covered in a mixture of lamb and beef minced so finely it’s basically a spread. And the one coated in lebni, a rich yogurt cheese, doubles as dessert with a drizzle of honey.

2. Azitra

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535 Zang Street
Broomfield, CO 80021
(303) 465-4444
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Like naan, but denser; like pizza dough, but butterier (or ghee-er, as the case may be)—that’s northern Indian kulcha in a nutshell. Get it layered with paneer, chiles and mango at this Broomfield date-night destination—and throw in a bottle of Riesling or Moschofilero from one of the most unexpected wine lists around while you’re at it.

3. Babajoon's Kabobs & More

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1005 W 120th Ave., Ste 250 A
Westminster, CO 80234
(303) 974-5400
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From its beautifully tiled, egg-shaped tandoor, this cheery Persian counter joint in Westminster cranks out loaf after loaf of taftoon, a close cousin of pita and lavash. Crackery, with a sun-baked rusticity, it’s the perfect complement to mizra ghasemi, a vibrant concoction of mashed eggplant sauteed with eggs, onions and a bit of tomato.

4. DAE GEE Korean BBQ

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7570 Sheridan Blvd
Westminster, CO 80003
(720) 540-0700
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Koreans seem to have more words for “pancake” than the Eskimo do for “snow,” and as many variations on the basic recipe. Dae Gee makes three types—one filled with shredded zucchini, one with mixed seafood and one with minced bulgogi. Paired with a pungent, soy-based dipping sauce, each comes out crisply textured and yet more luscious than the last.

5. Elsa's Restaurant & Lounge

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1180 South Parker Road
Denver, CO 80231
(303) 745-2438
Injera is most associated with Ethiopia, but it’s a staple across northeastern Africa. The folks behind this low-key roadside cafe come from Sudan, and the menu includes a few nods to their homeland along with the standards of the namesake cuisine. Take molokhia, an earthy, heady stew of spinach-like jute leaves, onions and, optionally, tender chunks of bone-in lamb: the spongy, springy, subtly sour teff bread soaks up those rich spices beautifully.

6. Lo Stella Ristorante

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1135 Bannock Street
Denver, CO 80204
(303) 825-1995
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It’s brand-new to the Golden Triangle, but this low-key charmer has family ties to a historic ristorante on the Italian Riviera, and it’s doing right by its Ligurian heritage with two stellar flatbreads otherwise impossible to come by around here. One is a toasty, chewy chickpea-flour pancake called farinata. The other is focaccia al formaggio di Recco, which is probably unlike any focaccia you’ve ever had before—thin, delicately crunchy and oozing with a creamy, mildly salty cheese named stracchino. Don’t miss either. (For yet another regional Italian flatbread, check out the piadina on Cart-Driver’s new lunch menu.)

7. Los Carboncitos

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3757 Pecos St
Denver, CO
(303) 458-0880
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Think of Mexico City’s huarache as a tostada on a slightly thicker, doughier, oval base. Though it supposedly resembles the shoe it’s named for, do not try to strap tortillas slathered with refried beans to your feet. Do try to eat them, lots of them, at this LoHi longtimer, especially the ones smothered in chunks of steak and nopales (or cactus, which tastes a lot like roasted green bell pepper) as well as crumbled cotija cheese.

8. Makan Malaysian Cafe

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1859 S Pearl St
Denver, CO 80210
(720) 524-8093
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Though it’s Indian in origin, the crêpe-like roti has taken on a life of its own throughout maritime Southeast Asia—a colorful, versatile, delicious life. Flaky on the outside, tender on the inside, it’s served at this adorable Old South Pearl nook in various forms, from savory—with egg and onion, say—to sweet, with coconut jam or caramelized bananas. But it’s hard to beat the simple, classic roti canai accompanied by two light-textured curries: one based on lentils, the other on chicken.

9. Paxia

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4001 Tejon St
Denver, CO 80211
(720) 583-6860
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Now that you know how to think of huaraches, you can think of tlacoyos as even thicker, more compact huaraches. At Los Carboncitos’ more-upscale Sunnyside sibling, these soft Mexican masa cakes come flecked with black beans and topped with cactus, jalapeños, red onions and your choice of grilled chicken or beef.

10. Tocabe

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3536 W 44th Ave
Denver, CO 80211
(720) 524-8282
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Frybread has its origins in postcolonial oppression, and it remains a fraught symbol of the American Indian experience—repudiated by some, but celebrated by others, including the owners of this beloved Berkeley quick stop (and its upcoming sibling). They do the glistening, bubbly puffs of fried dough justice, whether topped taco-style or stuffed like calzones with shredded bison, pinto beans, corn salsa and the like; accompanied by wojapi, a sort of fruit compote; or shaped into nuggets and sprinkled with powdered sugar à la doughnut holes.

1. Amira Bakery

4101 E Evans Ave, Denver, CO 80222
This no-nonsense Lebanese cafe specializes in manaeesh, a savory pie with a pizza-esque crust but an array of toppings that locates you nowhere near Naples—more like Nabatieh. The definitive version stars za’atar, a tart-earthy spice blend based on thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. Coming a close second is lahmbajeen, covered in a mixture of lamb and beef minced so finely it’s basically a spread. And the one coated in lebni, a rich yogurt cheese, doubles as dessert with a drizzle of honey.
4101 E Evans Ave
Denver, CO 80222

2. Azitra

535 Zang Street, Broomfield, CO 80021
Like naan, but denser; like pizza dough, but butterier (or ghee-er, as the case may be)—that’s northern Indian kulcha in a nutshell. Get it layered with paneer, chiles and mango at this Broomfield date-night destination—and throw in a bottle of Riesling or Moschofilero from one of the most unexpected wine lists around while you’re at it.
535 Zang Street
Broomfield, CO 80021

3. Babajoon's Kabobs & More

1005 W 120th Ave., Ste 250 A, Westminster, CO 80234
From its beautifully tiled, egg-shaped tandoor, this cheery Persian counter joint in Westminster cranks out loaf after loaf of taftoon, a close cousin of pita and lavash. Crackery, with a sun-baked rusticity, it’s the perfect complement to mizra ghasemi, a vibrant concoction of mashed eggplant sauteed with eggs, onions and a bit of tomato.
1005 W 120th Ave., Ste 250 A
Westminster, CO 80234

4. DAE GEE Korean BBQ

7570 Sheridan Blvd, Westminster, CO 80003
Koreans seem to have more words for “pancake” than the Eskimo do for “snow,” and as many variations on the basic recipe. Dae Gee makes three types—one filled with shredded zucchini, one with mixed seafood and one with minced bulgogi. Paired with a pungent, soy-based dipping sauce, each comes out crisply textured and yet more luscious than the last.
7570 Sheridan Blvd
Westminster, CO 80003

5. Elsa's Restaurant & Lounge

1180 South Parker Road, Denver, CO 80231
Injera is most associated with Ethiopia, but it’s a staple across northeastern Africa. The folks behind this low-key roadside cafe come from Sudan, and the menu includes a few nods to their homeland along with the standards of the namesake cuisine. Take molokhia, an earthy, heady stew of spinach-like jute leaves, onions and, optionally, tender chunks of bone-in lamb: the spongy, springy, subtly sour teff bread soaks up those rich spices beautifully.
1180 South Parker Road
Denver, CO 80231

6. Lo Stella Ristorante

1135 Bannock Street, Denver, CO 80204
It’s brand-new to the Golden Triangle, but this low-key charmer has family ties to a historic ristorante on the Italian Riviera, and it’s doing right by its Ligurian heritage with two stellar flatbreads otherwise impossible to come by around here. One is a toasty, chewy chickpea-flour pancake called farinata. The other is focaccia al formaggio di Recco, which is probably unlike any focaccia you’ve ever had before—thin, delicately crunchy and oozing with a creamy, mildly salty cheese named stracchino. Don’t miss either. (For yet another regional Italian flatbread, check out the piadina on Cart-Driver’s new lunch menu.)
1135 Bannock Street
Denver, CO 80204

7. Los Carboncitos

3757 Pecos St, Denver, CO
Think of Mexico City’s huarache as a tostada on a slightly thicker, doughier, oval base. Though it supposedly resembles the shoe it’s named for, do not try to strap tortillas slathered with refried beans to your feet. Do try to eat them, lots of them, at this LoHi longtimer, especially the ones smothered in chunks of steak and nopales (or cactus, which tastes a lot like roasted green bell pepper) as well as crumbled cotija cheese.
3757 Pecos St
Denver, CO

8. Makan Malaysian Cafe

1859 S Pearl St, Denver, CO 80210
Though it’s Indian in origin, the crêpe-like roti has taken on a life of its own throughout maritime Southeast Asia—a colorful, versatile, delicious life. Flaky on the outside, tender on the inside, it’s served at this adorable Old South Pearl nook in various forms, from savory—with egg and onion, say—to sweet, with coconut jam or caramelized bananas. But it’s hard to beat the simple, classic roti canai accompanied by two light-textured curries: one based on lentils, the other on chicken.
1859 S Pearl St
Denver, CO 80210

9. Paxia

4001 Tejon St, Denver, CO 80211
Now that you know how to think of huaraches, you can think of tlacoyos as even thicker, more compact huaraches. At Los Carboncitos’ more-upscale Sunnyside sibling, these soft Mexican masa cakes come flecked with black beans and topped with cactus, jalapeños, red onions and your choice of grilled chicken or beef.
4001 Tejon St
Denver, CO 80211

10. Tocabe

3536 W 44th Ave, Denver, CO 80211
Frybread has its origins in postcolonial oppression, and it remains a fraught symbol of the American Indian experience—repudiated by some, but celebrated by others, including the owners of this beloved Berkeley quick stop (and its upcoming sibling). They do the glistening, bubbly puffs of fried dough justice, whether topped taco-style or stuffed like calzones with shredded bison, pinto beans, corn salsa and the like; accompanied by wojapi, a sort of fruit compote; or shaped into nuggets and sprinkled with powdered sugar à la doughnut holes.
3536 W 44th Ave
Denver, CO 80211

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