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Crispy fish with pickled cabbage at Meet and Eat Bistro
Crispy fish with pickled cabbage at Meet and Eat Bistro.
Ruth Tobias

24 Must-Try Chinese Restaurants in Denver

Skip the sesame chicken in favor of the regional specialties and modern translations served up across the Mile High City

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Crispy fish with pickled cabbage at Meet and Eat Bistro.
| Ruth Tobias

Back in the late 19th century, Denver’s Chinatown — known as Hop Alley and located in what’s now LoDo — was just beginning to flourish when it was decimated by racism-fueled riots; to this day, the city lacks a comparable enclave. But that doesn’t mean restaurants devoted to the distinct regional traditions that define Chinese cuisine don’t exist — in fact, they’re everywhere. Here are 24 essentials, ordered geographically from west to east.

Note that this map doesn’t include Boulder establishments, so a special shoutout goes to Taiwanese treasure Formosa Bakery & Kitchen and You & Mee Noodle House (order from the traditional menu).

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process.

Chen’s Kitchen

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This comfy little strip-mall find focuses on the staple dishes of Taiwan, each more soothing than the last. Bento boxes featuring, say, braised pork or crispy fish over rice come with fried tofu, eggs scrambled with tomato, and veggies in garlic sauce, while the beef noodle soup and gua bao with fried chicken are spot-on.

A bento box at Chen’s Kitchen
A bento box at Chen’s Kitchen.
Ruth Tobias

HuaKee BBQ

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The strip-mall digs may be humble, but the array of roasted meats on display at this Cantonese-style barbecue joint is splendid: While roast duck and roast pork are its main claims to fame, the spare ribs, soy sauce chicken, and house special fried rice all deserve a spin. (Note that seating in the tiny space is extremely limited; takeout is the way to go, literally.)

Takeout roast pork and duck chins over rice with Chinese broccoli
Takeout roast pork and duck chins from HuaKee BBQ.
Ruth Tobias

Happy Cafe

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Emphasizing Hong Kong–style Cantonese cuisine, this Federal Boulevard find lives up to its name with a menu that runs the gamut when it comes to intrigue: Cordyceps flower with chicken? Mustard tofu–salted egg soup? Harbor fried crab or cauliflower with preserved pork? Old-style stewed lamb and beef with bitter melon in black bean sauce? Bring it all on, along with a Sichuan dish such as “Chongqing water sheep” or two — and if some guilty pleasures are in order to boot, both the Chinese buns and the “fried milk,” reminiscent of Twinkies, double as dreamy dessert. 

Stewed beef in sour soup
Stewed beef in sour soup at Happy Cafe.
Ruth Tobias

Hong Kong Barbecue

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Even if the name weren’t a giveaway, the glossy-skinned whole birds and pig parts typically on display at this old Federal Boulevard faithful would tell first-timers all they need to know about the kitchen’s expertise in Cantonese roast meats. But stopping there would be a mistake: The long menu’s dotted with delights of all kinds, among them crunchy salt-and-pepper duck chins, water spinach with pickled tofu and jalapeño, and congee with pork and preserved egg. 

Roast duck at Hong Kong Barbecue
Roast duck at Hong Kong Barbecue.
Ruth Tobias

Star Kitchen

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Coming here for dim sum is like walking into a kaleidoscope of humanity — carts spin, servers blur past, the din echoes, and hands and mouths make quick work of flavors and textures galore. Every visit is different, of course, but none is complete without at least one order each of the leek, taro, and glutinous-rice dumplings as well as the char siu bao, shrimp-stuffed rice crêpes, and baked coconut buns. At dinnertime, try any seafood dish and the hot pot of eggplant with beef rib in black-pepper sauce. 

Dim sum at Star Kitchen
Dim sum at Star Kitchen.
Ruth Tobias

Bistro King

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A language-translation app and an in-depth conversation with the staff may be necessary to navigate the Chinese-language menu of this welcoming Englewood hideaway, but the effort is well worthwhile for such neat-to-eat treats as richly exhilarating brisket hot pot; crunchy glazed sweet-and-sour pork; spunky, savory vermicelli with pickled cabbage; and Jinsha corn in salted egg yolk (which tastes a little like Corn Pops).

Brisket hot pot at Bistro King
Brisket hot pot at Bistro King.
Ruth Tobias

Chopstickers

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A few noodle and rice dishes round out the small menu at this fast-casual sensation downtown, but it’s really all about the instantly famous soup dumplings; plump, juicy, golden-bottomed potstickers; and silken-skinned water-fried bao. Get the latter stuffed with shrimp, pork, and chive and throw in an order of the refreshing, garlicky woodear mushrooms for good measure.

Chopstickers’ chicken potstickers
Chopstickers’ chicken potstickers.
Ruth Tobias

Sunflower Asian Cafe

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Like several of the places on this list, this jewel in the suburban rough offers two different menus. One’s got orange chicken, lo mein, and beef with broccoli; the other boasts Shanghainese smoked fish, jellyfish salad with the springy texture of noodles, braised pork meatballs so big they come one per order, ultra-tender Nanjing salt duck, and stir-fried loofah with tofu. Choose wisely and then practice patience — the kind folks who run the place move as fast as they can.  

Braised pork meatball at Sunflower
The giant pork meatball at Sunflower.
Ruth Tobias

Cheerfully quirky, neon-splashed decor sets the tone for a menu that pays sincere homage to the Cantonese food husband-and-wife owners Kenneth Wan and Doris Yuen ate growing up while boasting a few cheeky modern twists (case in point: the happy hour–only málà mozzarella sticks). Not to be missed are the crab-and-cheese wontons, the shrimp fried rice with house XO sauce, and the spicy garlic-butter rice cakes — all of which shine alongside cocktails tricked out with everything from red beans and grass jelly to Sichuan peppercorns and even pork belly (in the form of a fat wash).

Spizzling spicy noodles with crispy tofu at MAKFam
Spizzling spicy noodles with crispy tofu at MAKFam.
Ruth Tobias

Hop Alley

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Named for Denver’s onetime Chinatown, Tommy Lee’s RiNo mainstay is the complete package: edgy vibe, kinetic cuisine, progressive beverage program, and all. The kitchen plays up bold flavor contrasts — cooling against tongue-lashing, mellow against pungent, bright against luscious — without ever losing its balance, while the bar dares to pair them with everything from bubbly and rosé to craft cider and funky punches. Staples include chilled tofu in sesame bang bang sauce, shrimp toast with mustard gastrique and tiger vinaigrette, and bone-marrow fried rice; seasonal sensations come in the form of wok-fried catfish in oyster sauce and chili oil or chilled mung bean noodles with beets and celtuce in black-vinegar dressing.

Peking duck wrapped in pancake
Hop Alley’s Beijing duck roll.
Hop Alley

Fortune Wok to Table

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An open secret in Cherry Creek, this little treasure chest is filled to the brim with regulars slurping up vibrant Shanghainese-style noodles (get them with shrimp or duck) or chowing down on fried rice and some of the city’s best dumplings, which come steamed or pan-fried and stuffed with beef, pork, or abundant crisp veggies. There’s not much else on the downstairs menu — just a couple of seasonal specials like tenderloin and broccoli — but it’s more than enough. (Upstairs, chef-owner CJ Shyr books private nine-course dinners featuring dishes such as hot-and-sour soup with shrimp and crab or pork belly braised with bok choy in a red bean–studded brown sauce — a worthy splurge for six or more people.) 

Fried beef dumplings with dipping sauce
Fortune’s fried beef dumplings.
Ruth Tobias

Q House

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Tiny but mighty, this East Colfax purveyor of contemporary Chinese cuisine didn’t win Eater’s Restaurant of the Year Award in 2018 for nothing: The menu packs a heck of a punch for its size, whether chef-partner Chris Lin is slathering spare ribs in sweet-and-sour marinade, chopped peanuts, and fried garlic; reimagining lo mein with confit duck leg; or deftly tossing fingerlings and Chinese cauliflower in black bean vinaigrette. The bar crew pairs it all with light, sprightly cocktails featuring green tea, Korean melon, sushi rice, and the like as well as aptly chosen sakes, craft beers, and wines (think bubbles and aromatic whites like grüner veltliner). 

Chicken wings with tomatillo-ginger sauce
Crispy chicken wings with tomatillo-ginger sauce at Q House.
Ruth Tobias

Noodles Express

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Don’t be fooled by the fast food franchise–like name and exterior — this family-run find excels at homestyle Sichuan fare. In addition to staples like dan dan noodles, ma po tofu, and Chongqing chicken, best bets include the fluffy pan-fried omelet filled with saucy pork; the tangy sour taste potatoes; and the pungent, numbing spicy boiled fish.

Sichuan-style boiled fish in a bowl
Spicy boiled fish at Noodles Express.
Ruth Tobias

Linglon Dumpling House

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Do stop by this darling little University Hills shop for the namesake item, be it shrimp, chive, and egg dumplings in carrot juice–infused dough or pork-and-crab xiao long bao — but don’t stop there: The smart selection of small plates includes colorful Peking duck gua bao and vibrant salads like the South Style Garden Delight, composed of woodear and shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bean curd, lotus root, daylily, and peanuts.

Linglon’s pork. shrimp, chive, and egg dumplings in carrot dough
Linglon’s pork. shrimp, chive, and egg dumplings in carrot dough.
Ruth Tobias

Yuan Wonton

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While Penelope Wong’s technical chops are considerable, her food is imbued with as much heart and soul as it is reflective of her skill. Come on a Wednesday or Thursday evening to be warmed as well as wowed by her OG chili oil wontons, sheng jian bao, and mushroom-studded mapo tofu; return on Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. for pan-fried chive pockets, crispy garlic noodles with bean sprouts, and tomato-egg sandwiches slathered with fermented black bean butter.

Yuan Wonton’s eggplant dumplings
Yuan Wonton’s eggplant dumplings.
Ruth Tobias

China Taipei

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There’s a little bit of everything from everywhere on the menu of this longtime charmer in Centennial, so order accordingly: delicate steamed buns, spicy beef tendon, stir-fried eel, roast duck, twice-cooked pork belly, cumin lamb, boiled frog . . . why not give it all a try? First-timers might start with the deep-fried five-spice tofu and the Ants Climbing a Tree, a comforting concoction of ground pork and glass noodles.

Ground pork with glass noodles at China Taipei
Ants Climbing a Tree at China Taipei.
Ruth Tobias

Hong Kong Station 港味小厨

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If a few of the dishes at this bustling little hangout in Centennial look Westernized, rest assured that those elements of fusion developed organically in the cha chaan tengs (sometimes compared to diners) of the international crossroads that is Hong Kong. From baked pork chops with spaghetti to peanut-butter French toast, the menu’s a warm and welcoming entrée into the wider world of comfort food — one that also offers plenty of more traditional, equally delightful Cantonese fare as well, including shrimp toast and clay pot dishes.

Hong Kong–style French toast with peanut butter
Hong Kong–style French toast with peanut butter at Hong Kong Station.
Ruth Tobias

NBX Asian Cuisine

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Well worth the drive for central Denverites, this cozy little haunt dishes up a number of specialties from northern China that are otherwise hard to come by around here, among them braised mutton leg; homey stewed Shandong chicken with potatoes; rou jia mo, a meat-stuffed flatbread sandwich sometimes compared to a hamburger; and springy, saucy liangpi noodles, served chilled with bright veggies. Round them out with a Sichuan dish or two, such as tangy yu shiang eggplant.

NBX’s Shandong chicken with potatoes
NBX’s Shandong chicken with potatoes.
Ruth Tobias

Shanghai Kitchen

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Shanghai is a coastal municipality, so seafood is a must at this suburban destination — especially fish, smoked as an appetizer or fried with pine nuts. Dumplings are another winning bet, be they soup-filled xiao long bao or silky shrimp-and-pork wontons in chili oil. Finally, consider the tea-smoked duck as the centerpiece for a feast.

Dynasty fish with pine nuts
Dynasty fish with pine nuts at Shanghai Kitchen.
Ruth Tobias

Meet and Eat Bistro

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Aficionados of Sichuan cuisine have been flocking to this quiet little gem for the likes of sliced beef and ox tongue in chili sauce, crispy fish filet with pickled cabbage and chili, Chongqing-style spicy chicken, dry pot cauliflower, and much more; cool it all down with the ultra-soothing steamed eggplant with salted egg yolk.

Steamed eggplant with salted egg yolk at Meet & Eat Bistro
Steamed eggplant with salted egg yolk at Meet & Eat Bistro.
Ruth Tobias

Old Town Hot Pot

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Come to Old Town for the hot pot; stay for, well, the hot pot — after all, it’s AYCE. Besides, just perusing the menu takes some time: It starts with 10 different broths, followed by about 25 choices of meat and seafood (think brisket and crab, lamb and clams) and a similarly sized selection of vegetables and starches, including bok choy, lotus root, tofu skin roll, and udon. And that’s not to mention the self-serve condiments bar.

AYCE hot pot at Old Town
AYCE hot pot at Old Town.
Ruth Tobias

Shi Miao Dao - Ten Seconds Yunnan Rice Noodle

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The name says it all with respect to the house specialty, which emerges from the kitchen lickety-split in bowls bubbling and brimming with goodies galore: pieces of lamb or beef or pickled fish, for instance, as well as Spam, quail egg, cabbage, corn, and more. But the menu doesn’t end there: Appetizers range from bouncy black fungus and cucumber in vinegar sauce to crispy fried oysters, while the beverage list goes on and on, including honeydew milk tea, plum juice, and passion fruit lemonade.

Rice noodle hot pot with lamb
Ten Seconds’ rice noodle hot pot with lamb.
Ruth Tobias

One More Noodle (aka Volcano Tea House)

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While Taiwanese-style boba tea shops have bubbled up all across town in the past couple of years, this one’s special for its food. In addition to a wide range of satisfying snacks, including popcorn chicken and juicy pork buns as well as seafood balls and marinated meats, it also excels at hand-pulled and shaved noodles. Try them both dry and in soup with beef shank or pork rib — the broth alone is a 10-hour labor of love.

A variety of snacks and noodle dishes at Volcano Tea House
A variety of snacks and noodle dishes at Volcano Tea House.
Ruth Tobias

China Cafe

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The name may be generic, but the food at this strip-mall fixture is anything but: Look to the menu sections labeled “Chinese-Style Appetizers” and “Northeastern Chinese Cuisine” for compelling dishes like noodle-like dry tofu silk with cilantro and tangy, garlicky guo bao rou (legit sweet-and-sour pork), supplemented by delectable dumplings and sizzling takes on Sichuan specialties like dry-fried green beans and boiled fish in chili oil.

Dongbei-style sweet and sour pork at China Cafe
Dongbei-style sweet and sour pork at China Cafe.
Ruth Tobias

Chen’s Kitchen

This comfy little strip-mall find focuses on the staple dishes of Taiwan, each more soothing than the last. Bento boxes featuring, say, braised pork or crispy fish over rice come with fried tofu, eggs scrambled with tomato, and veggies in garlic sauce, while the beef noodle soup and gua bao with fried chicken are spot-on.

A bento box at Chen’s Kitchen
A bento box at Chen’s Kitchen.
Ruth Tobias

HuaKee BBQ

The strip-mall digs may be humble, but the array of roasted meats on display at this Cantonese-style barbecue joint is splendid: While roast duck and roast pork are its main claims to fame, the spare ribs, soy sauce chicken, and house special fried rice all deserve a spin. (Note that seating in the tiny space is extremely limited; takeout is the way to go, literally.)

Takeout roast pork and duck chins over rice with Chinese broccoli
Takeout roast pork and duck chins from HuaKee BBQ.
Ruth Tobias

Happy Cafe

Emphasizing Hong Kong–style Cantonese cuisine, this Federal Boulevard find lives up to its name with a menu that runs the gamut when it comes to intrigue: Cordyceps flower with chicken? Mustard tofu–salted egg soup? Harbor fried crab or cauliflower with preserved pork? Old-style stewed lamb and beef with bitter melon in black bean sauce? Bring it all on, along with a Sichuan dish such as “Chongqing water sheep” or two — and if some guilty pleasures are in order to boot, both the Chinese buns and the “fried milk,” reminiscent of Twinkies, double as dreamy dessert. 

Stewed beef in sour soup
Stewed beef in sour soup at Happy Cafe.
Ruth Tobias

Hong Kong Barbecue

Even if the name weren’t a giveaway, the glossy-skinned whole birds and pig parts typically on display at this old Federal Boulevard faithful would tell first-timers all they need to know about the kitchen’s expertise in Cantonese roast meats. But stopping there would be a mistake: The long menu’s dotted with delights of all kinds, among them crunchy salt-and-pepper duck chins, water spinach with pickled tofu and jalapeño, and congee with pork and preserved egg. 

Roast duck at Hong Kong Barbecue
Roast duck at Hong Kong Barbecue.
Ruth Tobias

Star Kitchen

Coming here for dim sum is like walking into a kaleidoscope of humanity — carts spin, servers blur past, the din echoes, and hands and mouths make quick work of flavors and textures galore. Every visit is different, of course, but none is complete without at least one order each of the leek, taro, and glutinous-rice dumplings as well as the char siu bao, shrimp-stuffed rice crêpes, and baked coconut buns. At dinnertime, try any seafood dish and the hot pot of eggplant with beef rib in black-pepper sauce. 

Dim sum at Star Kitchen
Dim sum at Star Kitchen.
Ruth Tobias

Bistro King

A language-translation app and an in-depth conversation with the staff may be necessary to navigate the Chinese-language menu of this welcoming Englewood hideaway, but the effort is well worthwhile for such neat-to-eat treats as richly exhilarating brisket hot pot; crunchy glazed sweet-and-sour pork; spunky, savory vermicelli with pickled cabbage; and Jinsha corn in salted egg yolk (which tastes a little like Corn Pops).

Brisket hot pot at Bistro King
Brisket hot pot at Bistro King.
Ruth Tobias

Chopstickers

A few noodle and rice dishes round out the small menu at this fast-casual sensation downtown, but it’s really all about the instantly famous soup dumplings; plump, juicy, golden-bottomed potstickers; and silken-skinned water-fried bao. Get the latter stuffed with shrimp, pork, and chive and throw in an order of the refreshing, garlicky woodear mushrooms for good measure.

Chopstickers’ chicken potstickers
Chopstickers’ chicken potstickers.
Ruth Tobias

Sunflower Asian Cafe

Like several of the places on this list, this jewel in the suburban rough offers two different menus. One’s got orange chicken, lo mein, and beef with broccoli; the other boasts Shanghainese smoked fish, jellyfish salad with the springy texture of noodles, braised pork meatballs so big they come one per order, ultra-tender Nanjing salt duck, and stir-fried loofah with tofu. Choose wisely and then practice patience — the kind folks who run the place move as fast as they can.  

Braised pork meatball at Sunflower
The giant pork meatball at Sunflower.
Ruth Tobias

MAKfam

Cheerfully quirky, neon-splashed decor sets the tone for a menu that pays sincere homage to the Cantonese food husband-and-wife owners Kenneth Wan and Doris Yuen ate growing up while boasting a few cheeky modern twists (case in point: the happy hour–only málà mozzarella sticks). Not to be missed are the crab-and-cheese wontons, the shrimp fried rice with house XO sauce, and the spicy garlic-butter rice cakes — all of which shine alongside cocktails tricked out with everything from red beans and grass jelly to Sichuan peppercorns and even pork belly (in the form of a fat wash).

Spizzling spicy noodles with crispy tofu at MAKFam
Spizzling spicy noodles with crispy tofu at MAKFam.
Ruth Tobias

Hop Alley

Named for Denver’s onetime Chinatown, Tommy Lee’s RiNo mainstay is the complete package: edgy vibe, kinetic cuisine, progressive beverage program, and all. The kitchen plays up bold flavor contrasts — cooling against tongue-lashing, mellow against pungent, bright against luscious — without ever losing its balance, while the bar dares to pair them with everything from bubbly and rosé to craft cider and funky punches. Staples include chilled tofu in sesame bang bang sauce, shrimp toast with mustard gastrique and tiger vinaigrette, and bone-marrow fried rice; seasonal sensations come in the form of wok-fried catfish in oyster sauce and chili oil or chilled mung bean noodles with beets and celtuce in black-vinegar dressing.

Peking duck wrapped in pancake
Hop Alley’s Beijing duck roll.
Hop Alley

Fortune Wok to Table

An open secret in Cherry Creek, this little treasure chest is filled to the brim with regulars slurping up vibrant Shanghainese-style noodles (get them with shrimp or duck) or chowing down on fried rice and some of the city’s best dumplings, which come steamed or pan-fried and stuffed with beef, pork, or abundant crisp veggies. There’s not much else on the downstairs menu — just a couple of seasonal specials like tenderloin and broccoli — but it’s more than enough. (Upstairs, chef-owner CJ Shyr books private nine-course dinners featuring dishes such as hot-and-sour soup with shrimp and crab or pork belly braised with bok choy in a red bean–studded brown sauce — a worthy splurge for six or more people.) 

Fried beef dumplings with dipping sauce
Fortune’s fried beef dumplings.
Ruth Tobias

Q House

Tiny but mighty, this East Colfax purveyor of contemporary Chinese cuisine didn’t win Eater’s Restaurant of the Year Award in 2018 for nothing: The menu packs a heck of a punch for its size, whether chef-partner Chris Lin is slathering spare ribs in sweet-and-sour marinade, chopped peanuts, and fried garlic; reimagining lo mein with confit duck leg; or deftly tossing fingerlings and Chinese cauliflower in black bean vinaigrette. The bar crew pairs it all with light, sprightly cocktails featuring green tea, Korean melon, sushi rice, and the like as well as aptly chosen sakes, craft beers, and wines (think bubbles and aromatic whites like grüner veltliner). 

Chicken wings with tomatillo-ginger sauce
Crispy chicken wings with tomatillo-ginger sauce at Q House.
Ruth Tobias

Noodles Express

Don’t be fooled by the fast food franchise–like name and exterior — this family-run find excels at homestyle Sichuan fare. In addition to staples like dan dan noodles, ma po tofu, and Chongqing chicken, best bets include the fluffy pan-fried omelet filled with saucy pork; the tangy sour taste potatoes; and the pungent, numbing spicy boiled fish.

Sichuan-style boiled fish in a bowl
Spicy boiled fish at Noodles Express.
Ruth Tobias

Linglon Dumpling House

Do stop by this darling little University Hills shop for the namesake item, be it shrimp, chive, and egg dumplings in carrot juice–infused dough or pork-and-crab xiao long bao — but don’t stop there: The smart selection of small plates includes colorful Peking duck gua bao and vibrant salads like the South Style Garden Delight, composed of woodear and shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bean curd, lotus root, daylily, and peanuts.

Linglon’s pork. shrimp, chive, and egg dumplings in carrot dough
Linglon’s pork. shrimp, chive, and egg dumplings in carrot dough.
Ruth Tobias

Yuan Wonton

While Penelope Wong’s technical chops are considerable, her food is imbued with as much heart and soul as it is reflective of her skill. Come on a Wednesday or Thursday evening to be warmed as well as wowed by her OG chili oil wontons, sheng jian bao, and mushroom-studded mapo tofu; return on Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. for pan-fried chive pockets, crispy garlic noodles with bean sprouts, and tomato-egg sandwiches slathered with fermented black bean butter.

Yuan Wonton’s eggplant dumplings
Yuan Wonton’s eggplant dumplings.
Ruth Tobias

Related Maps

China Taipei

There’s a little bit of everything from everywhere on the menu of this longtime charmer in Centennial, so order accordingly: delicate steamed buns, spicy beef tendon, stir-fried eel, roast duck, twice-cooked pork belly, cumin lamb, boiled frog . . . why not give it all a try? First-timers might start with the deep-fried five-spice tofu and the Ants Climbing a Tree, a comforting concoction of ground pork and glass noodles.

Ground pork with glass noodles at China Taipei
Ants Climbing a Tree at China Taipei.
Ruth Tobias

Hong Kong Station 港味小厨

If a few of the dishes at this bustling little hangout in Centennial look Westernized, rest assured that those elements of fusion developed organically in the cha chaan tengs (sometimes compared to diners) of the international crossroads that is Hong Kong. From baked pork chops with spaghetti to peanut-butter French toast, the menu’s a warm and welcoming entrée into the wider world of comfort food — one that also offers plenty of more traditional, equally delightful Cantonese fare as well, including shrimp toast and clay pot dishes.