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Fried dumplings with sauce
Fortune Wok to Table’s pan-fried beef dumplings are well worth the wait for a table.
Ruth Tobias

Denver’s 17 Essential Chinese Restaurants

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

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Fortune Wok to Table’s pan-fried beef dumplings are well worth the wait for a table.
| 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 riots. To this day, the city’s devoid of a Chinese-immigrant enclave. Which doesn’t mean restaurants devoted to the distinct regional traditions that define Chinese cuisine don’t exist — in fact, they’re everywhere. Here are 17 must-tries.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Flower Pepper

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2655 Broadway
Boulder, CO 80304
(720) 381-1594
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The sour-and-spicy sweet potato noodles, stewed pork belly over rice, and mouthwatering chicken salad have all earned this spare, snug Boulder storefront a legit following. But there’s lots more to explore on a menu that spans China’s provincial map from the northeast to the southwest. 

Ruth Tobias

2. Zoe Ma Ma

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2010 10th St
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 545-6262
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This tiny, nearly 10-year-old counter joint just off the Pearl Street Mall was the brainchild of Edwin Zoe and his mother Taiwan-born mother Anna, who brings decades of experience as both a home and a restaurant cook to her collection of dumplings, stews, rice plates, and more. Here and at the slightly more spacious Union Station outpost, the braised beef-noodle soup and the pillowy potstickers filled with pork, shrimp, and a “top-secret” blend of aromatics continue to get top billing.

Potstickers with two dipping sauces Ruth Tobias

3. Hop Alley

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3500 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205
(720) 379-8340
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Named for Denver’s onetime Chinatown, Tommy Lee’s RiNo mainstay is the complete package: edgy vibe; gutsy, kinetic cuisine; truly provocative beverage program. 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 Sherry to funky punches in porrons and teapots. Staples include steamed eggplant and bone-marrow fried rice; seasonal sensations come in the form of jumbo shrimp toast crowned by a tangle of frisée in orange vinaigrette or chicken-liver pâté with five-spice milk bread, miso mustard, and housemade crabapple-maple vinegar.

Ruth Tobias

4. Q House

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3421 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80206
(720) 729-8887
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The first challenger to the throne of contemporary Chinese cuisine on which Hop Alley has been sitting since it opened is a formidable one. In fact, it won Eater’s Restaurant of the Year Award in 2018, and not for nothing: The menu packs a heck of a punch for its size, whether chef-partner Chris Lin is topping his voluptuously salty sliced brisket with a zingy salad of Asian pear and watermelon radish, reimagining lo mein with confit duck leg, or deftly frying up smelts to dip in a piquant ginger sauce. Partner Jen Mattioni pairs it all with light, sprightly cocktails featuring lychee, lemongrass, aloe juice, and the like as well as aptly chosen craft beers and wines (think aromatic whites like riesling and gewürztraminer). 

Ruth Tobias

5. Fortune Wok to Table

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2817 E 3rd Ave Unit E
Denver, CO 80206
(303) 321-7788
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An open secret in Cherry Creek, this utter treasure offers two completely different but equally memorable dining experiences. Downstairs, slurp up rich yet vibrant Shanghainese-style noodle dishes or chow down on what may be the city’s best dumplings — steamed or pan-fried, stuffed with beef, pork, or abundant crisp veggies. Upstairs, score reservations and settle in for a small but sumptuous array of seasonal plates from chef-owner CJ Shyr such as hot-and-sour soup with shrimp and crab, pork belly braised with bok choy in a red bean–studded brown sauce, and sliced duck in cucumber shells with a side pour of black-rice hei mijiu—just one of several types of premium rice wines on offer here, supplemented by a surprisingly fine grape wine list.  

Ruth Tobias

6. Super Star Asian Cuisine

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2200 W Alameda Ave
Denver, CO 80223
(303) 727-9889
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Sure, it’s been a Denver dim-sum staple since time immemorial, delivering turnip cakes, blood curd, cheung fun, lotus leaf–wrapped sticky rice, and so on with the best of them. But Super Star’s well worth a stop for a Cantonese feast off the regular menu too. Salted prawns in the shell, whole duck and lobster, clams in black-bean sauce, garlicky pea shoots — it’s all here and it’s all textbook. 

Ruth Tobias

7. Happy Cafe

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945 S Federal Blvd#G
Denver, CO 80219
(303) 922-2226
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This relative newcomer to Federal Boulevard offers a menu that invites diners to go for the gusto, Hong Kong–style. Chicken steamed with tortoise in lotus leaf? Salmon head–tofu soup? Spare ribs chopped on the bone and sauced with pickled plums? Yes, yes, yes — and if some guilty pleasures are in order too, both the doughnut-like fried steamed buns and the “deep-fried milk,” reminiscent of Twinkies, double as dreamy dessert. 

Ruth Tobias

8. Lao Wang Noodle House

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945 S Federal Blvd
Denver, CO 80219
(303) 975-2497
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Though best-known for xiao long bao, it’s really the crispy brown-bottomed potstickers this earn this hole-in-the-wall on Federal Boulevard an enduring spot on the roster, along with the five-spiced tofu jerky and wontons in peanut sauce. That said, there are no guarantees here: business hours, available menu items, and adequate service are subject to the whims of the mom-and-pop owners. It’s all part of the charm. 

Ruth Tobias

9. Hong Kong Barbecue

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1048 S Federal Blvd
Denver, CO 80219
(303) 937-9088
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Even if the name weren’t a giveaway, the glossy-skinned whole birds and pig parts 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, wok-tossed lettuce with pickled tofu and jalapeño, and minced-beef congee with egg. 

Ruth Tobias

10. Star Kitchen

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2917 W Mississippi Ave
Denver, CO 80219
(303) 936-0089
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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 and coconut buns. Off the extensive regular menu, try country-style rice noodles in XO sauce and the hot pot of eggplant with beef rib in black-pepper sauce. 

Baked pork buns with other dim sum in the background Ruth Tobias

11. Yum Yum Spice

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4318, 2039 S University Blvd
Denver, CO 80210
(720) 542-9921
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Don’t bother with the American menu — dry hot pot is the only way to go at this DU dark horse. Pick a protein (maybe lamb one day, honeycomb tripe the next) along with any number of optional items including fish balls, rice cakes, sliced potato, and enoki mushrooms. The sizzle of the Sichuan peppercorns in the wok will linger long after the meal is over. 

Ruth Tobias

12. Szechuan Tasty House

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1000 W Evans Ave
Denver, CO 80223
(303) 955-0069
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There’s no atmosphere to speak of here (unless “shabby” counts) — but there’s no need for it either. A big group of friends with plenty of time to dig into a slew of Sichuan, Shanghainese, and other homestyle standards like crispy shredded pig ears, cumin lamb, fabulous fish in hot chile oil, and ultra-refreshing, creamy-salty chilled tofu with preserved egg is all anyone with an appetite for adventure can ask for. 

Ruth Tobias

13. China Jade

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12203 E Iliff Ave
Aurora, CO 80014
(303) 755-8518
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As reliably as ever, this Aurora strip-mall stalwart serves up Sichuan and other regional specialties with soul to rival their spice. Mapo tofu, Shanghai-style smoked fish, twice-cooked pork, hand-ripped cabbage with garlic and chiles, and rice-noodle soup thick with meat and pickled veggies count among the crowd favorites — but a glance around neighboring tables provides clues to many others. This is as good a place as any to order by looking around and pointing. 

Ruth Tobias

14. Hong Kong Cafe

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10890 E Dartmouth Ave Ste C
Denver, CO 80014
(303) 696-6688
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If some of the dishes at this bustling little hangout on Aurora’s border look awfully 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 pork-chop buns to instant noodles with Spam and eggs to fish in creamed corn sauce to delectable peanut-butter French toast, the menu’s a warm and welcoming entrée into the wider world of comfort food.

Ruth Tobias

15. Mr. Hao Grill

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10021 E Hampden Ave
Denver, CO 80231
(303) 284-7873

This strip-mall getaway at the edge of Aurora serves up a wealth of intrigue in the form of street snacks and other goodies virtually unheard of in these parts (scalded-aorta and chicken-gristle skewers, anyone?). Highlights include the spiced steamed buns, garlic oysters, and lamb–pita bread soup washed down with baijiu, a sorghum spirit that’s admittedly an acquired taste — but once acquired, it’s sneakily craveworthy.

Ruth Tobias

16. Blue Ocean (aka Little Chengdu)

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A-90, 8101 E Belleview Ave
Denver, CO 80237
(303) 220-0577
Visit Website

Toothy, knife-shaved and hand-pulled noodles drizzled in chile oil or submerged in soup with sliced five-spice beef are reason number one to seek out this DTC hideaway behind a sign that confusingly reads Blue Ocean. Bubbling hot pots brimming with chiles and scallions are reason number two, and the meat-stuffed flatbread called roujiamo is reason number three. No doubt there are more, but three make for a darn good start.  

Ruth Tobias

17. Sunflower Asian Cafe

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91 W Mineral Ave #100
Littleton, CO 80120
(303) 798-0700
Visit Website

Like several of the places on this list, this gem in the suburban rough offers two different menus. One’s got orange chicken, lo mein, and beef with broccoli; the other boasts the likes of tea-smoked eel, sprightly jellyfish salad with the springy texture of noodles, braised pork meatballs so big they come one per order, juicy and ultra-tender Nanjing salt duck, Sichuan-style dry-fried green beans, and even ginger-date-papaya soup for dessert. Choose wisely. Then practice patience — the kindly folks who run the place move as fast as they can.  

Ruth Tobias

1. Flower Pepper

2655 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80304
Ruth Tobias

The sour-and-spicy sweet potato noodles, stewed pork belly over rice, and mouthwatering chicken salad have all earned this spare, snug Boulder storefront a legit following. But there’s lots more to explore on a menu that spans China’s provincial map from the northeast to the southwest. 

2655 Broadway
Boulder, CO 80304

2. Zoe Ma Ma

2010 10th St, Boulder, CO 80302
Potstickers with two dipping sauces Ruth Tobias

This tiny, nearly 10-year-old counter joint just off the Pearl Street Mall was the brainchild of Edwin Zoe and his mother Taiwan-born mother Anna, who brings decades of experience as both a home and a restaurant cook to her collection of dumplings, stews, rice plates, and more. Here and at the slightly more spacious Union Station outpost, the braised beef-noodle soup and the pillowy potstickers filled with pork, shrimp, and a “top-secret” blend of aromatics continue to get top billing.

2010 10th St
Boulder, CO 80302

3. Hop Alley

3500 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
Ruth Tobias

Named for Denver’s onetime Chinatown, Tommy Lee’s RiNo mainstay is the complete package: edgy vibe; gutsy, kinetic cuisine; truly provocative beverage program. 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 Sherry to funky punches in porrons and teapots. Staples include steamed eggplant and bone-marrow fried rice; seasonal sensations come in the form of jumbo shrimp toast crowned by a tangle of frisée in orange vinaigrette or chicken-liver pâté with five-spice milk bread, miso mustard, and housemade crabapple-maple vinegar.

3500 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205

4. Q House

3421 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80206
Ruth Tobias

The first challenger to the throne of contemporary Chinese cuisine on which Hop Alley has been sitting since it opened is a formidable one. In fact, it won Eater’s Restaurant of the Year Award in 2018, and not for nothing: The menu packs a heck of a punch for its size, whether chef-partner Chris Lin is topping his voluptuously salty sliced brisket with a zingy salad of Asian pear and watermelon radish, reimagining lo mein with confit duck leg, or deftly frying up smelts to dip in a piquant ginger sauce. Partner Jen Mattioni pairs it all with light, sprightly cocktails featuring lychee, lemongrass, aloe juice, and the like as well as aptly chosen craft beers and wines (think aromatic whites like riesling and gewürztraminer). 

3421 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80206

5. Fortune Wok to Table

2817 E 3rd Ave Unit E, Denver, CO 80206
Ruth Tobias

An open secret in Cherry Creek, this utter treasure offers two completely different but equally memorable dining experiences. Downstairs, slurp up rich yet vibrant Shanghainese-style noodle dishes or chow down on what may be the city’s best dumplings — steamed or pan-fried, stuffed with beef, pork, or abundant crisp veggies. Upstairs, score reservations and settle in for a small but sumptuous array of seasonal plates from chef-owner CJ Shyr such as hot-and-sour soup with shrimp and crab, pork belly braised with bok choy in a red bean–studded brown sauce, and sliced duck in cucumber shells with a side pour of black-rice hei mijiu—just one of several types of premium rice wines on offer here, supplemented by a surprisingly fine grape wine list.  

2817 E 3rd Ave Unit E
Denver, CO 80206

6. Super Star Asian Cuisine

2200 W Alameda Ave, Denver, CO 80223
Ruth Tobias

Sure, it’s been a Denver dim-sum staple since time immemorial, delivering turnip cakes, blood curd, cheung fun, lotus leaf–wrapped sticky rice, and so on with the best of them. But Super Star’s well worth a stop for a Cantonese feast off the regular menu too. Salted prawns in the shell, whole duck and lobster, clams in black-bean sauce, garlicky pea shoots — it’s all here and it’s all textbook. 

2200 W Alameda Ave
Denver, CO 80223

7. Happy Cafe

945 S Federal Blvd#G, Denver, CO 80219
Ruth Tobias

This relative newcomer to Federal Boulevard offers a menu that invites diners to go for the gusto, Hong Kong–style. Chicken steamed with tortoise in lotus leaf? Salmon head–tofu soup? Spare ribs chopped on the bone and sauced with pickled plums? Yes, yes, yes — and if some guilty pleasures are in order too, both the doughnut-like fried steamed buns and the “deep-fried milk,” reminiscent of Twinkies, double as dreamy dessert. 

945 S Federal Blvd#G
Denver, CO 80219

8. Lao Wang Noodle House

945 S Federal Blvd, Denver, CO 80219
Ruth Tobias

Though best-known for xiao long bao, it’s really the crispy brown-bottomed potstickers this earn this hole-in-the-wall on Federal Boulevard an enduring spot on the roster, along with the five-spiced tofu jerky and wontons in peanut sauce. That said, there are no guarantees here: business hours, available menu items, and adequate service are subject to the whims of the mom-and-pop owners. It’s all part of the charm. 

945 S Federal Blvd
Denver, CO 80219

9. Hong Kong Barbecue

1048 S Federal Blvd, Denver, CO 80219
Ruth Tobias

Even if the name weren’t a giveaway, the glossy-skinned whole birds and pig parts 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, wok-tossed lettuce with pickled tofu and jalapeño, and minced-beef congee with egg. 

1048 S Federal Blvd
Denver, CO 80219

10. Star Kitchen

2917 W Mississippi Ave, Denver, CO 80219
Baked pork buns with other dim sum in the background Ruth Tobias

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 and coconut buns. Off the extensive regular menu, try country-style rice noodles in XO sauce and the hot pot of eggplant with beef rib in black-pepper sauce. 

2917 W Mississippi Ave
Denver, CO 80219

11. Yum Yum Spice

4318, 2039 S University Blvd, Denver, CO 80210
Ruth Tobias

Don’t bother with the American menu — dry hot pot is the only way to go at this DU dark horse. Pick a protein (maybe lamb one day, honeycomb tripe the next) along with any number of optional items including fish balls, rice cakes, sliced potato, and enoki mushrooms. The sizzle of the Sichuan peppercorns in the wok will linger long after the meal is over. 

4318, 2039 S University Blvd
Denver, CO 80210

12. Szechuan Tasty House

1000 W Evans Ave, Denver, CO 80223
Ruth Tobias

There’s no atmosphere to speak of here (unless “shabby” counts) — but there’s no need for it either. A big group of friends with plenty of time to dig into a slew of Sichuan, Shanghainese, and other homestyle standards like crispy shredded pig ears, cumin lamb, fabulous fish in hot chile oil, and ultra-refreshing, creamy-salty chilled tofu with preserved egg is all anyone with an appetite for adventure can ask for. 

1000 W Evans Ave
Denver, CO 80223

13. China Jade

12203 E Iliff Ave, Aurora, CO 80014
Ruth Tobias

As reliably as ever, this Aurora strip-mall stalwart serves up Sichuan and other regional specialties with soul to rival their spice. Mapo tofu, Shanghai-style smoked fish, twice-cooked pork, hand-ripped cabbage with garlic and chiles, and rice-noodle soup thick with meat and pickled veggies count among the crowd favorites — but a glance around neighboring tables provides clues to many others. This is as good a place as any to order by looking around and pointing. 

12203 E Iliff Ave
Aurora, CO 80014

14. Hong Kong Cafe

10890 E Dartmouth Ave Ste C, Denver, CO 80014
Ruth Tobias

If some of the dishes at this bustling little hangout on Aurora’s border look awfully 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 pork-chop buns to instant noodles with Spam and eggs to fish in creamed corn sauce to delectable peanut-butter French toast, the menu’s a warm and welcoming entrée into the wider world of comfort food.

10890 E Dartmouth Ave Ste C
Denver, CO 80014

15. Mr. Hao Grill

10021 E Hampden Ave, Denver, CO 80231
Ruth Tobias

This strip-mall getaway at the edge of Aurora serves up a wealth of intrigue in the form of street snacks and other goodies virtually unheard of in these parts (scalded-aorta and chicken-gristle skewers, anyone?). Highlights include the spiced steamed buns, garlic oysters, and lamb–pita bread soup washed down with baijiu, a sorghum spirit that’s admittedly an acquired taste — but once acquired, it’s sneakily craveworthy.

10021 E Hampden Ave
Denver, CO 80231

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16. Blue Ocean (aka Little Chengdu)

A-90, 8101 E Belleview Ave, Denver, CO 80237
Ruth Tobias

Toothy, knife-shaved and hand-pulled noodles drizzled in chile oil or submerged in soup with sliced five-spice beef are reason number one to seek out this DTC hideaway behind a sign that confusingly reads Blue Ocean. Bubbling hot pots brimming with chiles and scallions are reason number two, and the meat-stuffed flatbread called roujiamo is reason number three. No doubt there are more, but three make for a darn good start.  

A-90, 8101 E Belleview Ave
Denver, CO 80237

17. Sunflower Asian Cafe

91 W Mineral Ave #100, Littleton, CO 80120
Ruth Tobias

Like several of the places on this list, this gem in the suburban rough offers two different menus. One’s got orange chicken, lo mein, and beef with broccoli; the other boasts the likes of tea-smoked eel, sprightly jellyfish salad with the springy texture of noodles, braised pork meatballs so big they come one per order, juicy and ultra-tender Nanjing salt duck, Sichuan-style dry-fried green beans, and even ginger-date-papaya soup for dessert. Choose wisely. Then practice patience — the kindly folks who run the place move as fast as they can.  

91 W Mineral Ave #100
Littleton, CO 80120

Related Maps