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Ruth Tobias

Around the World in 10 Dishes: Croquette and Fritter Edition

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

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Breaded or battered, stuffed or not, savory or sweet, shaped into patties or balls or eggs or logs—the universal love of croquettes and fritters reveals itself in the astounding diversity of forms they take the world round. But it hinges on a single, simple yet irresistible factor: from Spain’s croquetas de jamón to Indian pakora made with chickpea flour to the bulgur-based kibbeh of the Middle East, these notable nuggets are all deep-fried. Here are 10 examples—some iconic, some obscure, all worth seeking out pronto.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Big Mac & Little Lu's Seafood Market & Grill

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2851 W 120th Street
Westminster, CO 80234
(303) 404-2722
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Conch fritters
Prized by cooks from Key West to Kingston, the conch—a type of sea snail—wiggles its way into Caribbean stews, ceviches, curries and, perhaps most famously, fritters. This breath of fresh sea breeze in a Westminster strip mall—decorated like a coastal seafood shack complete with fish market—makes theirs with a dash of dried red chile, cooled by a sweet dipping sauce.

2. Boney's BBQ

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1543 Champa St
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 825-9900
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Hush puppies
According to legend, the crispy cornmeal balls of the Deep South were conceived—to put it bluntly—as dog food. Along the way, humans began to admit they liked them just as much as their hounds did, though the name stuck. The hot, crunchy-tender, sweet-salty little things are especially hard to beat alongside fried catfish at this barbecue institution downtown.

3. FelFel Mediterranean, Fresh Rotisserie Grill

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4401 S Tamarac St
Denver, CO 80237
(303) 586-5540
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Falafel
Staple Middle Eastern street snack turned global sensation: that’s falafel in a nutshell. Or rather in a legume shell. At their best, these chickpea (or, less commonly, fava-bean) croquettes are earthy, nutty, herbaceous, and surprisingly rib-sticking—and they’re at their best indeed at this friendly DTC-area quick stop, which also distinguishes itself with fresh-baked pita and housemade stuffed grape leaves.

4. Pikkas Restaurant and Pisco Bar

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Papas rellenas
Consisting of mashed-potato dough wrapped around a meaty core, the stuffed spuds of Latin America could almost answer to the description of dumplings, except that they’re also coated in crumbs before they’re plopped into bubbling oil. At this Cherry Creek Peruvian eatery, they come one to an order with good reason: each is very nearly the size of an entire baking potato, stuffed with beef and accompanied by piquant, red onion-based salsa criolla.

5. Pizzeria Locale

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1730 Pearl St
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 442-3003
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Arancini
Though they vaguely resemble the fruit for which they’re named, Sicily’s beloved “little oranges” are filled not with pith, juice, and seeds but with creamy rice, saucy ground beef, mozzarella, onions, and/or peas to yield what’s essentially a rich, hearty risotto you happen to eat with your hands. Locale’s sit-down Boulder flagship provides a textbook example; for modern twists on the theme, head to Osteria Marco.

6. Sassafras American Eatery

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320 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80203
Beignets
The word beignet, which translates literally as “fritter,” obviously comes to us from the French. But the thing itself—a pillow of fried dough served hot under a blanket of powdered sugar—has reached its apotheosis in an American city, the former French colony of New Orleans. The kitchens at both the Jefferson Park and Capitol Hill branches of Sassafras have these airy-textured yet densely flavored puffs—most often compared to doughnuts but more like sopaipillas—down pat, and no meal here would be complete without a plate of them. On the contrary, a plate of them is pretty much a meal in itself.

7. Super Star Asian Cuisine

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2200 W Alameda Ave
Denver, CO 80223
(303) 727-9889
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Jian dui
Speaking of complete meals, there’s practically no such thing as a dim sum feast that doesn’t include ultra-soft, sticky-sweet sesame balls. Made with glutinous-rice flour, filled with lotus-seed or bean paste, and rolled in sesame seeds, they make for a dynamite end to the dumpling parade held daily at many of Denver’s best Cantonese restaurants, the long-standing Super Star among them.

8. Sushi Tora

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2014 10th St
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 444-2280
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Tempura
Over centuries, the Japanese have turned the technique of batter-frying vegetables and seafood into an art form: their deft touch produces a delicate breading that showcases rather than smothers the main ingredient. At this serene sushi bar off Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, everything from mushrooms to shrimp shines through its greaseless, lacy exterior to border on health food, at least compared to its graceless counterparts at your average bar-and-grill.

9. Thai Pan

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4085 E Mississippi Ave
Denver, CO 80246
(303) 757-2750
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Tod mun
Flavored with curry paste, lime leaf, and green onions, fried fish cakes constitute a Thai classic, and this rather underrated strip-mall cafe in southeast Denver does a bang-up job of them, serving them piping-hot and fresh with a sweet-spicy, peanut-flecked sauce.

10. Tiffin's India Cafe

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2416 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 442-2500
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Vada
Not only are southern India’s lentil-and-rice doughnuts cute as heck, they’re utterly delicious as made at this bare-bones but beguiling Boulder lunch counter, where they come with either yet more lentils in the form of a dipping stew called sambar or with sides of chutney (the mint is fabulous).

1. Big Mac & Little Lu's Seafood Market & Grill

2851 W 120th Street, Westminster, CO 80234
Conch fritters
Prized by cooks from Key West to Kingston, the conch—a type of sea snail—wiggles its way into Caribbean stews, ceviches, curries and, perhaps most famously, fritters. This breath of fresh sea breeze in a Westminster strip mall—decorated like a coastal seafood shack complete with fish market—makes theirs with a dash of dried red chile, cooled by a sweet dipping sauce.
2851 W 120th Street
Westminster, CO 80234

2. Boney's BBQ

1543 Champa St, Denver, CO 80202
Hush puppies
According to legend, the crispy cornmeal balls of the Deep South were conceived—to put it bluntly—as dog food. Along the way, humans began to admit they liked them just as much as their hounds did, though the name stuck. The hot, crunchy-tender, sweet-salty little things are especially hard to beat alongside fried catfish at this barbecue institution downtown.
1543 Champa St
Denver, CO 80202

3. FelFel Mediterranean, Fresh Rotisserie Grill

4401 S Tamarac St, Denver, CO 80237
Falafel
Staple Middle Eastern street snack turned global sensation: that’s falafel in a nutshell. Or rather in a legume shell. At their best, these chickpea (or, less commonly, fava-bean) croquettes are earthy, nutty, herbaceous, and surprisingly rib-sticking—and they’re at their best indeed at this friendly DTC-area quick stop, which also distinguishes itself with fresh-baked pita and housemade stuffed grape leaves.
4401 S Tamarac St
Denver, CO 80237

4. Pikkas Restaurant and Pisco Bar

Denver, CO
Papas rellenas
Consisting of mashed-potato dough wrapped around a meaty core, the stuffed spuds of Latin America could almost answer to the description of dumplings, except that they’re also coated in crumbs before they’re plopped into bubbling oil. At this Cherry Creek Peruvian eatery, they come one to an order with good reason: each is very nearly the size of an entire baking potato, stuffed with beef and accompanied by piquant, red onion-based salsa criolla.

5. Pizzeria Locale

1730 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302
Arancini
Though they vaguely resemble the fruit for which they’re named, Sicily’s beloved “little oranges” are filled not with pith, juice, and seeds but with creamy rice, saucy ground beef, mozzarella, onions, and/or peas to yield what’s essentially a rich, hearty risotto you happen to eat with your hands. Locale’s sit-down Boulder flagship provides a textbook example; for modern twists on the theme, head to Osteria Marco.
1730 Pearl St
Boulder, CO 80302

6. Sassafras American Eatery

320 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80203
Beignets
The word beignet, which translates literally as “fritter,” obviously comes to us from the French. But the thing itself—a pillow of fried dough served hot under a blanket of powdered sugar—has reached its apotheosis in an American city, the former French colony of New Orleans. The kitchens at both the Jefferson Park and Capitol Hill branches of Sassafras have these airy-textured yet densely flavored puffs—most often compared to doughnuts but more like sopaipillas—down pat, and no meal here would be complete without a plate of them. On the contrary, a plate of them is pretty much a meal in itself.
320 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80203

7. Super Star Asian Cuisine

2200 W Alameda Ave, Denver, CO 80223
Jian dui
Speaking of complete meals, there’s practically no such thing as a dim sum feast that doesn’t include ultra-soft, sticky-sweet sesame balls. Made with glutinous-rice flour, filled with lotus-seed or bean paste, and rolled in sesame seeds, they make for a dynamite end to the dumpling parade held daily at many of Denver’s best Cantonese restaurants, the long-standing Super Star among them.
2200 W Alameda Ave
Denver, CO 80223

8. Sushi Tora

2014 10th St, Boulder, CO 80302
Tempura
Over centuries, the Japanese have turned the technique of batter-frying vegetables and seafood into an art form: their deft touch produces a delicate breading that showcases rather than smothers the main ingredient. At this serene sushi bar off Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, everything from mushrooms to shrimp shines through its greaseless, lacy exterior to border on health food, at least compared to its graceless counterparts at your average bar-and-grill.
2014 10th St
Boulder, CO 80302

9. Thai Pan

4085 E Mississippi Ave, Denver, CO 80246
Tod mun
Flavored with curry paste, lime leaf, and green onions, fried fish cakes constitute a Thai classic, and this rather underrated strip-mall cafe in southeast Denver does a bang-up job of them, serving them piping-hot and fresh with a sweet-spicy, peanut-flecked sauce.
4085 E Mississippi Ave
Denver, CO 80246

10. Tiffin's India Cafe

2416 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO 80302
Vada
Not only are southern India’s lentil-and-rice doughnuts cute as heck, they’re utterly delicious as made at this bare-bones but beguiling Boulder lunch counter, where they come with either yet more lentils in the form of a dipping stew called sambar or with sides of chutney (the mint is fabulous).
2416 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO 80302

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