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Steak with sauce being poured on top
Steak is the centerpiece at A5.
Ruth Tobias

The 38 Essential Restaurants in Denver

Here’s what’s elevating the Mile High City dining scene right now

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Steak is the centerpiece at A5.
| Ruth Tobias

Welcome to the Eater 38, a seasonally updated guide to restaurants that represent the growth and ingenuity of Denver’s culinary community. Since its launch in 2012, this map has traced the city’s evolution from what many outsiders dismissed as a cowtown to an ever-growing, prismatic dining destination that has earned a place in the national conversation for its youthful energy and freewheeling creativity.

Any given update, then, is designed to reflect what’s defining and redefining the scene now. Spanning a variety of cuisine types, price points, and neighborhoods, it centers on the cornerstones of the landscape — hence the word “essential” — while highlighting more recent arrivals that are extending Denver’s horizons. The fact that it can’t include every place fitting those descriptions is the nature of the beast; removal from the Eater 38 doesn’t, in short, mean that a restaurant isn’t still important and won’t return in the future.

Note, too, that while the map may include the occasional Boulder establishment as well as food trucks and pop-ups with fixed addresses, it does not include mobile vendors (so here’s a shoutout to stars in that category like Pho King Rapidos, Yuan Wonton, and Little Arthur’s Hoagies). It also does not include bars, which have their own map, as do bakeries. And finally, it doesn’t include restaurants that are currently on the Eater Denver Heatmap. And for all the latest dining intel, subscribe to Eater Denver’s newsletter.

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Frasca Food and Wine

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Renowned equally for its intricate Friulian cuisine, a wine program created by partner and master sommelier Bobby Stuckey, and above-and-beyond service, this longtime Boulder destination creates the kind of experiences that make many a Coloradan’s bucket list. Multicourse tasting menus abound in seasonal intricacies that might at any given time include game such as antelope and venison; unusual pastas such as balanzoni or blecs; luxuries like foie gras and truffles; and unexpected juxtapositions — caviar and snap-pea gelato, cocoa husk and sweet potato — while pairings are curated by some of the best in the business.

Lumache with tomatoes, olives, and herbs
Handmade pastas are a Frasca staple.
Ruth Tobias

The Ginger Pig

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A loving homage to the family that hosted her as an exchange student in China, this brick-and-mortar spinoff of chef-owner Natascha Hess’s popular Pan-Asian food truck also reflects her extensive travels across the continent and penchant for mashups with Western influences. At any given time, the menu might boast Korean-, Japanese-, or Chinese-style fried chicken; a Thai take on stir-fried cabbage and a Vietnamese spin on watermelon salad; and Instagrammable fare like Korean-inspired hot dogs battered in rice and cornflakes or ube-frosted doughnuts topped with Fruity Pebbles. To complement it all are cocktails flavored with Thai chiles, yuzu, matcha powder, and lemongrass; a tidy selection of beers, wine, and sake rounds out the bar menu.

Sichuan-style eggplant with pork
Sichuan-style eggplant with pork at The Ginger Pig.
Ruth Tobias

The Wolf's Tailor

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Simply put, the Wolf’s Tailor is one of the most unusual and ambitious restaurants in Denver. But explaining the concept further is not so simple: Loosely mixing Asian and Italian cuisines, it’s ultimately grounded in technique more than any one tradition, relying on a binchotan grill, a wood-fired oven, and donabes (clay pots) as well as house-milled heritage grains and produce from the garden for its constantly changing multicourse tasting menus. (For an equally intricate, intimate, and unforgettable experience with more Latin focus, try downtown sibling Brutø.)

Piada bread with spread
Piada is a staple at The Wolf’s Tailor.
Lucy Beaugard/Eater Denver

Comal Heritage Food Incubator

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Doubling as a business incubator and training kitchen for immigrants and refugees, this beloved RiNo lunch counter is currently run by women from Mexico and Venezuela — which means the frequently rotating menu abounds with vibrant dishes like puerco en salsa verde; res encebollado (steak and onions with rice and black beans); and the potato, milk, cheese, and egg soup called pisca Andina (there are always at least a couple of vegetarian options). Handmade tortillas, flan, and Jarritos make it a meal.

Plate of griddled tacos with salsa and lime wedges
Griddled tacos at Comal.
Ruth Tobias

Kiké's Red Tacos

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Denver has long had its share of attention-getting food trucks, but few could claim to capture the zeitgeist quite like this one. Currently set up in a West Highland parking lot, Kiké’s Red Tacos burst onto the scene in 2020 with birria, birria, and more birria de res — not only in the form of tacos with consomé for dipping but also in quesadillas, mulitas, tortas, burritos, and sometimes ramen — and it’s been serving throngs ever since. Rich, heady with spices, cheesy, and alternatively crisp, soft, and dripping with juice in all the right places, every single item is a winner — but when they’re gone, they’re gone, so get here early.

Birria quesadilla
Kike’s birria quesadilla.
Ruth Tobias

Safta Restaurant

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New Orleans chef Alon Shaya launched Safta in the Source Hotel in RiNo in 2018. No meal here would be complete without an order of the wood-fired pita with hummus and an array of salatim, or small plates, such as baba ghanoush and whipped feta with mint; from there, go for the charred cabbage with muhammara and hazelnuts, the crispy eggplant layered with herbed goat cheese, and the pomegranate-braised lamb shank — signature dishes all.

Pita and hummus topped with lamb
Safta’s famous pita bread and hummus with lamb ragù.
Lucy Beaugard/Eater Denver

Brasserie Brixton

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It may be an homage to the brasseries of Paris and Montreal, but this Cole hit has a keenly progressive vision all its own. Old and New World influences mingle as blood sausage fills wontons in tamari vinaigrette, French onion soup awaits next to elote (aka Mexican street corn), and ricotta doughnuts come with miso caramel. Meanwhile, the wine list goes to show just how far Denver’s evolved in a short time: Pet-nat, orange wine, and bottlings from lesser-known regions like the Canary Islands and Baja California were nowhere to be seen just a few years ago.

Roasted mushrooms with cipollini in mustard hollandaise
Roasted mushrooms with cipollini in mustard hollandaise, topped with a sous vide egg, at Brasserie Brixton.
Ruth Tobias

Hop Alley

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Tommy Lee’s enduring RiNo favorite puts an exuberant modern spin on regional Chinese staples in an equally high-energy dining room. While all first-timers (if there are any left) should try the Chongqing-style fried chicken with chiles, Beijing duck roll, and bone marrow–fried rice, abundant seasonal and daily specials keep regulars coming back — whether for clams with fermented black beans and mustard greens, turnip cake with shrimp and sausage in black garlic sauce, or salt-and-pepper softshell crabs with charred-lime aioli. The bar team is more than up to the pairing challenge the menu presents, known as they are for cocktails infused with Asian ingredients as well as a geeky selection of wines and ciders.

Chongqing-style fried chicken with chilies and scallions
Hop Alley’s signature la zi ji.
Adam Bove

Dio Mio — Handmade Pasta

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Though it’s a counter-service operation in a small, no-frills RiNo space, Spencer White and Alex Figura’s wildly popular pasta shop has proven itself far more vital to the neighborhood than any mere fast-casual joint could ever be (in fact, it has earned itself a sibling in the form of Redeemer Pizza a few blocks away). The compact menu over-delivers on intrigue for its size: While spaghetti and meatballs or cacio e pepe are always soothing options, it’s seasonal creations like fazzoletti with roast beef, Swiss cheese, and celery salsa verde or squid-ink tortelli stuffed with shrimp mousse in mushroom pho broth, not to mention bold starters such as black butter-marinated artichoke hearts in olive sauce, that have earned Dio Mio its stripes. (The beverage list is equally stylish.)

Black butter–marinated artichoke hearts in olive sauce with oranges and croutons
Black butter–marinated artichoke hearts in olive sauce with oranges and croutons at Dio Mio.
Ruth Tobias

The Greenwich

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The energy of the namesake Village reverberates throughout the high-ceilinged, artsy space of this RiNo hot spot, where chef Justin Freeman — himself a native New Yorker — excels at the art of deceptive simplicity. Pizzas are elevated by the likes of mushroom conserva and crescenza cheese, charred broccoli and mascarpone, lamb and honey labneh; silky-textured roast chicken zings with the flavors of lemon and chile-garlic paste; and even your basic side of potatoes comes thrice-cooked with ’nduja mayo. In addition, don’t miss the roasted clams or the cheesecake — or the opportunity to ask owner Delores Tronco for a wine recommendation.

Mushroom pizza
The Greenwich’s mushroom pizza.
Ruth Tobias

The Blazing Chicken Shack II

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No frills but all heart, this little soul food joint in Park Hill serves up pure comfort in the form of smothered pork chops, fried catfish, gumbo, the hot wings implied by the name, and more — including trimmings like black-eyed peas, collard greens with smoked turkey, and peach cobbler. Come and get it.

Pig-ear sandwich with fried okra
Blazing Chicken Shack II’s pig-ear sandwich with fried okra.
Ruth Tobias


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Spuntino is a special place. Chef Cindhura Reddy’s cooking is at once polished and deeply soulful, as revealed by her modern Italian menu subtly strewn with Indian influences: elk tartare with toasted masala aioli and ajwain seed crisps here, aglio e olio with garlic pickle there (and whatever the pasta dish featuring goat may be, get it). Her husband Elliot Strathmann, meanwhile, oversees one of the city’s most exciting beverage programs, painstakingly sourcing uncommon wines from small producers while making his own amari and liqueurs. And the couple’s passion for cuisine extends to their — and their dedicated staff’s — warm and genuine approach to hospitality.

Noodles with sausage, pistachios, and herbs
Handmade pasta with sausage, pistachios, and herbs at Spuntino.
Ruth Tobias

Run by Frasca alums Duncan Holmes and Allison Anderson, this tiny reservation-only chef’s counter in an old RiNo bungalow makes magic before guests’ very eyes, combining beautifully plated, market-driven multicourse tasting menus with consummate hospitality for fine dining experiences that are more than the sum of their parts. Expect to be pampered and plied with luxuries, whether inside or out on the picture-perfect patio, over the course of two-plus hours.

Seasonal dish at Beckon in Denver, CO Jonnie Sirotek | Hello Paper Laundry

The Bindery

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If this LoHi bakery, cafe, and restaurant emanates eclectic energy from sunup to long past sundown, it’s all thanks to chef-owner Linda Hampsten Fox, as inexhaustible as she is imaginative. Influences as diverse as Italy, Israel, and Mexico reflect her globe-spanning career prior to settling here; they’re revealed by day in dishes like uova alla flamenca with chorizo and grits or avocado toast with feta, curry oil, and pistachio za’atar and by night in creations ranging from smoked rabbit–pecan pie with mustard gelato to octopus aguachile with hearts of palm and shishitos.

El Five

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The Edible Beats group is behind some of Denver’s most original dining experiences (see Linger, Root Down, Vital Root, and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox); this penthouse-level playground for pan-Mediterranean tapas is no exception. Eye-popping decor meets unmatched views of the downtown skyline and mountains to create an elaborate backdrop for such nibbles as butternut-feta bourekas and matzo ball soup dumplings, as well as a few different types of paella. The bar rises to the occasion with colorful cocktails like the pineapple-mint Collins and apricot frosé.

Paella at El Five.
Ruth Tobias

Dimestore Delibar

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To call this LoHi hang a sandwich shop is to underestimate its specialty: Called “dimerolls,” they start with thin slices of focaccia that put a whole new twist on the wrap genre, stuffed with smoked chicken salad, Swiss, and arugula or meatloaf in hoisin sauce, provolone, fried potatoes, and jalapeno slaw, among other things. And that’s not to overlook the rest of the menu, including beet-and-burrata salad with pistachios in kumquat vinaigrette or fava bean hummus accompanied by delectable fresh pita. Cocktails laced with house tonics, shrubs, and liqueurs only up the intrigue.

Chicken salad focaccia wrap Ruth Tobias

Work & Class

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Dana Rodriguez has been on fire lately, what with the launch of Cantina Loca — featuring her own agave spirits brand, Doña Loca — and the news that she’s spearheading the kitchen at the soon-to-reopen legend Casa Bonita (not to mention a James Beard nomination). But all that just serves as a reminder of the significance of her and her partners’ beloved RiNo flagship. Drawing inspiration from both Mexican and Midwestern traditions to deliver a mix of hearty meats and vibrant accompaniments — cochinita pibil, wine–braised short rib, rotisserie chicken, blue-corn empanadas, dirty rice, and key lime pie — it’s got more character than most restaurants combined. (Granted, its next-door sibling, the pan-Latin Super Mega Bien, is no slouch in that department either.)

Salad with tempura broccoli, avocado, asparagus, and preserved lemon vinaigrette
Work & Class’ signature Massive Attack salad with tempura broccoli, avocado, asparagus, and more.
Jennifer Olson

Uchi Denver

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Denver lucked out when highly acclaimed chef-restaurateur Tyson Cole chose RiNo as the site for his first branch of Uchi outside of Texas. The modern Japanese destination has lived up the hype surrounding it since its 2018 opening, executing not only sashimi and sushi from scrupulously sourced fish but also a wide array of original creations both cooked and raw: olive oil–drizzled flounder with candied quinoa, say, or yellowtail collar with pickled kabocha and grilled radicchio in coconut-lemongrass zu. The seafood-averse will be no less wowed by the kinoko nabe (a rice dish with mushrooms) or the ham and eggs, a pork belly roll garnished with dots of yolk mustard.

Yellowtail sashimi in ponzu
Tyson Cole’s famous hama chili: yellowtail in ponzu with Thai chile and orange.
Ruth Tobias

La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal

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Jose Avila is single-handedly changing the Mexican-food game in Denver: Not only is he the mastermind behind El Borrego Negro — a Sunday-only pop-up for real-deal barbacoa — but in 2021 he also opened the city’s first pozolería to instant buzz, making the stew as he does with house-nixtamalized hominy and pork from the heads of his own herd in a variety of broths. Against a dimly lit, cantina-like backdrop, diners can find guisados featuring ingredients like bone marrow, chayote squash, and even pork chop served in or on tacos, pambazos, and more alongside equally tempting tequila and mezcal cocktails.

Chile de agua taco and a chorizo costra
A chile de agua taco and a chorizo costra at La Diabla.
Ruth Tobias

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs

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Built on a fleet of carts that still dot the city, Jim Pittenger’s iconic sausage parlor draws the hot dog–gobbling hordes with a selection of some 13 links, each more startling than the last: elk, boar, ostrich, rattlesnake-rabbit. Equally offbeat topping combos like the Desert (featuring harissa-roasted cactus and curry jam) and the Conspiracy (blue cheese, bacon red onion marmalade, lemon aioli, and fried onions) make for a memorable meal.

Greek-inspired hot dog with feta and cucumber relish
Biker Jim’s often serves up specials, like this Greek-inspired dog, in addition to its core offerings.
Ruth Tobias


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Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch’s Union Station homage to Spanish and Portuguese cuisine is nothing if not a stone-cold stunner. The wraparound mural and terrazzo flooring in the two-story dining room, the colorfully tiled tabletops and fountain on the patio — it all sets the stage for tapas as classic as pan con tomate and as modern as bulgur-farro salad with cucumbers and shishito crema, not to mention frequent paella parties and brunch service featuring dishes like olive oil pancakes with dried apricots and almonds. The bar chimes in with an all-Iberian wine list on the one hand, inventive G&Ts infused with thyme syrup or strawberry-pepper shrub on the other.

Basque-style pintxos, or finger foods secured with toothpicks
An array of pintxos at Ultreia.
Ryan Dearth


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While Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder may well be Colorado’s most famous dining destination, its Denver sibling is every inch as notable. Set on the Union Station platform in full view of the trains, the sleek restaurant and lounge takes a broader regional approach to Italian cuisine than its Friuli-focused sibling, proffering a seasonal menu that might find Lombardian scarpinocc next to Sardinian culurgiones and ’nduja-stuffed surf clams alongside rabbit saddle with farro verde, pistachios, and mushrooms; the splurge-worthy wine list naturally follows suit. And the service, of course, is as polished as the tableware.

Ravioli with spring ingredients
Handmade pasta is core to Tavernetta’s culinary program.
Ryan Dearth/Eater Denver


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Chef Caroline Glover hasn’t let stardom go to her head: After all, her renown — cemented by a 2022 James Beard Award for best chef, Mountain region — is predicated on the down-to-earth, heartfelt approach to both cooking and hospitality she takes at Annette. Located in Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace, Eater Denver’s 2017 restaurant of the year remains as relevant as ever, thanks not only to her talent but also to her advocacy for health- and justice-related causes in the industry and the community at large. Diners who come in feel well cared for as they tuck into signatures like grilled beef tongue and marrow toast or roast chicken with dandelion greens and PX sherry vinegar alongside seasonal dishes such as spring onion gratin with taleggio; tahini-grilled carrots with fried chickpeas and aquafaba aioli; and ice cream sandwiches in ever-changing flavors (think salted buckwheat, white chocolate chip, and cinnamon). Knockout cocktails and a boutique wine list enhance the feel-good experience.

Chicken-liver pâté with grilled bread Ruth Tobias

A5 Steakhouse

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What separates this steakhouse from the pack is a sense of playfulness that speaks to the moment. Against a backdrop that defies genre stereotypes in lively shades of green, the kitchen likewise upends expectations through the diversity of its influences, deftly supplementing those exquisite cuts of beef with, say, chicken-confit poutine, crab fried rice in black-garlic shoyu, and brown-buttered carrots in mole blanco and Chile vinaigrette. The bar, meanwhile, gets into the groove with a focus on rums rather than whiskeys. A rocking happy hour seals the deal.

Denver steak with a variety of sauces
A5’s Denver steak with a variety of sauces.
Eric Donzella


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Though it focuses on the bottom half of the Boot, this Italian fixture in Uptown is no red-sauce joint. Amid mainstays like cacio e pepe and eggplant parmigiana, the menu’s seasonal offerings and specials often have the potential to become classics in their own right, be it goat-shank caramelle with apricot butter and garlic scapes in summer or braised lamb-neck collar with salsa verde, pistachios, and wood-fired carrots in winter. Start with the focaccia while fielding recommendations from the delightful wine list, dedicated exclusively to Italy’s central and southern regions.

Fried calamari with lemon, marinara sauce, and a glass of rosé
Classic calamari fritti at Coperta.
Ruth Tobias


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Making its own flour tortillas and frying its eggs and potatoes in duck fat, this tiny daytime cafe in Uptown has built a cult following on the strength of its signature breakfast tacos, congee with duck confit, and fried rice with Chinese sausage as well as recurring items like loco moco and pozole — all ideally paired with iced Vietnamese coffee or an old-school tequila sunrise. If that sounds like an unusual mix of influences, well, it is, and Onefold is all the better for it — not to mention all the more popular. No surprise to Denverites that it now has a second location at Union Station.

Breakfast tacos with eggs, mozzarella, and hash browns
Onefold’s breakfast tacos.
Ruth Tobias

Misfit Snack Bar at Middleman

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Though it operates within a bar, Misfit has its own separate identity — and what a unique identity it is. Bo Porytko is one of Denver’s most wildly inventive chefs, and it shows in an ever-changing menu that might boast split pea-and-ham falafel and rutabaga latkes with potlikker hollandaise one day, pickled and smoked radish carpaccio and a deconstructed Chicago hot dog in the form of a salad the next. There’s nothing quite like it in town.

Kielbasa terrine with Ukrainian salads, beet horseradish, pickled mustard seeds, and rye crisps
Misfit’s kielbasa terrine with Ukrainian salads, beet horseradish, pickled mustard seeds, and rye crisps.
Ruth Tobias

Urban Burma

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Located in the food court of Aurora refugee community center Mango House, this Burmese stall has built a large and loyal fan base on the strength of its hearty, soulful noodles and curries like the weh da nah with pork and pickled mango, as well as such intriguing stuff as pae paratha — a sort of flatbread rolled up with yellow peas and fried onions — and the funky, crunchy tea leaf salad. The owners, Siri and Martin Tan, also run a food truck; follow on Instagram to track its whereabouts.

Burmese noodle dish with broth
Nan gyi dok at Urban Burma.
Mark Antonation

Cuba Cuba cafe & bar

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Since 2001, this longtimer has been casting a magic spell on all who draw near the adjacent turquoise bungalows it occupies — one that only deepens inside, where the rum cocktails flow through rooms filled with color and music and the food encapsulates the good cheer. Cases in point: the ropa vieja, camarones con coco, and lechon asado, best preceded by the plantain chips and dips.

Camarones al coco
Cuba Cuba’s camarones al coco.
Rachel Greiman

El Taco De Mexico

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In 2020, this little yellow taqueria in Lincoln Park received a James Beard America’s Classics Award — an honor that’s been more than earned over the decades by a crew dedicated to serving up not only quintessential tacos but also some of the best green chile–smothered burritos in town (among many other Mexican mainstays optimally paired with horchata or agua fresca). If any place is a rite of passage for Denver diners, El Taco is.

Carne asada tacos with rice and beans
Tacos de carne asada at El Taco de Mexico.
Ruth Tobias

Fortune Wok to Table

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The downstairs dining room is small and simply decorated, the menu even smaller and simpler — but the flavors and textures are huge at this Chinese restaurant in Cherry Creek. Come with a tight-knit group and get a little of everything — Shanghainese-style noodles with duck, fried rice with shrimp, incredible steamed or pan-fried dumplings with beef or pork — plus the occasional seasonal dish like tenderloin and peppers. (Then ask about private dining with a larger group upstairs for a singular tasting experience.)

Shanghainese-style noodles with duck
Fortune’s noodles come with duck (pictured), beef, shrimp, or veggies.
Ruth Tobias

Farmhouse Thai Eatery

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This family-run sleeper hit in a suburban strip mall showcases the clear, bright fragrances and flavors of Thai cooking with verve. While all the standard curries and stir-fries are there, the menu is built for branching out, with a fabulous selection of seasonal dishes otherwise hard to find around here: the leaf-wrapped bites of toasted coconut, peanut, shallot, ginger, and lime called miang kum, for instance; or floating market noodle soup; or khao kha moo, a pork-leg stew spiced with star anise, cumin, and more.