People don’t come to Boulder County and the Front Range to eat authentic regional Chinese fare, Argentinean empanadas and Thai curries. Visitors expect to find lots of craft brews and American eateries instead.
It’s great when folks finally get to the metro area and discover the thriving culinary scene driven by decades of immigrants from across the globe. As a writer, food radio host and occasional culinary tour guide, I often get asked to recommend restaurants. Here are some of my favorite, affordable ethnic eateries with an emphasis on new and less familiar, under-the-radar destinations. Some of the locations require a short road trip and are perfect for a warm mid-summer’s night excursion.
Flower Pepper Chinese Restaurant, 2655 Broadway, Boulder, flowerpeppereats.com
What: Traditional Chinese fare dished in a tiny eatery tucked in the side of a North Boulder parking structure.
Order This: Soup-filled dumplings, dan dan noodles and Taiwanese stewed pork belly.
Rincon Argentino, 2525 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, rinconargentinoboulder.com
What: A genuine celebration of Argentinean fare with a tango flair.
Order This: More than a dozen empanada varieties, including the mushroom-and-garlic stuffed hongos, plus steak sandwiches with chimichurri sauce and alfajors, the sweet dulce de leche cookies.
Bawarchi Biryanis, 390 S. McCaslin Blvd., Louisville, bawarchilouisville.com
What: A Pakistani and Indian halal restaurant specializing in the rice dish called biryani.
Order This: Hyderabadi chicken dum biryani; goat meat sauteed with chilies; and mirchi bajji, fried whole jalapenos in a spicy chickpea jacket.
Rosario’s Peruvian Restaurant, 625 Ken Pratt Blvd., Longmont, rosariosperuvianrestaurant.com
What: Family-run restaurant serving traditional Peruvian comfort food.
Order This: Mahi mahi ceviche; lomo saltado (steak and fries); deep fried fish with lime pepper vinaigrette; and seco de ternera, beef in a cilantro sauce with white rice, Peruvian beans and salsa criolla.
Jin Chan Zhang, 2835 28th St., Boulder
What: A strip mall eatery dishing Chinese-American as well as authentic Chinese regional dishes.
Order This: Crispy duck, braised ham hock, and chewy fried peanut pancakes.
Café Copan, 1515 Main St., Longmont, mycafecopan.com
What: A Honduran immigrant-operated cafe serving great coffee drinks and Honduran and Mexican food.
Order This: Tajadas plate with plantains, avocado, steak, refried red beans, white cheese, crema and tortilla.
Ginger Pig Food Truck, Wednesday Boulder County Farmers Market, Rayback Collective, other locations, facebook.com/thegingerpigtruck
What: The truck is owner Natascha Hess’s homage to Asian street food.
Order This: Red curry, Chinese nine-spice fried chicken, pork banh mi bowl, crispy Bangkok rice balls and char sui pork.
The Taco Wagon parked outside El Mercado, S. Public Road, Lafayette
What: A much-loved and permanent Mexican food truck with some seating.
Order This: Carne asada tacos on warm corn tortillas with cilantro, lime and a variety of hot salsas.
Udon Kaisha, 191 W. South Boulder Road, Lafayette, udonkaishaco.com
What: A small, modest strip mall eatery serving top-notch Japanese fare.
Order This: Okonomiyaki savory pancake, curry udon noodles with pork, tofu, bean sprouts and green onions, and grilled yellowtail collar with sake.
Worth-a-Drive Ethnic Destinations
TRU Colotexmex Bar-B-Que, 599 W. Littleton Blvd., Littleton, facebook.com/colotexmex
What: Look for the Pyramid Liquors sign and follow your nose to pit master James Diaz’ truck.
Order This: Mesquite-smoked ribs, chicken thighs, pork loin, brisket and beef tri-tip with homemade flour tortillas, smoked baked potatoes and charro beans.
Music City Hot Chicken, 111 W. Prospect Road, Fort Collins, mchcco.com
What: An establishment dedicated to variations on Southern fried chicken.
Order This: Nashville-style hot chicken: crispy fried chicken coated in spicy glaze, a smoked trout sandwich with bacon-aise and vegan chicken-fried tempeh.
US Thai, 5228 W. 25th Ave., Edgewater
What: Authentic Thai cafe that doesn’t Americanize its flavors or temperatures. Do not order anything on the menu “Thai hot,” even the “mild” curries are warm.
Order This: Tom kha soup, green curry with chicken, and green papaya salad.
Pierogies Factory, 3895 Wadsworth Blvd., Wheat Ridge, pierogiesfactory.com
What: Cezary Grosfeld serves authentic Polish cuisine featuring pierogies, dumplings — have them boiled, sautéed or deep fried — with a variety of fillings.
Order This: Potato and cheese or sauerkraut and mushroom pirogies topped with parsley butter or bacon caramelized onions. The cabbage rolls are great, too.
New Canton BBQ, 2751 S. Parker Road, Aurora
What: It is the very definition of hole-in-the-wall. This cramped, noisy Cantonese eatery has a couple of tables and is mainly about takeout. It is conveniently located next door to H-Mart, the giant Asian supermarket.
Order This: Smoked duck, pork ribs, congee, beef chow fun dry-style and Singapore noodles.
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and streaming at kgnu.com. He writes the Nibbles column for Boulder Weekly: boulderweekly.com/cuisine/nibbles