It’s often easy to pass up small independently owned restaurants for larger, more convenient corporate chains and drive-thrus, but you’d sure be missing out on some of the most soul-satisfying vittles and service in the Mile High City. From BBQ joints and Asian fare to Southern and Italian cuisine just like grandma used to make it, these mom & pop restaurants in Denver are serving up specialties that’ll make you a convert. Snag a seat at any of these snug little neighborhood joints, sit back, relax, and STUFF YOUR FACE!
1. Hong Kong Barbecue, 1048 South Federal Boulevard
If sizzling juicy roasted meats, hot pots, pan-fried noodles, curries and other authentically spiced specialities from all over China is what you crave, sink your chopsticks into the delectables dishes at Hong Kong Barbecue. Once you taste their mouthwateringly crisp roasted duck and pork, you'll be back time and time again to go whole hog!
2. Ragin' Hog BBQ, 4361 Lowell Boulevard
While we're on the subject of moist meaty goodness, let's not forget the authentic, southern-style BBQ at the Ragin' Hog. Get your smoked pork, chicken, ribs, and hot links with homemade sauces and sides like mac and cheese and collards greens. And remember: They smoke fresh every day and are open 11am-7pm...or when they sell out!
3. NoNo's Cafe, 3005 West County Line Road, Littleton
This family-owned operation in Littleton is the epitome of cajun home cookin' and comfort food that'll soothe the soul. Owners Brian and Sonda Brewster boast a menu containing dishes of their own creation, as well as those passed down from family and friends over generations. Try your hand at traditional creole favorites like red beans and rice and fried shrimp po-boys or other comforting classics like shepherd's pie and beef stroganoff. And they're open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so any time's a good time at NoNo's!
4. Javier's Diner, 3801 Tennyson Street
Another down-home spot serving all day is Javier's Diner, which is renowned for its gluttonously good breakfast and brunch items, classified as American with a Mexican twist. They've got it all, from green chile breakfast burritos to chicken fried steak, so do yourself a favor and brunch it up at Javier's on their incredible outdoor patio!
5. Gaetano's, 3760 Tejon Street
This North Denver haunt is steeped in a rich history that began in the early 1930s with Ralph and Mamie Smaldone and their three mobster sons. They were infamous restauranteurs, entrepreneurs, and bootleggers who knew a thing or two about moonshine, undercover gambling rings, and a mean bolognese. In 2012 the Breckenridge and Wynkoop family of restaurants took over the operation but continue to respect its Smaldone history and maintain the integrity of this true Mile High landmark.
6. Lao Wang Noodle House, 945 South Federal Boulevard
Every good Denverite knows that many of the best hole-in-the-walls and mom-and-pops are found in the strip malls on South Federal, and Lao Wang Noodle House is no exception. Regulars flock to feast on the authentic Taiwanese dishes prepared by the elderly Chung-Ming Wang and her adorable husband Tse-Ming. Their spicy beef noodle soup and Shanghai dumplings are to die for and will definitely have you going back for more!
7. Abyssinia Restaurant, 4116 East Colfax Avenue
Next time you're in need of a little self-love, treat yourself to a family-style spread of Ethiopian delights at Abyssinia in Park Hill. There is much to be said for what spicy sambusas, fluffy inerja, and strong honey wine can do for a sullen spirit.
8. Lechuga's Italian Restaurant, 3609 Tejon Street
This family owned and operated North Denver institution has been a neighborhood staple for over 50 years and still uses the same family recipes they did the day they opened. You can gorge on buckets of pasta, meatball sandwiches, their original (and delectable) sausage cannoli, and other fresh baked goods just like Nonna used to do it. Now that's amore!
9. Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que, 2387 South Downing Street
Self-proclaimed barbecue addicts Coy and Rachel Webb opened this novel Mile High miracle in Harvard Gulch last year, and it's still smokin'. What sets it apart from ALL other styles in Denver is that it's actually Colorado craft barbecue, featuring items like house-smoked, slow-cooked lamb shanks and bison short ribs, as well as sides like red eye cowboy beans and smoked poblano cheddar mac. Kudos to this husband-and-wife team for reintroducing us to Colorado BBQ! Who knew?!
10. Jezebel's Southern Bistro and Bar, 3301 Tejon Street
You're ALWAYS welcome at Jezebel's, where the motto is to "feed your soul" with friends, family, music, and southern fare. Imagine yourself on their bright, sunny patio with a whiskey in hand, lilting tunes in the air, and a plate piled high with juicy fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and collard greens. I just died and went to hoodoo heaven!