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As a Colorado-born Thai-American, the cuisine of my parent’s homeland is the ultimate source of comfort. And when my Bangkok-born mother (the best cook I know) isn’t whipping up the creamy curries, wok-fried noodles, and herb- and chile-laced salads I grew up eating in her home kitchen, my cravings are satiated by the Denver metro area’s growing roster of wonderful Thai restaurants. Here are 12 of the best places to feast on classics like pad thai, massaman curry, tom yum soup, and even delicious lesser-known specialities.
Editor’s Note: This is a living list and was last updated on December 31, 2021. Did we miss your favorite? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Named after the late King of Thailand Rama IX—the country’s highly revered, longest-reigning monarch—9 Thai is known for its stellar specials. While lovingly prepared staples like fragrant tom kha (a coconut-milk-based chicken soup enriched with galangal root, kaffir lime, and lemongrass) and three varieties of peanut-laced pad thai are on the menu all the time, regulars rave about offerings listed on the ever-changing chalk board. Look for the fried chicken with sweet tamarind dip and sticky rice, a rendition of a dish served at street stalls in cities across the Land of Smiles. 4122 E. Colfax Ave.
This Littleton-born restaurant added a second outpost in Edgewater in September—a testament to its loyal following in the Denver metro area. At either location, tuck into a bowl of Thai noodle soup, rice noodles with tender slices of beef, fried garlic, and slices of green onion in a slurp-worthy oil-sheened broth, or the kapao moo krob, crispy pork belly stir-fried with onions, bell peppers, and bamboo shoots. Other standouts include the vegetable-loaded green curry and garlic-sauce-slicked pad kee mao (drunken noodles). Bonus: Look for a third location in the Highland neighborhood off 32nd Avenue in 2022. 2630 W. Belleview Ave., Ste. 150, Littleton; 1931 Sheridan Blvd., Ste. Z, Edgewater
When Suthinee Phairatphiboon and her family (hospitality veterans who moved from Thailand to the United States more than 24 years ago) launched the Busaba in Louisville in 2011, the cozy restaurant quickly became a beloved stop for residents of Boulder County and far beyond. All of the usual suspects are on the menu—tender chicken satay with peanut sauce, green curry dotted with buttery Thai eggplant and sweet basil leaves, and simply dressed Bangkok street fried rice—are solid choices. But we urge you to go beyond the basics: Try the goong op woon sen (steamed bean thread noodles with shrimp), a dish bursting with flavors of salty bacon, peppery ginger, and citrusy cilantro, or the chicken puff, a roti shell stuffed with aromatic curried chicken and potato. 133 McCaslin Blvd., Unit H, Louisville
At two-year-old Daughter Thai in Highland, chef-owner Ounjit Hardacre and her team (also behind now-closed Citizen Thai in Golden) offer an assortment of beautifully plated appetizers, stir-fries, curries, salads, and rice and noodle dishes, alongside a lineup of polished cocktails in a stylish, date-night-friendly ambiance. You can’t go wrong by choosing any of the curries, but we like the lychee-kissed massaman curry with Colorado lamb and red curry with duck confit, Thai eggplant, and crispy basil—both of which pair well with a peanut-bourbon-infused Thai Fashioned. The restaurant is also open for lunch Friday through Sunday, when you can get more casual yet equally tasty offerings like fragrant fried rice crowned with a fried chicken cutlet and accompanied by a sweet-spicy dipping sauce. 1700 Platte St., Ste. 140
Farm House Thai Eatery
The lineup at more than two-year-old Farm House Thai’s is an ode to the multi-faceted cuisine of “the Land of Smiles.” For an appetizer, get the nam prik ong, a meaty dip from northern Thailand made with ground pork, tomatoes, chiles, and garlic and served with pork rinds. Then enjoy the floating market noodle soup, a specialty from the country’s central region with rice noodles, springy meatballs, and thinly sliced pork or beef in a broth enriched with dark soy sauce, star anise, and other bold spices. Or try the kao moo dang, a plate of rice loaded with sweet-red-sauce-drizzled crispy skinned pork, Chinese sausage, and a hard-boiled egg. Wash down your meal with one of the restaurant’s cocktails like the lychee-infused gin and vodka Lichitini or the rum-forward Adult Thai Tea. 98 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Lakewood
Street fare is the draw at Hey Bangkok, where the dining room’s walls are even wrapped in scenes depicting the vibrant city’s bustling thoroughfares. The petite 18-month-old eatery from Jay Dedrick and Siriporn Tayaputch—the husband-and-wife team behind 23-year-old restaurant Swing Thai—sports a small but mighty menu. Go for the khao mun gai, a Thai riff on Hainanese chicken rice with tender steamed poultry accompanied by a bowl of hot broth, sliced cucumbers, and a garlic- and chile-spiked sauce, or the pad gra pao, chicken stir-fried with basil, onion, and red bell pepper capped with a fried egg. 301 S. Pennsylvania St.
Mountain Thai Kitchen
This food truck isn’t technically a restaurant—but thanks to the popularity of chef and co-owner Sopit Buckman’s cooking—Mountain Thai Kitchen will open its first brick-and-mortar in Broomfield this spring. Until then, customers can order the roving eatery’s beautifully charred barbecued pork skewers with sticky rice; wok-fried chicken coated in piquent garlic-pepper paste; and jammy-fried-egg-topped basil ribeye steak slices served on a bed of rice at breweries like Twenty Brew Taphouse in the Westminster and Broomfield area. Don’t miss the seasonal mango sticky rice, if it’s available. Storefront coming soon; see the food truck’s schedule here.
U.S. Thai Cafe
This no-fuss Edgewater joint has a reputation for producing sweat-inducing curries, but patrons familiar with the restaurant’s heat levels know not to go for the “Thai hot” unless they want to feel the burn. To experience U.S. Thai’s deliciously balanced flavor combinations—which are better representations of the country’s cuisine than the taste-bud-scorching options many opt for—ask for the pad see ew (thin rice noodles fried with egg, Chinese broccoli, and your choice of protein) or jungle curry (a coconut-milk-free red curry with zucchini, bamboo shoots, baby corn, carrot, and green beans) with the mild or medium spice levels. 5228 W. 25th Ave., Edgewater (currently open for takeout only; call 303-233-3345 for hours)
Warm hospitality and a killer lineup of both familiar dishes and those harder to find in the Denver metro area await at this eatery tucked off South Peoria Street in Aurora. Order a spread to share of kra pao with ground beef and crunchy diced green beans; som tum, ribbons of fresh green papaya mixed with crushed garlic, chiles, tomatoes,and salty crab; and the yum woon sen, silky glass noodles with shrimp and ground chicken in a fish sauce and lime juice dressing. The tod mun pla, plump fried fish cakes that come with a sweet-spicy dipping sauce, and the crispy noodles smothered in a lard na gravy (a silky brown sauce with bok choy and broccoli), are also worth adding to your lunch or dinner feast. 1014 S. Peoria St., Aurora
This yellow-walled, eclectically decorated eatery (think: a double fish tank display filled with plants) has a lengthy menu with a selection of regional dishes. Start with the homemade sai ua, a spicy sausage from northern Thailand served with ginger, fresh chiles, peanuts, and cabbage. Then ask for the omelet, a fluffy cloud of soy-sauce-tinged eggs speckled with pieces of ground pork—a comforting dish often prepared in homes across Thailand and an ideal accompaniment to zesty specialties like tom yum soup, yum talay (shrimp and calamari salad with a fresh lime dressing), and green curry. 8025 Sheridan Blvd., Arvada
Siblings Attawut Intongkam and Suttichai Inthongkham opened Ros Siam in the former Sassafras space in Jefferson Park in March 2020 to introduce Coloradans to the cuisine they grew up eating in Bangkok. The results are vibrant plates that exude an equilibrium of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. Get the nam tok, charbroiled beef tossed with toasted rice powder, mint, red onions, and lime, and Chinese eggplant stir-fried with garlic, chiles, and soy bean paste. We also recommend the moo yang, grilled pork tenderloin with Thai chile sauce and sticky rice. 2637 W. 26th Ave.
Woody’s Wings N Things
Don’t let the name of this unassuming strip-mall joint fool you: Woody’s serves tasty wings, but the Thai dishes on its more than 20-page, binder-size menu—which also includes Chinese, Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese fare—deserve the most attention. We recommend the fried whole fish (available with a lime-tinged sauce or doused in a medley of vegetables in sweet and sour sauce); the lard na, wide rice noodles swimming in a glossy brown gravy and studded with slices of Chinese broccoli; and the refreshingly tangy tom yum soup presented in an eye-catching aluminum goblet. If wings are on your mind, go for the ones tossed in finger-licking peanut-lemongrass coating. Note: There are no prices on the menu, but we promise that everything you order will be worth the spend (and priced roughly between $10 and $20). 6817 Lowell Blvd., Westminster
Bonus: Buy Mama Sue Chile Oil
In October 2020, 22-year-old Tuk Tuk Thai Restaurants, which has locations in the Denver metro area, launched Mama Sue Kitchen. The brand, named after the restaurant’s co-owner Sue Chinsomboon, offers a lineup of Thai chile oils that are hot additions to any pantry (literally). Spoon the fiery condiment, spiked with a symphony of garlic, onion, chiles, black pepper, sesame seeds, and salt, on anything in your kitchen that needs some extra zing. We love the mild flavor on eggs and in marinades and the tongue-tingling original flavor in ramen or on dumplings. Buy the jars, as well as ready-to-cook basil chicken dumplings, at Tuk Tuk locations (800 E. Quincy Ave; 218 Union Blvd., Lakewood; and 10667 Westminster Blvd., Westminster)