If you’ve come to think of grocery shopping as a chore—something that has to be done but isn’t exactly inspiring—we’ve got a solution to your doldrums with this roundup of Denver’s best food markets. We scoured more than 60 shops in the metro area to find the best places to do everything from buying seafood to eating tamales to scoring noodles for pad thai. Our focus was on neighborhood spots and small mom-and-pop shops, but we also included our favorites from high-quality chains (think: our go-to outposts of Lowe’s Mercado and H Mart). We had one overarching requirement: Each market had to be a place we’d return to—even if it’s across town. Get your Google Maps app ready; you’ve got some shopping to do.
Click here for a complete map of the top specialty food markets in metro Denver—plus where to go for must-have items like Korean rice cakes and freshly made tamales.
Arash International Market
Fresh garbanzo beans and green almonds were what first drew us to Arash, but now we go back regularly to pick up halal meats, dried figs, new-to-us fruits and vegetables, and pints of saffron-flavored Golobolbol ice cream.
Don’t leave without buying…goat shoulder.
2720 S. Parker Road, Aurora | 303-752-9272
If you’ve eaten at Aurora’s Masalaa, you were just steps away from this jam-packed Indian market. Expect a tiny but fresh selection of produce as well as a tremendous selection of rice, lentils, sauces, and frozen goods (including dosa dough and kulfi pops).
Don’t leave without buying…a bag of hara chiwda, the ultimate sweet-spicy-crunchy Indian snack.
3140 S. Parker Road, Aurora | 303-369-1010
East Europe Market
A gathering spot for regulars who sit at tables and chairs while nibbling Bulgarian pastries, this market is stocked with an eclectic mix of chocolate toy-stuffed eggs, canned sardines, and boxed juices. It’s a must-stop if you’re nostalgic for the old country or your last backpacking adventure in college.
Don’t leave without buying…feta cheese.
4015 E. Arkansas Ave. | 720-446-1822
Edwards Meats is much more than a friendly neighborhood butcher shop. While it’s a given that the gleaming meats in the case are super fresh, it’s the deep selection of eclectic goods like bison tongue, rendered duck fat, and Irish pork-and-leek sausages that make it a destination.
Don’t leave without buying…a fresh-from-the-smoker rack of baby back ribs for dinner.
12280 W. 44th Ave., Wheat Ridge | 303-422-4397 | edwards-meats.com
Looking for live crab, kimchi, fermented black bean sauce, bitter melon, or Chinese sausage? You’ll find it all at H Mart—and then some. Don’t just go with a shopping list in hand; wander the aisles of this Asian supermarket and see what you discover.
Don’t leave without buying…a host of hard-to-find herbs like saw-tooth, kaffir lime leaves, and Thai basil.
Our favorite location: 2751 S. Parker Road, Aurora | 303-745-4592 | Hmart.com
This Texas-based chain and supermarket manages to have the soul of a neighborhood market. With more than 10 types of tortillas, a display case of Mexican pastries (cookies, empanadas, pan dulce), fresh and dried chiles, and more, this grocery is a nostalgic must-go destination for transplants from the Southwest or Mexico.
Don’t leave without buying…anything (and everything) you need for taco night.
Our favorite location: 10777 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora | 303-363-3321 | lowesmarket.com
Makola African Market
If you’re looking for West African ingredients, Makola is a one-stop-shop. Pick up essentials like cassava and yam flours, Nigerian curry powder, rare African legumes, and fresh plantains.
Don’t leave without buying…smoky shrimp powder, a must for Ghanaian foods.
2032 Clinton St., Aurora | 303-341-4771
Marczyk Fine Foods
This gourmet market may be small, but it’s mighty. Marczyk’s shelves are packed with gourmet goods ranging from squid-ink pasta and locally made jam to frozen muscovy duck breasts and exquisite olive oils. Stop in before a dinner party—or simply for everyday shopping.
Don’t leave without buying…a pint of market-made ice cream.
Our favorite location: 770 E. 17th Ave. | 303-894-9499 | marczykfinefoods.com
If nothing else gets you through the door of this compact Ethiopian market, the $1 samosas should. And that’s not to mention the freshly made injera or gorgeous loaves of banana-leaf-wrapped bread. Then duck through the doorway and have breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the adjoining restaurant.
Don’t leave without buying…the house-made chai blend.
306 S. Ironton St., Aurora | 720-532-0266
Nooch Vegan Market
There’s nothing here—from dog treats to baking ingredients—that’s not 100 percent vegan. In 2014, the market doubled its size with a move from RiNo to Baker, making room for more hard-to-find items like preseasoned jackfruit, flavored pecan milk beverages, and a variety of “meat” jerky.
Don’t leave without buying…a jar of vegan nacho-cheese sauce and a bottle of Boulder-based Upstart Kombucha.
10 E. Ellsworth Ave. | 720-328-5324 | noochveganmarket.com
Pacific Ocean Marketplace
While many stores tend to specialize in one type of cuisine, you’ll find ingredients for Burmese, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Chinese recipes at any of POM’s three locations. Don’t miss the piles of fresh produce (as if you needed an excuse to take home bunches of scallions for savory pancakes).
Don’t leave without buying…thinly sliced pork belly for ramen bowls.
Our favorite location: 2200 W. Alameda Ave. | 303-936-4845 | pacificoceanmarket.com
Pete’s Fruits & Vegetables
You’ll still find Pete Moutzouris, who has owned the Hilltop grocery since 1974, behind the register or unloading the produce truck nearly every day. You’ll also find fresh, in-season produce—much of which is grown in Colorado—olives galore, and other authentic Greek specialties like loukanika sausage and imported feta.
Don’t leave without buying…phyllo dough.
5606 E. Cedar Ave. | 303-393-6247
Sawa Meat & Sausage
People flock to this tiny market for two things: sausage (the fresh pork sausage is so popular it often sells out) and Polish-style pierogi. Pick up a frozen pack of the potato-and-cheese dumplings from Wheat Ridge–based Pierogies Factory for a family-night dinner, or nab a package of the sauerkraut-and-mushroom variety for a more traditional meal.
Don’t leave without buying…the house-made Sawa sausage.
2318 S. Colorado Blvd. | 303-691-2253 | sawasausage.com
In our landlocked state, it is rare to feel like you are near the ocean. Get your fix inside this small Highland shop. There’s just the right amount of salt in the air as you ogle fresh filets of cod and swordfish and other sea creatures. Don’t see what you’re looking for—say, in-season crawfish? They’ll order it for you.
Don’t leave without buying…the prepared salmon patties.
3457 W. 32nd Ave. | 303-571-1995 | seafoodlandingmarket.com
A neighborhood staple of the Park Hill area for more than two decades, this Italian shop is in the midst of a revival. You’ll still find the store’s pasta sauces, but you’ll also discover an expanded line of imported pastas stacked on floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves, everything you need to make pizza at home (including fresh dough), and a freezer stocked with pints from Sweet Action Ice Cream.
Don’t leave without buying…ready-to-bake trays of cheese ravioli smothered with pomarola sauce.
4621 E. 23rd Ave. | 303-329-8143 | spinellismarket.com
Super Carniceria Compare
We were immediately impressed by the piles of oh-so-fresh jalapeños and caches of harder-to-find ingredients (think epazote and tamarind root), but we were sold when we noticed that the store’s restaurant tables were filled before 9 a.m. with people noshing on tacos and tamales.
Don’t leave without buying…bags of masa (for making tamales and tortillas).
2796 S. Federal Blvd. | 303-761-4430 | carniceriacompare.com
Tony’s Market, which opened its original Centennial location in 1978, has remained a gourmet stalwart for the metro area ever since. Its Capitol Hill shop’s selection of ready-to-bake meals, like meatloaf and baked ziti, and premade sandwiches and salads from the deli make it a one-stop shop for families or working professionals crunched for cooking time.
Don’t leave without buying…Tender Belly bacon and jars of MM Local tomatoes.
Our favorite location: 950 Broadway | 720-880-4501 | tonysmarket.com
The Truffle Cheese Shop
The Truffle Cheese Shop is an ode to cheese and all the pleasure it brings. Taste at the counter and then load up on every conceivable accouterment: crispy baguettes, local honey, Marcona almonds, and even special-occasion-worthy Jamón Ibérico. Don’t see something on your list? The folks behind the counter will order it.
Don’t leave without buying…a scoop of salted French butter.
2906 E. Sixth Ave. | 303-322-7363 | denvertruffle.com
Valente’s Deli Bakery and Italian Market
A North metro staple, Valente’s quickly won us over with its comprehensive selection of Italian goods, both imported from the boot and house-made. Find everything from fresh pizzella cookies to dry coarse polenta to spicy bulk sausage.
Don’t leave without buying…the nontraditional but excellent chile verde-cheddar cheese ravioli.
7250 Meade St., Westminster | 303-429-0590 | valentesdeli.com
Zamzam Halal International Market & Deli
This family-owned Mediterranean mart’s selection of halal lamb cuts, fridge full of specialty cheeses, and fresh-baked baklava and flatbread alone are worth the trip. Go for the Middle Eastern items you can’t find anywhere else—and stay longer than you planned to chat with the knowledgeable and exceedingly helpful staff.
Don’t leave without buying…a package of the house-made, take-home falafel in the freezer section.
7449 E. Iliff Ave. | 303-745-4555
IF YOU NEED…
When a recipe calls for a difficult-to-find ingredient, or you crave that sesame-crusted bread you ate while traveling in Turkey, or you just want the best tortilla in Denver, don’t fret—we’ve done the research for you. Searching for something that’s not on this list? Leave a note in the comments section below and we’ll try to track it down (locally) for you. How’s that for service?
…paletas de arroz con leche (popsicles), go to Carniceria Guadalajara. 5185 W. First Ave., 303-937-7132, carnicerialaguadalajara.com
…fresh tortillas, go to Tortilleria la Pasadita. 932 S. Federal Blvd., 303-993-6291
…pickled eggplant and pomegranate molasses, go to Jerusalem Market. 5470 E. Evans Ave., 303-691-2330
…kimchi, go to M Mart. 2000 S. Havana St., Aurora, 303-695-4676
…Korean rice cakes, go to Dah Won Rice Cake. 2222 S. Havana St., Suite K, Aurora, 303-369-7890
…veal, lamb, chicken, and seafood stocks, go to Oliver’s Meat & Seafood. 1718 E. Sixth Ave., 303-733-4629
…pad thai noodles, go to Lotus Asian Market. 844 S. Buckley Road, Aurora, 303-752-3235
…Passover supplies, go to East Side Kosher Deli. 499 S. Elm St., Glendale, 303-322-9862, eastsidekosherdeli.com
…roasted Hatch chiles in the fall, go to Heinie’s Market. 11801 W. 44th Ave., Wheat Ridge, 303-425-9955, heiniesmarket.com
…sammoon (traditional Iraqi bread), go to Diyar International Market. 2159 S. Parker Road, 303-337-6527
…a special cut of meat, go to Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe. 3326 Tejon St., 303-477-6328, westerndaughters.com
…Sun-brand ramen noodles, go to Pacific Mercantile Company. 1925 Lawrence St., 303-295-0293, pacificeastwest.com, pacificeastwest.com
…tamales, go to Pochitos Tortilla Factory. 4421 Tejon St., 303-433-2358
…Turkish simit, go to Nazar International Market. 1842 S. Parker Road, Suite 6, 303-750-8875