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Americanized Chinese dishes like orange chicken and crab cheese wontons are undeniably delicious, but many Denver Chinese restaurants carry a separate traditional Chinese menu which, if you’re not requesting it, means you’re missing half the story. These menus often highlight chef-driven specialties from regional traditions across the People’s Republic of China and neighboring Taiwan; whether you stick strictly to General Tso’s or already consider yourself an aficionado of mapo tofu, soup dumplings, and the like, there’s something new for you to try. Here are 20 of the best Chinese restaurants in the Front Range for traditional dishes that’ll make you wish you had tasted them earlier.
Editor’s Note: This is a living list of the best Chinese restaurants, listed in alphabetical order, that was last updated on March 15, 2023. Did we miss your favorite? Email us at email@example.com.
New Best Chinese Additions
The Bronze Empire is part of One Concept Restaurant Group, which also owns multiple sushi and poke concepts across the Denver metro area, including Makizushico and Go Fish Sushi. Bronze off South Colorado Boulevard is typically packed with diners feasting on individual-style hot pot, but don’t skip getting an appetizer or entrée from the abbreviated menu of Chinese specialties in addition to your vessel of steaming broth.
Eat this: Start with the flaky scallion pancake and the Sichuan-style cold chicken, slices of poultry coated with sauce spiked with chile oil, black vinegar, and sesame oil. Then pick from nearly a dozen broths, including lesser-known flavors such as butter and chicken maw, and more than 80 accompaniments, from lotus root and rice cake to abalone and lamb shoulder, for your hot pot. We recommend the veggie combo and the ribeye. 1591 S. Colorado Blvd. 720-599-8888
Many of the best Chinese restaurants in the metro area are within Aurora city limits, and Dating Yumy is no exception. After replacing Uncle Zoe’s Chinese Kitchen in the summer of 2021, the comfortable, light-filled eatery has become a staple for buns and dumplings.
Eat this: While the pork buns are widely celebrated (and sometimes sold out after busy days), the pork wontons in chile oil are a delightfully strange find. Like the traditional preparation, the tender dumplings are indeed coated in a sheen of crimson, not-too-spicy oil, but the bulk of the liquid they sit in is actually a sesame-based broth that adds a nutty aroma to the dish. 12203 E. Iliff Ave., Suite D, Aurora, 303-755-8518
A mere three storefronts away from Lao Wang Noodle House, Happy Cafe makes its sprawling traditional Chinese menu—which includes Hong Kong and Cantonese dishes that can even be hard-to-find in China—accessible to non-Chinese diners by nearly covering one of its walls with photos of prepared specialties.
Eat this: Don’t be frightened by the duck chins—they are an absolute must-order. The dish is composed of large V-shaped bones, which have relatively little meat and may seem intimidating at first. But the skin has a chicken-wing-like texture and is flavored with umami-rich Maggi sauce, making it the perfect Chinese finger food to wash down with a beer. The braised wild pork—cubes of fatty pork, tofu skin, and onion which come bubbling in a hot pot—is also a great (and less daunting) choice. 945 S. Federal Blvd., Suite D, 303-922-2226
Meet & Eat Bistro
Near the Denver-Aurora border, Meet & Eat Bistro delivers big flavor through its traditional Sichuan menu. Located in the former space of Mr. Hao Grill, the eatery has a solid array of meat-based dishes like Sichuan boiled fish (shui zhu yu) and chile-coated sliced beef and ox tongue, but the Hampden restaurant really shines in its vegetable preparations.
Eat this: A brothless variety of Sichuan hot pot, the dry pot (ganguo) cauliflower combines the meaty florets, leek, carrot, and green bell pepper with a savory, smoky sauce, all kept piping hot over a gas flame. To round out the dinner while keeping it veggie-forward, pair the cauliflower with the hot and sour shredded potato, julienned potatoes which are sautéed with black vinegar and dried red chiles until a little less than tender to provide the dish’s classic delicate crunch. 10021 E. Hampden Ave., 303-379-9627
NBX Asian Cuisine
A dining room furnished with wooden park benches and waterproof tablecloths offers a casual ambience to enjoy well-executed fare at NBX Asian Cuisine. Despite hailing from Shandong province in eastern China, the Cao family serves up many dishes that are more indicative of western Chinese cuisine, which often features red meat and spices like cumin.
Eat this: The pan-fried pork buns are a crowd-pleaser, and while you can request soy sauce or black vinegar for dipping, the juicy filling is plenty flavorful on its own. Also try the cumin lamb and the liangpi—flat and wide wheat noodles served cold with julienned cucumber and carrot, wood ear mushroom, cilantro, and a sesame-based sauce. 9064 Forsstrom Drive, Suite B15, Lone Tree, 303-643-6464
Old Town Hot Pot
Opened in 2021, Aurora’s Old Town Hot Pot has a huge dining area that used to house a Chinese buffet, but customers still manage to pack the restaurant full during weekend dinner hours. The South Havana Street staple keeps the waitlist moving fast, though, by imposing a two-hour dining limit.
Eat this: The all-you-can-eat hot pot is $29 per person, with each diner choosing the type of broth in their individual pot (pick from eight flavors, ranging from the original pork-based stock to tomato or tom yum). Then order a variety of sliced meat, seafood, veggies, and noodles for dipping, but start small and make sure you can eat everything you ask for: there’s an extra surcharge for excessively wasting ingredients. 2852 S. Havana St., 303-658-0870
Pepper Asian Bistro
Pepper Asian Bistro is a popular East Colfax fixture for takeout, but it’s also well worth a dine-in visit. The City Park eatery’s simple but classy digs provide a comfortable space to dig into American Chinese classics. (Pepper Asian Bistro II in LoHi is another location but is under different ownership.)
Eat this: To start, order the crab cheese wontons with a sweet and sour dipping sauce zinged with a bit of Chinese hot mustard, which helps cut through the appetizer’s rich and creamy filling. Then try the yuxiang eggplant. It’s served sizzling in a hot clay pot, lending a smokier taste than the dish usually has and creating stuck-on bits of eggplant that are extra caramelized and delicious. 2831 E. Colfax Ave., 303-388-8377
Ten Seconds Yunnan Rice Noodles
A China-based franchise with over 750 locations, Ten Seconds Yunnan Rice Noodles (called Shi Miao Dao in Chinese) has steadily set up American outposts in cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, and Houston in the past five years. Opened in 2019, the Aurora location centers its menu around the namesake mixian, a type of thin rice noodle usually served in soup that’s typical of China’s Yunnan province but is a relative rarity in the Denver metro.
Eat this: While mixian is often served hot-pot-style (a boiling pot of broth with raw noodles, meat, and vegetables on the side), Ten Seconds switched away from the format during the COVID-19 pandemic and doesn’t plan to bring it back soon. Instead, the noodle soups are served fully cooked with all the fixings. We recommend the pickled pepper variation with beef, especially if you’re fond of hot and sour soup. 2000 S. Havana St., Aurora, 720-583-2839
Our Old Favorites
Hong Kong Station
Tucked within a strip mall off South Yosemite Street in Centennial, Hong Kong Station specializes in Cantonese-inspired dishes from its namesake city near southern China’s Guangdong province, as well as regions throughout China.
Eat this: Don’t miss the brisket and tendon pot, morsels of tender beef in an umami-rich sauce that arrives at your table bubbling in a clay bowl with a side of steamed rice. Pair your meal with a side of tender, garlic-scented yu choy (Chinese flowering cabbage), along with a light and airy shrimp toast. The latter features triangles of bread that are smeared with shrimp paste, fried to golden perfection, and accompanied by a sweet and sour sauce. 6878 S. Yosemite St., Centennial, 720-592-0861
Chef Tommy Lee’s modern interpretations of classic Chinese dishes make Hop Alley one of the Mile High City’s most influential restaurants. After a two-month renovation at the start of the year, the RiNo eatery reopened in early March with a sleeker, sexier atmosphere and, luckily, even more seating. The RiNo eatery’s name is a nod to the eponymous thriving Chinatown in what is now LoDo that was destroyed when a racist mob attacked Chinese businesses in the community in 1880.
Eat this: Splurge on the whole Alamosa-raised bass, which is grilled until crisp and topped with a fennel, jicama, and kumquat slaw. The laziji, tender chicken thigh nuggets coated in a Sichuan peppercorn dust and diced scallions, and Beijing duck roll, hoisin-slicked duck confit and cabbage wrapped in a scallion pancake, are also favorites. 3500 Larimer St., 720-379-8340
Hong Kong– and Cantonese-style barbecue is the draw at Huakee BBQ, Hong and GuoHua Wu’s tiny eatery beside H Mart in Westminster. The couple, who are from China’s Guangdong province, prepare roasted duck, pork, and chicken and delicacies such as chicken feet with black bean sauce; spicy, crunchy sliced pig ears; and zong zi, bamboo-leaf-wrapped parcels of steamed glutinous rice with peanuts, salted egg yolks, shredded pork, and other fillings.
Eat this: If you’re taking out from the restaurant for the first time, try the Three Delicacy Combo, which comes with glistening crispy-skinned duck, juicy soy sauce chicken, and sweet char siu (barbecued pork) served over a bed of rice with vegetables. 5072 W. 92nd Ave., Westminster, 80031, 720-535-8871
KP Asian Cafe
While KP Asian Cafe in Aurora sports a solid lineup of American-Chinese takeout fundamentals—sesame chicken, beef broccoli, sweet and sour pork—chef-owner Kevin Chu and his wife specialize in cooking an assortment of exemplary regional dishes from the People’s Republic. That includes lesser-known culinary goodies with origins in southern (Cantonese), western (Sichuan), and northern (Shandong) China.
Eat this: The Hong Kong–style wonton noodle soup, an oil-glossed broth bejeweled with slippery dumplings, pork, Napa cabbage, carrot, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), and handmade egg noodles (a rarity in the Mile High City), is our go-to order. Get it with the restaurant’s juicy, roasted duck. Or ask for one of the hot pots, clay vessels laden with wok-fired bites like tender pork ribs and bitter melon or spicy braised brisket and tendon. 12201 E. Mississippi Ave., Suite 111, Aurora, 720-456-7745
Lao Wang Noodle House
The Wang family has served soul-warming Taiwanese cuisine in modest, red- and yellow-walled digs off South Federal Boulevard in Westwood for 23 years. After the passing of owner Tse-Ching, his wife, Chung-Ming, and son, Danny, continue the tradition of making all of the restaurant’s dumplings and wontons from scratch.
Eat this: From the plump xiaolongbao filled with nuggets of pork and broth and crispy-bottomed pot stickers to wontons swimming in a gently spicy soup, you can’t go wrong with any of the dough-wrapped delights on the menu. 945 S. Federal Blvd., Suite D, 303-975-2497
Meta Asian Kitchen
Chef Kenneth Wan and wife Doris Yuen—who grew up on the East Coast and Hong Kong, respectively—look to their roots to produce a menu of Cantonese, American Chinese, and fusion specialties inspired by family recipes. While their original fast-casual spot inside Avanti Food & Beverage is shuttering at the end of April, they are currently purveying their cuisine from inside haunted bar Honor Farm, and later this year, the duo plans to open a brick-and-mortar called MAKfam at 39 West First Avenue.
Eat this: The “chef’s favorite” wings, bone-in pieces of bird dusted in a house-made five spice seasoning and served with Thai basil ranch, are a lip-smacking treat. Or indulge in the sizzling spicy noodles tossed with so much chile oil and Sichuan peppercorn that the menu description says to “order at your own discretion.” Avanti Food & Beverage: 3200 N. Pecos St., 303-325-5384; Honor Farm: 1526 Blake St.
Diners flock to the fast-casual Noodles Express in Belcaro for mouth-numbing experiences fueled by extra-spicy Sichuan dishes, many of which are seasoned with the eponymous peppercorn.
Eat this: We like the dan dan mian—sleek noodles topped with minced pork, peanuts, pickled greens, chile oil, cilantro, and green onions. Or try the crispy fried Chongqing chicken stir-fried with Sichuan peppercorns and chiles with an order of the refreshing-yet-fiery cold dish of sliced fresh cucumber drenched in chile oil. 703 S. Colorado Blvd., 303-736-8818
Harry and Alice Zhou’s casual-yet-elegant Shanghai Kitchen in Greenwood Village is an ode to their native city. At the 23-year-old spot adjacent to a King Soopers, Alice manages the front of house while Harry—who trained as a chef in the city of Shanghai and the Sichuan province—helms the kitchen.
Eat this: The whole steamed sea bass, either prepared with ginger-wine sauce (Shanghai style) or hot chile oil (Sichuan style), is a tasty example of how fish is traditionally eaten in many Chinese regional cuisines. The eggplant with pork, tea-smoked duck with pickled vegetables, and twice-cooked pork belly are also worth adding to your spread. 4940 S. Yosemite St., Suite E-8, Greenwood Village; 303-290-6666
At 14-year-old Star Kitchen in Athmar Park, the spacious dining room is lined with tanks occupied by live and ultimately delicious sea creatures waiting to be steamed or stir fried. While the fish and crustaceans are popular at dinnertime (thanks, in part, to a two-for-one lobster deal), Cantonese-style dim sum plates served from roaming carts are what midday diners are there to order for lunch and brunch.
Eat this:If you’re there for dim sum—which is served until mid-afternoon every day but Wednesday—devour baskets of fluffy buns filled with barbecued pork, puffy braised chicken feet, fried shrimp balls wrapped around sugarcane, and steamed, lightly sweet Malay sponge cake (ask for the ma lai gao) alongside bowls of steaming congee (rice porridge) bejeweled with bits of pork and preserved eggs. For dinner, get the shell-on lobster caked with ginger-scallion sauce and the salt-and-pepper squid. 2917 W. Mississippi Ave., 303-936-0089
Sunflower Asian Cafe
This airy Littleton restaurant is one of the only spots in the metro area where you can taste Huaiyang cuisine from China’s eastern region. Husband-and-wife duo Wen Hu Xue and Annie Tang hail from Yangzhou, a city in the Jiangsu province, where Xue was also a chef. Together, they serve subtly seasoned dishes that highlight the freshness and natural flavors of the ingredients.
Eat this: Upon arrival, ask to peruse the traditional Chinese menu, where you’ll find an extensive selection of specialties spanning most regions of China (we also love the Sichuan dishes here). For eastern Chinese fare, try the Yangzhou fried rice, speckled with Chinese sausage, chicken, and shrimp and stir-fried without soy sauce; or bite into giant, fermented-soybean-drenched lion’s head meatballs or slices of tender braised pork belly with meigan cai (pickled mustard greens). 91 W. Mineral Ave., Suite 100, Littleton; 303-798-0700
Yum Yum Spice
Dine in at Yum Yum Spice, a casual University of Denver–area staple, to customize a dry pot which is found on its own menu (separate from the American-Chinese version; ask for it upon arrival). Patrons can select their own combination of proteins and veggies, which are wok fried with chile oil and Sichuan peppercorns and presented atop a tabletop gas burner.
Eat this: How you build your dream pot is up to you—but for proteins, we like tofu skin or pork ribs paired with greens like napa cabbage, enoki mushrooms, lotus root, and bok choy. Add a savory punch with shrimp, squid, or fish balls. Don’t forget to indicate your spice level—for the full experience, order the Sichuan flavor (specify “extra hot”). 2039 S. University Blvd., Suite 4318; 720-542-9921
2023 James Beard semifinalist Penelope Wong’s gorgeously pleated dumplings, wontons, buns and entrées influenced by her Thai-Chinese heritage and dedication to supporting social justice issues make her coveted offerings worth seeking out. Tip: Find the food truck’s schedule on her Instagram stories and order in advance online as soon as the website allows—or be prepared to stand in line.
Eat this: The fist-size xiaolongbao, chile wontons, and peanut sauce noodles are cult favorites. Also look for specials such as the vegan Sichuan eggplant dumplings, chartreuse bundles stuffed with wok-charred, tongue-tingling eggplant, and sheng jian bao, pan-fried pork buns whose fluffy yeasted wrappers get seared until crisp.