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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 15 of the best places to feast on staples such as pad see ew, massaman curry, tom yum soup, and delicious lesser-known specialities.
Editor’s Note: This is a living list and was last updated on April 28, 2023. 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 great specials. While lovingly prepared go-tos like fragrant tom kha (a coconut-milk-based chicken soup enriched with galangal root, makrut 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 chalkboard. 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 restaurant has outposts in Littleton and Edgewater, 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 green onion in a slurp-worthy oil-sheened broth, or the kra pao 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). 2630 W. Belleview Ave., Suite 150, Littleton; 1931 Sheridan Blvd., Suite Z, Edgewater
Situated off highway 225 near Aurora Town Center, Bua’s gold- and maroon-accented dining room is an elegant place to dig into curries, stir-fries, and other specialties presented in colorful dishware. Opt for a crowd-pleaser such as the som tum, shredded fresh green papaya salad dressed with lime juice, garlic, chiles and palm sugar (also available with salty crab) or the lard na, soft wide rice noodles doused in a comforting brown gravy with veggies and the protein of your choice. Or get something from the Isan section of the menu, which sports dishes inspired by the cuisine of northeast Thailand such as grilled pork with umami-packed roasted-rice-sprinkled sauce and fermented rib bone soup spiced with ginger, chiles, and peanuts.
When Suthinee Phairatphiboon and her family (hospitality veterans who moved from Thailand to the United States more than 25 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 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
Founded by Lily Chittivej in the early 1960s, Chada Thai is known as the first Thai restaurant in the United States, and six decades later, the family-owned restaurant is still going strong. Lily’s daughter-in-law, Nita, now heads the casual eatery, which continues to sling popular and lesser-known Thai specialties. Try the hearty boat noodle soup, which includes rice noodles, tender chunks of beef, cilantro, basil, and bean sprouts swimming in a rich, slightly sweet beef broth. The dessert of jasmine-scented brown sugar custard paired with coconut sticky rice is also a delightful find. 2005 E. 17th Ave. —Ethan Pan
This fast-casual spot in Thornton serves all of the greatest hits of Thai takeout, from galangal-seasoned tom kha to pad kra pao (finely diced chicken studded with chiles, basil, and green beans). Other must-haves include the seasonal mango curry, a soup with chunks of ripe tropical fruit, chicken, and bell pepper that’s perfect for spooning over rice; pad thai woon sen, the classic prepared with slippery bean thread noodles; and wok-fired chicken flecked with tongue-tingling black pepper and garlic. 823 Thornton Parkway, Thornton
Chef-owner Ounjit Hardacre and her team’s roster of exquisitely plated appetizers, stir-fries, curries, salads, and rice and noodle dishes—complemented by a lineup of polished cocktails in a stylish, date-night-friendly ambiance—earned a spot on 5280’s list of 25 best restaurants in 2022. You can’t go wrong by choosing any of the curries, but we like the lychee-kissed massaman with Colorado lamb and the red curry with duck confit, Thai eggplant, and crispy basil. A selection of the eatery’s takeout-friendly items such as pad thai and gin gyo (pork gyoza and egg noodles nestled in a creamy red curry) is also available for pick up and delivery in central and south Denver via two locations of Daughter Thai On Wheels—ghost kitchens in Ruby Hill (now open) and Sun Valley (launching on May 8). 1700 Platte St., Suite 140
The lineup at Farmhouse Thai’s is an ode to the regionality of Thai cuisine 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 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 (call the restaurant at 303-237-2475 for hours or check the Facebook page; it has closed on select days due to staffing issues)
Affordability and generous portions are the draw at J’s Noodles & New Thai off South Parker Road, run by proprietor Judy Teawdeswan, who also helped establish long-standing J’s Noodles Star Thai on Federal Boulevard (now owned by her nephew). Most of the items available at the takeout-only spot are $12.95 or less, including seven types of curry and 15 noodle dishes. We’re partial to the country pad thai—made with chicken, shrimp, and tofu like what’s sold at street stalls in Bangkok and other cities—and the barbecue chicken, charred skin-on poultry pieces served with sweet chile sauce (pair it with a side of jasmine rice). 1842 S. Parker Road
The popularity of chef and co-owner Sopit Buckman’s truck, Mountain Thai Kitchen, led her to open a brick-and-mortar in Broomfield this past September. Since then, customers line up inside the fast-casual eatery to order garlicky barbecued pork skewers with coconut-scented sticky rice; chunks of tender chicken coated in piquant garlic-pepper paste; and prik pao noodles stir-fried in a sauce kissed with fiery roasted red chiles. Don’t miss the seasonal mango sticky rice, if it’s available. 100 Depot Hill Road, Suite A, Broomfield
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, 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—which are better representations of the country’s cuisine than the taste-bud-scorching options many opt for. 5228 W. 25th Ave., Edgewater
Chef and cooking teacher Noy Farrell, a native of northern Thailand, launched Taste of Thailand in Englewood in 1994, introducing many Denverites to the delectable bites from her homeland that are ubiquitous today like pad thai and larb. In 2015, Farrell relocated the business to a spot on South Broadway, where she continues to cook favorites brightened by herbs from her garden. Regulars love her salads, many of which are dressed with lime, roasted rice powder, garlic, mint, chiles, red onions, and other aromatics (try the nam sod with fluffy steamed pork). Also don’t miss her famed flu shot soup, a gently spicy wonton soup that gained popularity during the height of the pandemic. 2120 S. Broadway
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, garlic, and crunchy diced green beans; yum woon sen, cold silky glass noodles with shrimp and ground chicken in a fish sauce and lime juice dressing; and tod mun pla, plump fried fish cakes that come with a sweet-spicy dipping sauce. 1014 S. Peoria St., Aurora
In 2020, siblings Attawut Intongkam and Suttichai Inthongkham opened Ros Siam in the former Sassafras space in Jefferson Park 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.
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 topped with a medley of vegetables cooked in sweet and sour sauce) 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 2020, Tuk Tuk Thai Restaurants, which has locations in the Denver metro area, launched Mama Sue Kitchen. The brand, named after the 24-year-old restaurant’s co-owner Sue Chinsomboon, offers a lineup of Thai chile oils that are hot additions to any pantry (literally). Spoon the tongue-tingling 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 at Tuk Tuk locations (800 E. Quincy Ave.; 218 Union Blvd., Lakewood; and 10667 Westminster Blvd., Westminster) and at Ruby’s Market (1569 S. Pearl St.)