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1. Downtown Dumplings
Cho77 | LoDo
The 16th Street Mall scored a modern dumpling house in January, when chef-owner Lon Symensma and chef Jeff Stoneking relocated Cho77 to the space adjoining their flagship restaurant, ChoLon. Formerly a full-service, dinner-only spot on South Broadway, Cho77’s downtown iteration operates under a fast-casual counter-service model during the day; sit down dining is on the menu at night. Its dim sum selection is delightful, with every handmade dumpling and bao crafted by Marisol Martinez, a longtime ChoLon busser whom Symensma trained last year. There’s not a bad bun to be had, but we’re especially partial to the crispy spiced lamb purses with cool cilantro yogurt and the General Cho’s chicken-and-ginger-filled “xiao long bao” (soup dumplings). Hungry for more than dim sum? The Hainanese chicken fried rice is a bowl of pure comfort.
2. Turkish Delight
Breakfast Champion | Boulder
A strip mall off Baseline Road might feel far from Istanbul’s sunny shores, but at year-old Breakfast Champion, you’ll find true Turkish flavors, thanks to owner Zena Tuna’s commitment to importing ingredients directly from her home country. Morning is when the restaurant’s menu shines brightest. Grab a friend and order the Turkish Breakfast for Two ($25), a dozen-plus-plate mezze spread that includes specialties like salty cured beef (“pastirma”), an addictive red pepper paste (“çemen”) that you can spread on slices of homemade bread, and “sigara böreği,” which are delicate pastries filled with feta. Spend the extra $3.50 for traditional Turkish coffee. Served on a silver tray, it might just fool you into thinking you’re sitting at a cafe on the Bosphorus.
3. Do Good, Eat Well
SAME Café | City Park West
Since it opened 13 years ago, SAME (So All May Eat) Café has provided food-insecure Denverites with something typical food pantries often don’t: dignity. The nonprofit’s pay-what-you-can model means that even if you don’t have $12 in your pocket to cover lunch, you can volunteer your time, donate produce, or offer however much money you can afford in exchange. Now, the East Colfax eatery is taking its mission to the streets via its month-old food truck. The brick-and-mortar cafe’s options change daily, but its mobile counterpart has a set menu based on grain bowls topped with local, seasonal veggies. The truck will also sell SAME’s beloved signature shortbread cookies with lemon icing. Look for the mobile eatery at events like the City Park Fresh Market, where supporting SAME’s mission is as easy as buying a bite to eat.