By JOHN LEHNDORFF
(Visit Aurora Guide 2016) – With 400-plus ethnic and independent eateries and markets, Aurora is Colorado’s ethnic food destination. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Aurora is the third largest city in the state and 54th most populous city in the nation. According to people who love to eat, Aurora is the largest ethnic food court in Colorado. No matter which thoroughfare you traverse in the city you’ll find it lined with dozens of authentic Korean, Mexican, Afghani, Chinese, Italian, Ethiopian, Filipino and soul food eateries, markets and bakeries tucked away in smaller malls and storefronts. Here are a handful of favorites that illustrate just how diversely delicious dinnertime can be in Aurora.
Rico Pollo: It’s worth stopping by the newest outlet of this Mexican restaurant chain just to take in the aroma of chicken sizzling and scorching over open flames. The chicken gets cleavered into pieces and served with grilled green onions and chilies, refried beans, corn tortillas and a salsa bar with a range. It’s simple, unpretentious comfort fare. 5145 Chambers Road; 303-373-4244
Blaze House BBQ & Soul Food: Great ribs that lingered in the smoker for a long time and crisp, cornmeal-coated catfish top the menu at this recently opened spot. When in doubt save room for the old school peach cobbler: well-baked and syrupy.
2210 S. Chambers Road; 303-337-0508; blazehouse.com
Masalaa Vegetarian Indian Cuisine: This is the place for Southern Indian vegetarian specialties including crepe-like masala dosa, vada (savory doughnut), uthappam (vegetable pancake), and idly (steamed rice cake). Thursday’s buffet provides an opportunity to do a tasting. 3140 S. Parker Road No. 8; 303-755-6272; masalaausa.com
Katsu Ramen: The non-sushi side of Japanese cuisine shines here including gyoza (dumplings), katsu don (breaded pork cutlet) and a bowl of ramen noodles in a rich broth with bright baby bok choy, a hardboiled egg and chopped green onions. 1930 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-751-2222; ramendenver.com
Afrikmall has an authentic food court unlike any other in Colorado
Visit Afrikmall on any Saturday afternoon and it feels like strolling through a marketplace in Africa. When big families, some in traditional garb, walk by you catch snippets of French and various other languages. Afrikmall was created to provide a space where African immigrants could gather, shop, dine, hear concerts and enable businesses, said Edward Mensah, co-founder of Afrikmall and an emigrant from Ghana. “We want to start unifying the community and creating opportunities,” he said, noting that there are vast cultural, religious differences among the African emigrants living in Aurora.
The Mall includes shops offering African clothing and music but the biggest attraction so far is a food court unlike any other in Colorado or the Rocky Mountain region. Native cooks offer unfusssy, home-cooked tastes from Ghana, Senegal, Congo, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast that are otherwise available in local eateries.
Adventurous foodies split up to grab plates of goat stew, fried fish, sweet and chewy fried plantains, peanut soup and okra stew from different vendors and then share around a table. The sit-down Sankofa Café and lounge serves a menu of dishes from all over Africa.
AfrikMall, 10180 E. Colfax Avenue; 303-479-4729; afrikmall.com
Did You Know?
Aurora has only two sister cities, municipalities chosen for their similarities in population, ethnic and religious diversity, geography and industry focuses. Seongnam City near the South Korean capital of Seoul has a population of nearly a million and has been Aurora’s sister city since 1992. Adama, Ethiopia, with a population of about 300,000, was declared a sister city in 2014 in a ceremony at Aurora’s inaugural GlobalFest. Information: aurorasistercities.org
John Lehndorff is the former food editor of the Aurora Sentinel and Boulder Daily Camera and dining critic of the Rocky Mountain News. He hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU-FM and writes for the Boulder Weekly, Colorado AAA EnCompass, Vail Beaver Creek Magazine and Cheese Connoisseur magazine.