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The Flat-Out Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Denver

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The moment you’ve been waiting for is here: the everything-food-and-drink list to end all lists. We’re undertaking a rather ambitious project—a year-long endeavor that lays out our flat-out best picks of the most exceptional culinary experiences in Denver and Boulder.

We’ll cover the usual suspects: tacos and ramen, for example. Pizza and burgers, too. But think of this as the Herculean version of Denver and Boulder’s gastronomic universe. Over the next 52 weeks (give or take), we’ll post 104 different lists, wherein we’ll give you the lowdown on the very best neighborhood restaurants, bottle shops and butchers, food festivals, pop-up dinners, industry nights, cooking classes and kitchen stores, chef counters, spice shops and cake shops, Cuban sandwiches, Chinese hot pots, and even the best food from truck stops. Who knows? We might be compelled to feature a fantasy-filled list of strip club grub that goes beyond thighs and breasts.

In the meantime, I’ve had Vietnamese food on my mind, lazily spending my lunch hour slurping bowls of pho and bún bò huế and swelling my belly with spring rolls, bánh mì, bobas, and sesame balls. And while Denver lays claim to a robust Vietnamese dining scene, these five restaurants, in particular, are my picks for the best Vietnamese restaurants in the city.

Flat-Out Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Denver

  1. New Saigon {630 South Federal Boulevard, 303.937.4954}

    new-saigon

    Beloved by just about everyone, this long-established Vietnamese standout squatting on Federal Boulevard ballyhoos a voluminous menu that reads like an alluring travel odyssey. The spring rolls, on a good day, approach brilliance, and the signature peanut-topped rice noodle bowl— a lunchtime custom— arrives populated with grilled pork, shrimp and beef, crisp egg rolls devoid of grease, and a profusion of fresh herbs and vegetables.

    All the classic Vietnamese dishes dot the menu—savory bowls of long-boiled pho glistening with dribbles of oil, deep-fried soft-shell crab, catfish done every which way and proteins mingling with lemongrass-fragrant sauces—but it’s the stampede of Vietnamese fire pots that are truly exceptional. For the ultimate experience, come with a group of like-minded food enthusiasts and sample (and slurp) as much as you possibly can.

  2. Pho 95 {1401 South Federal Boulevard, 303.936.3322; 6879 South Vine Street, Centennial, 303.797.9535}

    pho-95

    When there’s a chill in the air, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything more curative than a steaming basin of pho. And while the Mile High City is bowled over with joints that bust out vats of the comforting Vietnamese broth, the intensely flavored, deeply scented, fat-sheened pho at the aptly named Pho 95 is straight-up pho-nominal.

    Deftly spiced with anise and ginger, and pumped up with slippery noodles, scallions and proteins that meander from seafood and brisket to fried tofu and filet mignon, every bowl is a triumph. And the caravan of accompaniments—wedges of lime, bean sprouts, cilantro, sawgrass, basil, and rings of jalapeño—turns every tabletop into its own mini garden. There are jars of chile sauce, too, if you want to add heat. Just don’t obliterate the broth by dumping in hoisin sauce; that’s for dipping the meats.

  3. Vinh Xuong Bakery 2 {2370 West Alameda Avenue, 303.922.0999}

    vinh-xuong

    Unlike the original Vinh Zuong Bakery, which occupies a faded storefront in the Far East Center on Federal Boulevard, this shrine to the bánh mì—a mega-hoagie that’s a holdover from when France had Colonial rule in Vietnam—is beautifully appointed, modern, and the consummate place for a tryst.

    A passion project from Duc Huynh, whose parents operate the flagship bakery on Federal, version 2.0 struts a half-dozen of the savory sandwiches, all of which are made on a fresh-baked baguette tiered with pickled daikon and carrot slivers, cilantro, cucumber slices, jalapeños, a splash of soy sauce, a smudge of mayonnaise, and textured meats like grilled pork. At just $4.50 a pop, they’re bargains, especially the combination bánh mì, which involves the whole Vietnamese culinary catalog. Other obsessions: sublime sesame balls, barbecued pork buns, smoothies and the slow-brewed Vietnamese iced coffee, an unrestrained, ultra-potent thunderbolt of caffeine.

  4. New Saigon Bakery & Deli {640 South Federal Boulevard, 303.935.7859}

    new-saigon-bakery-deli
    Just adjacent to New Saigon sits this bustling Vietnamese sandwich shop, confectionary and market run by the daughters whose parents own the next-door sibling. But while New Saigon is a catchall that embraces pretty much everything in the Vietnamese playbook, the bakery’s claim to fame is its bánh mì in all its crusty, crumby, and crackly glory. The baguettes, baked in house, are perfect roll models for the fillings: grilled beef or chicken, pork (go with the wonderful barbecued version), cilantro, pickled vegetables that retain their crunch, spheres of jalapeno and, if you ask for it (you should), a liberal schmear of organ-intensive Vietnamese pâté.

    Most people take their sandwiches to go, but if you have time to linger, enjoy your sandwich at a window-facing stool and then explore the store, which also grandstands elaborate Vietnamese sweets, plus tea and coffee.

  5. Thuan Viet Restaurant {945 South Federal Boulevard, 303.922.2226} thuan-viet

    Unassuming (and underrated), this strip mall restaurant, which is quite pleasant despite the blare of the TV, beautifully reflects the spices, perfumed herbs and rich broths so integral to Vietnamese cooking. Unlike many joints of the same ilk, the menu is limited to just a few pages that highlight a handle of starters, about a dozen variations of pho, an impressive boba syllabus and its claim to fame: bún bò huế, a splendidly arresting spicy beef and rice noodle soup that, like pho, comes with a platter of fresh herbs and other accompaniments, including elusive squiggles of fried banana blossoms, plus fiery chile paste, and a jar of pickled shallots.

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