Food & Drink

The Only Denver Ramen Guide You'll Ever Need

Published On 05/21/2015 Published On 05/21/2015
Adam Bove

You may have heard by now that, according to some fancy celebrity chef, ramen is dead. But according to both a song by Warren Zevon and a movie with Christopher Walken in it, there’s a lot to do in Denver when you’re dead. In this case, pop up all over the place and taste delicious!

And hey, you know where else there are things to do when you’re dead? Heaven. So yeah, the point is that the Mile High City is officially ramen heaven -- and here are 27 restaurants in and around Denver that prove it. Some are Japanese, some aren’t; some feature the noodle soup as a house specialty, others as a chef’s whim. We aimed for a comprehensive listing, excluding only those places where ramen appeared as a token afterthought. If you think we missed one, let us know in the comments.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Osaka Ramen

RiNo
The wait... and wait... and wait is over. Jeff Osaka’s urban-underground noodle bar has finally opened its doors, and it’s just like he said it would be, from the Asian food-friendly wine list to the stellar izakaya-inspired small plates (see: kara-age) to, of course, the ramen, which reflects the chef-owner’s painstaking R&D. You’ve got your lighter, chicken-based shio (salt) and shoyu (soy-flavored) broths; your medium-textured miso broth, made with chicken and pork; and your intense, whole-hog tonkotsu broth -- each distinguished by its own mix of toppings, from braised pork shoulder to black-garlic oil. Oh, and there’s a meatless alternative for the plant-eating poors who don’t know what they’re missing in the juxtaposition of velvety pork belly and a perfectly soft egg. But wait (again)! Did you know Osaka’s already planning a Cherry Creek sequel? True story -- hopefully a shorter one this time, but with the same happy ending.
 

Sushi Tora

Boulder
Long known for its meticulous presentation of raw fish and tempura, this stylish Pearl Street Mall fixture has now made a splash with no-less lovingly prepared ramen; in fact, if you need a primer on the types mentioned above, you’ll get an exquisite one right here on Tora’s website (shio excepted). What you won’t get is any promise of availability -- soup’s on weekends only, and then only until it’s gone.
 

Udon Kaisha

Lafayette
This here’s the kind of workhorse Japanese joint that every neighborhood should be so lucky to have: a mom-and-pop noodle-and-sushi bar that’s very good at its best, good enough at its worst, friendly and comforting and relatively cheap always. (Although the namesake udon bowls arguably have a slight edge over the ramen.)

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Katsu Ramen

Aurora
We’d never send you somewhere with a still-pending booze license unless we had solid grounds for doing so. Make that liquid grounds. The already-thronged sibling of the always-slammed Sushi Katsu is doing a bang-up job of not only the most-common ramen styles but also hiyashi chuka, a chilled version featuring slices of omelet (tamagoyaki) and barbecued pork (chashu) in a creamy sesame-ponzu sauce you’ll wish you could drink from a glass with a little sake mixed in. Hopefully, soon enough, you can.  
 

Sonoda’s Sushi & Seafood

Aurora
As far as we know, this unassuming shopping-plaza outlet, also in Aurora, is one of the only places in town that specializes in seafood ramen -- and the only one that throws a free California roll in with its shoyu or miso bowls. (Not, like, actually into the soup, but it's entirely possible that would taste amazing.)
 

Miyako Ra-Men Spot

Englewood
This little strip-mall slurp shop came to the rescue of suburbia’s soup-starved hostages a few weeks ago, when it opened with a small but traditional ramen selection augmented by typical snacks like gyoza and fried oysters. If some among its captive audience consider the à la carte charge for certain toppings -- including the seasoned egg called ni-tamago -- tantamount to paying their own ransom, they should know that such fees aren’t really so unusual; whether they’re worth it at this particular ramen-ya remains to be seen (though the veteran chef-owner does have promising cred).

Adam Bove

Uncle

LoHi
Where it doesn’t remain to be seen is at this cool kids’ continual hot spot, whose chef-owner (and probable Pam-Anderson-sex-tape-joke-hater) Tommy Lee offers two-buck "umami bombs" to supplement his already dynamite soup. On the old-school foundation of custom-made noodles and 18-hour broths, Uncle’s crew creates combos that showcase their modern sensibilities, adding arugula or kale here, lamb or Italian sausage there, depending on their mood in any given season. Spicy chicken’s their best-seller, but we’re partial to the kimchi, preceded by salt-and-pepper quail and paired with a craft beer even you may never have seen before.
 

Toppings and More

Golden
When we say, "This is a combination noodle-and-frozen yogurt bar," we mean, "Why aren’t you already here?!" Well, hurry up -- just don’t get so excited that you mix up your toppings. Gummi worms do not belong in ramen. (Although come to think of it, hoisin-glazed pork on soft-serve has interesting possibilities.)
 

Linger

LoHi
Edible Beats’ absurdly eloquent culinary director, Daniel Asher, swears it’s no accident that the bone-broth trend came on the heels of the ramen craze: collagen-rich bones, he argues, are what give the soup not only its "beautiful mouthfeel" but "its legendary nourishing properties." Hence his recipe for "hangover ramen," now a lunch and brunch staple containing "slow-braised heritage Berkshire pork belly, eight-hour Maple Leaf duck confit, roasted organic Hazel Dell mushrooms, organic pickled ginger, and a local soft-boiled egg marinated at length" in a soy-sauce mixture. Get busy with the sesame-seed grinder, house-made chili oil, shichimi togarashi, and other condiments that come on the side, and suddenly "you've got yourself a cross-cultural tonic that will not only get you back to where you need to be but keep you fueled for bottomless mimosas," as Asher puts it, because he’s a goddamn wordsmith.

Bonanno Concepts

Bones

Capitol Hill
Two words: lobster ramen. (Well, also "escargot potstickers," but that’s another story.) The first restaurateur in town to see the Momofuku train coming, Frank Bonanno opened his chic noodle bar back in 2008, when that miso-fortified, beurre blanc-slicked, edamame-studded, clawmeat-topped creation became an instant smash hit. Since then, Chef John DePierro has added his own signature -- a Southwest-style bowl with green chiles, braised pork shoulder, hominy, jalapeños, and queso fresco -- to the menu while keeping seasonal tricks such as spinach-chipotle ramen up his sleeve. (Not literally, though that would also be a good story.)
 

Domo

Lincoln Park
Building on two dashi-based broths, Domo Chef-owner Gaku Homma offers eight different varieties of ramen with toppings like grilled eel and sukiyaki beef, including a thicker, saucier rarity called ankake. Adding two more broths (soy milk and curry) to the mix, he also makes five types of tsukemen -- essentially deconstructed ramen, with the soup served alongside the noodles to function as a dip. Any of these can become part of a combo meal with your choice of 12 donburi (rice bowls), such as the salmon teriyaki or the shrimp with avocado. And of course it all starts with the seven side dishes sent out for parties to share, whether in the folktale woodcutter’s cabin of a dining room or out in the koi garden. Prepare to be dumbfounded by sheer abundance, is what we’re saying. 
 

Kiki’s Japanese Casual Dining

University Hills
Like Domo, this quaintly decorated longtimer prepares an endless assortment of Japanese comfort dishes; unlike Domo, it’s bizarrely underrated. We’ve never had a bad dish here, be it grilled mackerel or hayashi (gravied beef over rice), and the noodle bowls are no exception. Kiki’s tonkotsu in particular is like the fettuccine Alfredo of ramen, in a really good way.  

Taryn Kapronica

Ace Eat Serve

Uptown
Ace’s menu is basically an anthology of Asia’s greatest culinary hits from bibimbap to bao, so of course it incorporates ramen too. Starting with a bacon-fortified pork-chicken broth, Chef Brandon Biederman makes both shoyu topped with pork belly, fish cake, and a poached egg and a Hokkaido-inspired version with spicy ground pork, baby corn, and a bit of butter for depth. But guess what else he does with the broth: braises a massive pork shank in it to accompany bacon-fried rice. That is the matrix of swiny sensations.
 

Brazen

Berkeley
Given a menu that jumps from barbecued ribs to chilaquiles to elegant pastas, you might suspect that the chef of one of our Best New Restaurants 2014 has terrible adult ADHD. But a few bites go to show he’s got it all under control. That goes double for his ramen, offered at brunch and late night. House-made noodles, a poached egg, and garnishes ranging from mixed pickles to roasted cauliflower anchor a steaming bowl that could be filled one week with spicy miso broth and duck confit, the next with marrow-enriched shoyu and smoked pork belly.
 

OAK at fourteenth

Boulder
Likewise available only in the daytime and late-night hours, OAK’s ramen is about what you’d expect from a place that makes even lowbrow micheladas with San Marzano tomatoes, house hot sauce, and sea salt. The shoyu-kombu broth is a three-day affair involving smoked chicken as well as roasted pork; the fresh noodles are the kitchen’s own; the garnishes are cut as precisely as gemstones; the egg on top floats like a cloud -- and the end result is pretty much reverse-snob-proof.

Izakaya Den

Izakaya Den

Southwest
As Kyushu natives, the Kizaki brothers were practically born eating tonkotsu. So they take it seriously, employing a designated ramen chef in a kitchen otherwise known for East-West innovations like hoisin-duck crostini. Said chef executes not only their homeland’s famous contribution to the ramen world but several other types as well -- notably tantanmen, Japan’s answer to spicy Sichuan dan dan noodles, and lobster ramen with bonus dumplings.  
 

Aoba

LoDo
This mildly sexy sushi bar also advertises its Kyushu-style ramen, which is weird, because it doesn’t do tonkotsu. It does, however, offer a version topped with Kobe beef -- which is weirder, because that breed of Wagyu comes from Hyogo, not Kyushu. Still, the team here has decades of experience in Japanese kitchens from Tokyo to Manhattan, and we don’t, so hey -- to paraphrase John Bender critiquing Claire Standish’s bento-box lunch in The Breakfast Club, who knows. Give it a try.
 

Hana Japanese Bistro

Louisville
Speaking of beef, you’ll find it, as well as two kinds of seafood ramen, on the dinner menu at this modest yet welcoming outpost along the Northwest Corridor, where nothing from the shumai to the katsu should be half as satisfactory as it surprisingly is.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Tengu

RiNo
Before 4pm, this stark, dark, sexy hideout serves almost nothing but ramen. So come after 4pm -- because that’s when the yakitori kicks in, and we still say small plates are Tengu’s strong points. (Although we dig the sides of garlic and seven-spice paste that the kitchen now offers on the side, not to mention the selection of Japanese single malts that also enhance the soup, albeit less directly.)
 

Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen

Larimer Square
If you told the kitchen crew at Jasinski and Gruitch’s freewheeling gastropub they couldn’t do something -- anything -- guaranteed it would be on the menu the next day. So of course there’s pork-belly ramen with pickled mushrooms amid the poutines and sausages; in fact, says Chef Jake Grant, "its popularity is a large reason why we butcher whole pigs in house." And the reason they replace the standard alkaline wheat noodles with rice and celery-root noodles, seasoned in what he calls a "classic Euclidean twist" with duck fat and juniper? Because just because.
 

P17

Uptown
Girl can’t help it. After transforming P17 from a modern Vietnamese spot into a European-style bistro last year, Chef-owner Mary Nguyen has been sneaking more and more Asian dishes back onto the menu. Fine by us, especially as she lavishes an embarrassment of porky riches -- both ground and sliced belly -- on her shoyu ramen (along with corn, bok choy, and seaweed). 

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Cho77

Baker
Lon Symensma insisted from the get-go that ChoLon’s littler, grittier sibling would not be a ramen joint, and it isn’t. But the exception to his rule is crazy sensational: a breakfast-inspired bacon, egg, and cheese ramen featuring a broth flavored with ham hocks and Parmesan rinds as well as a garnish of miso- and maple-glazed bacon.
 

Sakana Sushi & Ramen

Westminster
A serene, sophisticated suburban outlier specializing in the lighter styles -- shio, shoyu, spicy miso -- complemented by cool surprises like creamy vegetable and curry ramen, the latter topped with Japanese-style fried chicken. 

Seasoned Develpment

Argyll Whisky Beer

Uptown
In keeping with its UK theme, this gastropub pours what it calls "a spot of tea" -- but said tea happens to be infused with chicken and pork, loaded with ramen noodles, and topped with a poached egg as well as Napa cabbage, dried shiitakes, pickled daikon, breakfast radishes, carrots, scallions, and more. A right-proper restorative (along with a wee dram o’ Scotch) for the landed gentry in you.
 

Soko Sushi and Sake Bar

Downtown
At this hidden exception to the 16th Street Mall restaurant rule of high visibility and low quality, toppings like shrimp, crab, fishcake, butter, and corn reflect the kitchen’s appreciation for the diversity to be found within the big blue ramen universe.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Bubu

Lowry
True to Bubu’s tagline, "The Fresh Revolution," Troy Guard puts what he calls a "California-style" spin on the three types of ramen served at his Lowry location, infusing them with the light, bright flavors of bok choy, Swiss chard, broccolini, ginger, cilantro, and so on. (As for the buttered ramen noodles with Parmesan, those are just for kids. We asked. Twice.)

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Tokio

Prospect
Last but definitely not least, this sleek, bi-level date-night haunt ably ladles up all the classics along with a locally inspired bowl that belongs on everyone’s list of top guilty pleasures forevermore: the cremoso diablo, starring a miso broth made creamy by a blend of cheddar and jack cheeses. It sounds ridiculous, but it tastes... ridiculous.

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Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Osaka Ramen 2611 Walnut St, Denver, CO 80205

Jeff Osaka’s urban-underground noodle bar has an Asian food-friendly wine list, stellar izakaya-inspired small plates, and ramen, which reflects the chef-owner’s painstaking R&D. You’ve got your lighter, chicken-based shio (salt) and shoyu (soy-flavored) broths; your medium-textured miso broth, made with chicken and pork; and your intense, whole-hog tonkotsu broth -- each distinguished by its own mix of toppings, from braised pork shoulder to black-garlic oil. Oh, and there’s a meatless alternative for the plant-eating poors who don’t know what they’re missing in the juxtaposition of velvety pork belly and a perfectly soft egg.

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2. Sushi Tora 2014 10th St, Denver, CO 80204 (Boulder)

This stylish Pearl Street Mall fixture is known for its meticulous presentation of raw fish and tempura, as well as its no-less lovingly prepared ramen. Soup’s on weekends only, and then only until it’s gone.

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3. Udon Kaisha 191 W South Boulder Rd, Lafayette, CO 80026

This mom-and-pop noodle-and-sushi bar is very good at its best, good enough at its worst, friendly and comforting and relatively cheap always.

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5. Sonoda’s Sushi & Seafood 3108 South Parker Road, Aurora, CO 80202

This unassuming shopping-plaza outlet is one of the only places in town that specializes in seafood ramen -- and the only one that throws a free California roll in with its shoyu or miso bowls. (Not, like, actually into the soup, but it's entirely possible that would taste amazing.)

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6. Miyako Ra-Men Spot 2950 S Broadway, Englewood, CO 80113

This little strip-mall slurp shop came to the rescue of suburbia’s soup-starved hostages a few weeks ago, when it opened with a small but traditional ramen selection augmented by typical snacks like gyoza and fried oysters. If some among its captive audience consider the à la carte charge for certain toppings -- including the seasoned egg called ni-tamago -- tantamount to paying their own ransom, they should know that such fees aren’t really so unusual; whether they’re worth it at this particular ramen-ya remains to be seen (though the veteran chef-owner does have promising cred).

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7. Uncle 2215 W 32nd Ave, Denver, CO 80211 (Highland)

Uncle is a pleasantly boisterous Asian Fusion restaurant in the Highland Parks neighborhood. The chefs' creative takes on ramen dishes are becoming local favorites on its lengthy, diverse menu.

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8. Toppings and More 14799 W.6th Avenue Frontage Road, Golden, CO 80401 (Golden Triangle)

When we say, "This is a combination noodle-and-frozen yogurt bar," we mean, "Why aren’t you already here?!" Well, hurry up -- just don’t get so excited that you mix up your toppings. Gummi worms do not belong in ramen. (Although come to think of it, hoisin-glazed pork on soft-serve has interesting possibilities.)

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9. Linger 2030 W 30th Ave, Denver, CO 80211 (Highland)

If you think an ex-mortuary can't serve up some killer apothecary-esque cocktails, you're dead wrong. Ok, ok, but seriously, the views at Root Down's fancy sister spot are spectacular, and with a rooftop patio and dinner menu featuring gourmet dishes from around the world, you will definitely be tempted to linger.

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10. Bones 701 Grant St, Denver, CO 80203 (Capitol Hill)

Two words: lobster ramen. (Well, also "escargot potstickers," but that’s another story.) The first restaurateur in town to see the Momofuku train coming, Frank Bonanno opened his chic noodle bar back in 2008, when that miso-fortified, beurre blanc-slicked, edamame-studded, clawmeat-topped creation became an instant smash hit. Since then, Chef John DePierro has added his own signature -- a Southwest-style bowl with green chiles, braised pork shoulder, hominy, jalapeños, and queso fresco -- to the menu while keeping seasonal tricks such as spinach-chipotle ramen up his sleeve.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Domo 1365 Osage St, Denver, CO 80204 (Lincoln Park)

Building on two dashi-based broths, Domo Chef-owner Gaku Homma offers eight different varieties of ramen with toppings like grilled eel and sukiyaki beef, including a thicker, saucier rarity called ankake. Adding two more broths (soy milk and curry) to the mix, he also makes five types of tsukemen -- essentially deconstructed ramen, with the soup served alongside the noodles to function as a dip. Any of these can become part of a combo meal with your choice of 12 donburi (rice bowls), such as the salmon teriyaki or the shrimp with avocado. And of course it all starts with the seven side dishes sent out for parties to share, whether in the folktale woodcutter’s cabin of a dining room or out in the koi garden. Prepare to be dumbfounded by sheer abundance, is what we’re saying.

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12. Kiki’s Japanese Casual Dining 2440 S Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80222

This quaintly decorated longtimer prepares an endless assortment of Japanese comfort dishes, and is bizarrely underrated. We’ve never had a bad dish here, be it grilled mackerel or hayashi (gravied beef over rice), and the noodle bowls are no exception. Kiki’s tonkotsu in particular is like the fettuccine Alfredo of ramen, in a really good way.

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13. Ace 501 E 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80203 (Uptown)

The eclectic Asian cuisine here -- think Korean BBQ ribs, steamed bao buns, and dim sum -- might be good, but the ping-pong and huge outdoor patio is really what draws crowds. Tables can be rented by the hour, and you're encouraged to try one of the house-made sodas, or local and Asian beers (Asahi, Tiger, Singha) while waiting for your table.

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14. Brazen 4500 West 38th Ave, Denver, CO 80212 (Northwest)

Tucked away next to a Comfort Dental, Brazen could almost go unnoticed -- but it shouldn't. A tiny patio surrounding a fire pit outside and a cozy, intimate space inside make you feel right at home. They offer a simple menu of American dishes like meatballs, deviled eggs, and duck confit, plus a build-your-own s'mores platter for dessert.

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15. OAK at Fourteenth 1400 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302 (Boulder)

OAK at fourteenth offers up unique, locally sourced American fare and a killer cocktail menu.

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16. Izakaya Den 1487A S Pearl St, Denver, CO 80210 (Southwest)

Across the street from its sister restaurant Sushi Den on Pearl, ID's dishing out Japanese eats like cod stew, Wagyu beef carpaccio, and whole(y) mackerels.

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17. Aoba 1520 Blake St, Denver, CO 80202 (Lodo)

Opened by a Tokyo chef and his buddy from Osaka (correct, that's the one right by Nishinomiya and Toyonaka), Aoba's a Blake Street 80-seater outfitted with hardwood floors and striking white booths prime for enjoying sushi, noodles, grilled meats, and an array of Japanese small plates the duo claims they haven't seen before in Denver (maybe they're microscopic plates?).

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18. Hana Japanese Bistro 1148 W Dillon Rd, Louisville, CO 80027

You'll find delicious beef, as well as two kinds of seafood ramen, on the dinner menu at this modest yet welcoming outpost along the Northwest Corridor, where nothing from the shumai to the katsu should be half as satisfactory as it surprisingly is.

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19. Tengu 3053 Brighton Blvd, Denver, CO 80216 (Five Points)

Though this industrial-chic, bi-level hideaway in the Industry complex specializes in ramen, the kitchen’s at its best in, well, nearly every other department, from the crisp-tender gyoza, to the deeply savory, richly marinated yakitori. Get some sake and get cozy — if you do this right, you’re in for a long night.

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20. Euclid Hall 1317 14th St, Denver, CO 80202 (Lodo)

Snack on schnitzel, sausage, and poutine at this beer bar on 14th St.

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21. Parallel Seventeen 1600 East 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80218

Parallel 17 is a Denver hotspot serving up everything from a Sizzling Saigon crepe to a Northern-style yellow curry with Saigon baguettes.

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22. Cho77 42 S Broadway, Denver, CO 80209 (Baker)

Cho77 is ChoLon for the cool kids. This spot from Lon Symensma is all about hawker stalls, snack carts, and beer shacks from Hanoi to Chiang Mai. We probably don’t have to tell you twice to get the fusion-inspired buffalo-chicken bao or the mashup of ramen and pasta carbonara, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t insist on the only fruit plate you’ll ever love, tricked out with mint syrup and chili salt.

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23. Sakana Sushi & Ramen 7520 Sheridan Blvd, Westminster, CO 80003

A serene, sophisticated suburban outlier specializing in the lighter styles -- shio, shoyu, spicy miso -- complemented by cool surprises like creamy vegetable and curry ramen, the latter topped with Japanese-style fried chicken.

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24. Argyll Whisky Beer Gastropub 1035 E 17th Avenue, Denver, CO 80218 (Uptown)

Argyll's Uptown location has a menu full of traditional British fare -- don't miss their version of the Scotch egg, or their extensive beer and whiskey lists.

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25. Soko Sushi & Sake Bar 1600 Champa St, Denver, CO 80202

At this hidden exception to the 16th Street Mall restaurant rule of high visibility and low quality, you can expect top-notch sushi, as well as fantastic ramen with toppings like shrimp, crab, fishcake, butter, and corn.

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26. Bubu 7559 East Academy Blvd, Denver, CO 80202

Part of Troy Guard’s empire, at Bubu you'll find buttermilk-fried duck tongues, corned-beef buns, popcorn shrimp, and spicy tuna on crispy rice cakes -- plus cinnamon-laced tequila cocktails.

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27. Tokio 2907 Huron St, Denver, CO 80202

This sleek, bi-level date-night haunt ably ladles up some of Denver's best ramen. It's got all the classics, along with a locally inspired bowl that belongs on everyone’s list of top guilty pleasures forevermore: the cremoso diablo, starring a miso broth made creamy by a blend of cheddar and jack cheeses. It sounds ridiculous, but it tastes... ridiculous.

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