Denver is a growing city, which means an influx of immigrants. From Taiwan to Russia, many of our favorite new Denverites have brought with them a palate of epic proportions and wish to share their food from back home with those in search of more flavorful fare. International markets in and around Denver sell a variety of grocery items bound to fire up your taste buds. We know that shopping for items in an Asian supermarket might be difficult if you’ve never visited or lived in Asia, so we asked grocers what to buy and saved you the embarrassment of asking what bok choy is. There really is no excuse anymore. Skip the Kraft Dinner, and try something outside your comfort zone instead.
READ: 12 International Bakeries To Explore in Colorado
East Side Kosher Deli
Where: 499 South Elm St., Glendale
Nationalities Represented: Jewish
Groceries to Buy: Holy Hummus, housemade roast beef, corned beef, pita bread, chocolate babka (sweet yeast cake)
The Lowdown: You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy all that kosher cuisine has to offer. Everything sold at East Side Kosher Deli is completely kosher and the location includes a butchery, bakery, take-out deli, full dine-in restaurant and grocery store. The premium, house-cured deli meats are to die for, so make sure you savor the housemade roast beef and corned beef by ordering a sandwich or just getting cuts by the pound paired with one of the delicious side dishes at the deli. Some warm pita bread paired with Holy Hummus is also a Jewish favorite, and their kosher cakes and baked goods are incredibly popular. The staff recommends the chocolate babka, a yeast cake popular in Eastern Europe. This gooey, brioche-like dessert is divine.
Middle East Market
Where: 2254 South Colorado Blvd., Denver
Nationalities Represented: Middle Eastern, North African
Groceries to Buy: Turkish delight, dates, Labneh (yogurt), Maamoul finger cookies
The Lowdown: Those looking for a unique escape from the humdrum of traditional chain grocery stores will find wonderment perusing the selection of hookah, Morrocan mint tea, rose water, health supplements, packaged food, nuts and other Middle Eastern delicacies offered at Middle East Market. Try some different flavors of Turkish delight candy for an exotic sweet treat, taste Labneh — a yogurt cream cheese — or enjoy imported dates and Maamoul (date-filled finger cookies). Middle East Market is where you can experience new flavors from abroad without the long flight.
Pacific Ocean Marketplace
Where: 12303 East Mississippi Ave., Aurora (other location at 2200 West Alameda Ave., Denver)
Nationalities Represented: Mostly Asian including Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean
Groceries to Buy: large lobster, matcha Kit Kats, jackfruit
The Lowdown: As one of the largest Asian markets in Denver, Pacific Ocean Marketplace really doesn’t disappoint. With authentic imports from China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, India, the Philippines and many more countries around the world, you can spend hours in the aisles admiring everything from the hanging red Chinese lanterns, to the selection of cast iron teapots and other Asian cookware, to the colorful, quirky packaging stacked for animated presentation. We asked the manager at Pacific Ocean Marketplace what she recommended trying, and she had a hard time making a choice until deciding the seafood and produce were the most impressive — specifically the massive lobsters and gigantic jackfruit. The matcha-flavored Kit Kats are also fun if you want to try a popular Asian candy that’s familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. Be warned though. You can easily spend hours in here.
East Europe Market
Where: 4015 East Arkansas Ave., Denver
Nationalities Represented: Eastern European
Groceries to Buy: Pileci-Parizer (sausage), Gusto Pufuleti (salted corn puffs), Bulgaricum cheese
The Lowdown: If you love meat and cheese, make sure you visit East Europe Market in Cherry Creek. Salami, kielbasa and bratwursts are stacked at the deli to give your taste buds something salty to dream about, while the soups, snacks and quality cheeses in the back fridge are other items to debate over. Eastern European immigrants from Russia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and other nationalities frequently hang out here to celebrate their heritage with familiar food from back home, and you’ll definitely feel like a welcome customer. Obviously, the staff recommends the Pileci-Pelzer sausage and one of the many Bulgaricum cheeses, but the Gusto Pufuleti snacks are great for anyone who loves the texture of Cheetos but is looking for something saltier. A trip to East Europe Market will make your friends’ wine and cheese spread look sad in comparison.
Arash International Market
Where: 2720 South Parker Rd., Aurora
Nationalities Represented: Persian
Groceries to Buy: Tahini, hummus, dolma (stuffed grape leaves), assorted nuts, Armenian cracker bread
The Lowdown: Arash International Market was definitely on our list to try, since where else can you find authentic Persian food in Denver? Baskets filled with assorted dates and nuts welcome you into the Middle Eastern market that houses delicious hummuses paired with your choice of items to dip (try the Armenian cracker bread), dolma — stuffed grape leaves perfect for salads — and many other canned and packaged food items you won’t find at the nearest grocery store in your neighborhood.
M & I International Market
Where: 909 South Oneida St., Denver
Nationalities Represented: Eastern European but mostly Russian
Groceries to Buy: Kartoshka (chocolate roll), pickled herring, Oreshki (cookies), Siberian dumplings (pork, veal and beef)
The Lowdown: M & I International Market earns the number one spot on our list for the friendliest international market we visited in the Denver area. The Russian manager was excited to share his long list of favorite foods and gave a lot of recommendations and even recipes. Beautifully iced cakes, housemade pastries and Russian cookies of all shapes and sizes, and candies are the most attractive displays in the store, so we weren’t surprised to hear we had to try the Kartoshka (chocolate roll) or the Oreshki, walnut-shaped cookies made with dulce de leche. For dinner, M & I recommends the Siberian frozen dumplings, which are easy to heat in the oven, or being brave and trying pickled herring. It might sound gross, but apparently, if you pair the fish with mashed potatoes, 100 grams of vodka, dill pickles and schnapps — it’s delicious. Check out this market for new food favorites.
Panaderia La Guatemalteca
Where: 10329 East Colfax Ave., Aurora
Nationalities Represented: Guatemalan
Groceries to Buy: fresh-baked bread and cookies, Zambos (plantain chips)
The Lowdown: The Central American country of Guatemala has a community in the Mile High City as well. The Panaderia La Guatemalteca is incredibly hidden off East Colfax in Aurora, but once you find it, you’ll be comforted by the sight and smell of fresh-baked Guatemalan bread and wafer cookies that are each $1 or less. You can also indulge in crunchy, salty plantain chips imported for a special snack.
Carniceria La Mexicana
Where: 704 Sheridan Blvd., Denver
Nationalities Represented: Mexican
Groceries to Buy: papaya, Carne Picada, chorizo de Puerco
The Lowdown: Carniceria translates to a butcher shop in Spanish, so be prepared to shop for spiced meats and other savory cuts at Carniceria La Mexicana. There are a lot of carnicerias in Denver, but this one is our favorite for its colorful piñata displays, colorful produce section and deli with a ton of variety. You can’t go wrong purchasing a juicy, Mexican papaya or some carne picada or chorizo de Puerco to experience an authentic Taco Tuesday.
Viet Hoa Supermarket
Where: 225 South Sheridan Blvd., Lakewood
Nationalities Represented: Vietnamese, Southeast Asian
Groceries to Buy: lychee juice drink, mochi, Oh! Ricey instant rice noodles, Vietnamese coffee
The Lowdown: The Viet Hoa Supermarket is named for its Vietnamese roots, and you can find some pretty interesting flavors at this primarily Southeast Asian supermarket. Packed with a ton of variety, Viet Hoa offers customers vibrant drink displays (try the lychee juice drink), packaged ramen and rice noodles, all the ingredients for creating your own sweet Vietnamese coffee and Asian treat favorites like mochi, a frozen dessert made of sweet rice dough and an ice cream filling.
Pacific Mercantile Company
Where: 1925 Lawrence St., Denver
Nationalities Represented: Japanese
Groceries to Buy: bok choy, satsuma tangerines, instant wakame seaweed miso soup, Ramuné drinks, sushi, mushrooms, Botan rice candy
The Lowdown: In the heart of Sakura Square nestled in downtown Denver, Pacific Mercantile Company sells a lot of authentic Asian food and drink items, but if Japanese is what you crave, you’ll find the most variety here. The staff at Pacific Mercantile gave us the longest list of things to try — a lot of it was candy and sugary, carbonated fruit drinks, so you know this place is fun. Known for its whimsy, colorful, cartoonish packaging in grocery stores, Japan sells a lot of fun, inventive snacks, so make sure you try the old-fashioned pop bottle-inspired Ramuné soda (the lychee and peach flavors are the best), Botan rice candy, candy whistles, mochi and other sweet treats. The produce section here is also exciting. Satsuma tangerines with the leaves still on and bok choy are delicious as well as the strange-looking assortment of maitake and elephant ear mushrooms. You also can’t go wrong with some instant miso soup or some house-prepared sushi at the counter in the back. Go here for a good time.
Where: 4628 East 23rd Ave., Denver
Nationalities Represented: Italian
Groceries to Buy: asiago aged cheese, prosciutto di parma, calabrese salami hot, marinara sauce, pasta
The Lowdown: In the quieter neighborhood of Park Hill, you can sample mouth-watering prosciutto. The Italians love their meats and cheeses, so it’s no secret that this charming authentic Italian market with a deli and butcher recommends many of their cured cuts and aged cheese. Steeped in tradition, Spinelli’s Market is adjacent to a bakery and café of the same name and displays its roots in framed photos behind the counter. Spinelli’s offers delicious meals to go including chicken and eggplant parmesan and lasagna, so you can’t go wrong there. It would also be silly not to try at least one of their rich marinara sauces with the fancy pasta of your choice.
Where: 2751 South Parker Rd., Aurora
Nationalities Represented: Korean, East Asian
Groceries to Buy: hot chicken flavored ramyeon, dragonfruit, gimbap, kimchi
The Lowdown: H Mart in Aurora is always packed with customers and it’s no wonder why. With decent prices, this East Asian market sells mainly popular Korean food and drink products, so if you’re looking for something spicy you’re in the right place. H Mart is very clean and organized with a massive produce section, seafood section and way too much ramyeon to choose from. The staff wants you to try the “Spicy Challenge” by eating hot chicken flavored ramyeon and some of their kimchi (fermented cabbage). Anything in the produce section is also going to be good, so try a dragonfruit — primarily grown in Thailand and Vietnam — or get a quick lunch with gimbap, a type of dish consisting of rice and vegetables rolled and wrapped in dried seaweed.
Megenagna Ethiopian Grocery
Where: 306 South Ironton St. C, Aurora
Nationalities Represented: Ethiopian
Groceries to Buy: sambusa, injera, berbere, tenderloin
The Lowdown: Megenagna Ethiopian Grocery might be on the smaller side, but a trip to this market is a truly unique experience. With an Ethiopian restaurant next door, this African market is best for buying meat, spices and bread products. Tenderloin is understandably a hot item, but injera (sourdough-risen flatbread) and sambusa (flaky dough filled with spices and lentils) are tasty, exotic snacks you definitely can’t buy elsewhere in the city. If you’re into cooking, berbere, an Ethiopian chili spice, is also an exciting purchase.
Little Saigon Supermarket
Where: 375 South Federal Blvd., Denver
Nationalities Represented: Vietnamese, Southeast Asian
Groceries to Buy: Toddy palm cakes, coconut cookies, Banh Chung (sticky rice cake)
The Lowdown: Little Saigon Supermarket isn’t little when it comes to variety. This primarily Vietnamese food market sells an assortment of meats, spices, produce and other treats imported from southeast Asia. Whether you’re searching for the perfect meat to boil in a steaming pot of pho, or just looking to enlighten your taste buds, Little Saigon has just what you need. Buying a Banh chung — a sticky rice cake especially famous in Vietnam for the Lunar New Year — is served in a banana leaf and makes for a tasty snack on the go, or if you’re craving something sweet, the coconut cookies or Toddy palm cakes made of rice flour, coconut, sugar and palm sugar make a unique dessert.
Azteca Ranch Market
Where: 11505 East Colfax Ave., Aurora
Nationalities Represented: Mexican
Groceries to Buy: Obleas (milk candy wafers), Mangonada, hot sauce, prickly pear
The Lowdown: Mexican food-lovers rejoice. Azteca Ranch Market in Aurora has a diverse display of tropical fruits and vegetables (try the prickly pear), colorful cookie display case and almost an entire aisle devoted to hot sauce. It even has a casual restaurant with Mexican art murals called Tacos Junior inside for an authentic bite to eat. Azteca Ranch grocers also recommend an Obleas, or caramel-filled, waffle-like cookie, and a Mangonada, a Mexican fruit drink made with mangos, lime juice, chamoy sauce and chili powder. It’s the perfect concoction of fruity and spicy on a hot day.
Photography by Heather Fairchild, Lukas Crosby and Danielle Webster.
Correction: the article was updated to clarify the Korean food options for H Mart. Ramen specifically designates a certain type of noodles developed and consumed in Japan. Ramyeon, on the other hand, refers to the instant noodles of Korea. In addition, Korean gimbap differs greatly from Japanese sushi, which does not consist of raw fish but cooked rice and vegetables rolled and wrapped in dried seaweed.