Denver is a food lover’s metropolis, and it’s not difficult to satisfy your cravings, be it an all-American burger, Chinese hot pot, sushi, street tacos, brilliant sandwiches, fresh pasta, fish or burly cuts of beef. But while we love our restaurants, we also like showing off our culinary chops, and while supermarket shopping is often a tedious chore, we’ve rounded up more than a dozen of our favorite specialty food shops to score exotic spices, all things Asian, fresh and dried chiles, sublime cheeses and charcuterie, pristine seafood and the best Indian naan in the city.
It’s difficult–very difficult–to overstate the rapture that’s the Savory Spice Shop, a sensory experience steeped in aromatic euphoria. With stores across the state—and beyond—this is where home cooks and accomplished chefs go to search for an exhaustive A to Z collection of spices, spice blends, spice sets, salts, dried herbs, peppercorns, meat and seafood rubs, baking sugars and powders, mulling spices, popcorn seasonings and so much more. Long story short? If you need spices, whether basic or exotic, the Savory Spice Shop most likely carries them. And if you’re looking to give and receive, you can’t go wrong with the themed gift boxes.
Landlocked, you say? No fresh seafood, you mumble? Think again, coastal counterparts. While it’s true the ocean is miles away from our mountainous land of marvels, you can absolutely, positively find superb ocean critters at Seafood Landing, a tidy, family-run storefront in Highland overseen by serious fishmongers who sell whole fish with bright eyes—an indication of their impeccable freshness. If it swims, swishes, rolls, burrows or crawls in the ocean—grouper, tuna, halibut, live Maine lobsters, scallops, mussels and clams—there’s a good chance Seafood Landing sells it. And if you don’t see what you’re looking for, just ask. The shop will do its best to haul in your catch.
Marczyk Fine Foods
The sandwiches alone are worth a visit to this beautifully curated market and specialty food shop in Uptown (there’s a second location at 5100 E. Colfax) that parades artisan cheeses, hard-to-find products from around the globe, kitchen gadgets, beautiful olive oils, pedigreed dried pastas, thoughtfully sourced seafood, fish and meats, paella kits, fresh-baked breads, small-batch, scratch-made ice creams, and local foodstuffs that make for a brilliant gift basket saluting Colorado’s bounty. The adjacent boutique wine shop—Marczyk Fine Wines—is a deep dive into esoteric and largely unknown producers, and with prices that regularly ring up under the $15 mark, you can buy a case of juice that won’t shatter your bank account.
Tony’s Meats & Market
A staple in the Centennial suburb since the 1970s when the city was little more than tumbleweeds nosediving across the asphalt, the original Tony’s Market—and the duo of others in Castle Pines and Littleton—is a gourmet paradise swelled with fresh produce, house-butchered meats (the Castle Pine location boasts a dry-aging room) and fish, excellent sandwiches, decadent fruit pies, fancy provisions and prepared foods that range from prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and twice-baked potatoes to picnic potato salad and party meatballs.
Nooch | Vegan Market
Munchies and snacks like falafel, popcorn, peanut brittle and pecan toffee and difficult-to-find products such as flavored pecan milk, cheese, ice cream sandwiches, seitan salamis and mock “meat” jerky all take center stage at this small but mighty 100 percent vegan haven in the Baker neighborhood. A one-stop shop, Nooch also sells beauty supplies, belts, buttons, stickers, greeting cards and herbivore-themed apparel. Don’t depart without trying the soft-serve ice cream, which rivals its dairy-driven counterparts.
“Elevating local food” is the motto of this next-level Highland market parading local, organic and natural products, coupled with several restaurants, including Basil Doc’s, One Two Tree Sushi, Culture Meat & Cheese, a café that pours fresh cups of java and kombucha and a bar dispensing wine and beer that customers can sip while strolling around the market. In addition to staples like milk and eggs, pick up organic produce, unassailable meats, including sausage, turkey, ham and beef, from River Bear, a local company overseen by star chef Justin Brunson, and stop by the store’s Chop Shop to collect sliced and diced fruits and vegetables for dinner at the table. Bonus: On Saturday afternoons, from 3 to 6 p.m., you can shop to live music.
Truffle Cheese Shop
A lifeline for cheese heads, this tiny Cherry Creek citadel of curds and whey is awash in whiffs of ripe aromas, a marker of the stellar collection of dairy delights that overwhelm the fancy display cases. Specializing in small-batch, artisan cheeses procured from here, there and everywhere, the family-owned shop also carries an impressive catalog of charcuterie, olive oils, vinegars, chocolates, crackers, jams and beautifully assembled party platters. And if you want a hands-on experience in cheese-making, sign up for one of the interactive classes, which are led by the shop’s super-talented cheesemongers.
A beloved bastion of the Park Hill neighborhood, this old-school Italian-leaning market stocks a sky-high variety of imported dried pastas, lovely Italian cheeses, the shop’s own line of pasta sauces, everything required to make pizza in your home kitchen (including fresh dough and still-warm orbs of fresh mozzarella) and a litany of prepared foods—spaghetti and meatballs, stuffed cheese shells, eggplant Parmigiana and lasagna—that amount to a feast. Fancy a sandwich? The deli excels in that department, too.
Deli Italia Pizzeria & Market
Co-owner Chris Lyons presides over the pizza oven, scroll of sandwiches and salumi-and-cheese case at this unassailable Wheat Ridge deli that unleashes unexpected marvels—the sort of marvels that can only be achieved by a perfectionist, which Lyons is. His brazen sandwiches, for example, include something called the Notorious P.I.G., a stacked masterpiece of first-rate prosciutto, fresh mozzarella (the best in the city), ripened tomatoes, arugula, cipollini onion gastrique, olive oil and a smear of prosciutto butter. His thin-crusted pizzas, specked with char and blasts of blackened bubbles, are small miracles, and the deli case, an homage to Italian meats, cheeses and prepared foods, is the real thing. And the cannoli? You want more than one.
One of the most prominent meat markets in the city, Edwards Meats, located in Wheat Ridge, is a carnivore’s utopia extolling, among other things, exceptional housemade sausages: Belfast bangers and Irish bangers, andouille, Louisiana boudin, elk brats, Wisconsin beer brats, pork-and-leek breakfast links, lamb sausage, and dozens more. The sprawling butcher case, a splay of backyard barbecue beef cuts (some prime), plus chicken, pork and several different variations of bacon, is pretty legendary, too—and the butchers don’t bat an eye if you ask for custom cuts. Still, one of our favorite perks of Edwards is the fact that it grandstands a section dedicated to offal: beef kidneys and beef hearts, buffalo tongue and kidneys, lamb hearts and pork trotters. Oh, and if you’re hunting for rendered duck fat, Edwards has that, too, along with European butter, fresh eggs, tons of barbecue sauces and a litany of spices and rubs to dress up any dish.
A cornerstone in Aurora, a neighborhood flush with international markets, this Mexican carniceria is worth its weight in meat. When you walk in, sidestep the pinatas swooping down from the ceiling, brush past the cleaning supplies and head straight for the butcher counter, a mind-blowing splay of carne, including chorizo, chicken, barbacoa, carnitas, oxtail, skirt steak and tripe. The citrus-splashed house marinade, which can be added to just about any meat, is flat-out delicious, as are the housemade salsas and guacamole, scratch tortillas, real-deal street tacos and the tamales, which are available on weekends. You’ll also find a small selection of fresh vegetables and herbs and a monumental supply of spices and fresh and dried chiles.
The lights are as bright as the beam of the sun at this mega Asian-American supermarket, its penetrating glare illuminating the abundance of bundled Asian herbs and produce that fill the baskets and carts of the shopping masses. There’s nothing quite like H Mart, which occupies a large plot in Aurora and 101 other parcels of land across the universe. Its focus favors Korean products, but there’s so, so much more to ogle, to touch, to buy: honey butter chips, kimchi, chile pastes, live lobsters, pea shoots, bok choy, fish cakes, coconut milk, rice and rice noodles, toasted seaweed, frozen dumplings, Thai okra, pork belly and pork jowl, oxtail, frozen bulgogi meat and beef tongue. You could spend all afternoon wandering the aisles of H Mart’s immense selection of foodstuffs, but the deep collection of housewares—woks, ramen noodle pots, rice cookers, bamboo steamers, chopsticks, sushi rollers and electric hot pots—is a sight to behold. If you want to get lost in a supermarket, this is the place.
Gulzar Halal Market
In the event you’re on the prowl for Arabic foods, you should absolutely make the pilgrimage to this butchery, market and bakery in Aurora. Stocked with fresh kosher meats, including lamb, plus a vast array bulk dry foods, Middle Eastern sweets and exotic spices, you’ll find everything you need here to cook a fitting Mid-East feast. The back of the market is a dedicated bread bonanza with a display kitchen showcasing freshly baked, smoking-hot, saucer-sized ovals of charred and bubbly naan bread. It’s worth going here just for that, as evidenced by the long lines of bread heads who buy the masterpieces in mass quantities.
Photo by Kevin Gaertner courtesy of Savory Spice Shop.