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The best (and oldest?) Thai food in town

Peyton’s Plate: Chada Thai

I want to tell you about one of my favorite places in the city.

It was 2018, I had a new job near City Park, and my coworker was showing me all the great lunch options within walking distance. One day, she told me she was taking me to a place that had the most authentic-tasting Thai food she’d ever had. (For the record, I’d never had any Thai food before.) She explained to me that she’d developed a real hankering for Thai food a few years prior, and after some exhaustive research, flew to Oakland to spend a week with a Thai chef named Kasma Loha-unchit (she’s legit, btw). Ever since, my friend had tried nearly every Thai restaurant in Denver searching for the real deal, and she’d finally found it in a teeny tiny, unassuming, nine-table, family-owned restaurant on 17th Avenue and Race Street — Chada Thai.

It was really good. For the next two years, while I had that job near City Park, I ate at Chada Thai once a week, always getting my staple order of Pad See Ew, a Thai iced tea, and coconut sticky rice for dessert. In fact, the restaurant inspired me to embark on a Thai food quest of my own, looking for something that might beat the impressive flavors at Chada. I thought, “This is only the first Thai restaurant I’ve ever tried. There must be a world of possibilities out there for me to explore.” So, I tried dozens of Thai restaurants across the metro area, and most of them were pretty damn good. But not Chada Thai good. And no one else I talked to seemed to know it. Chada was my special food sanctuary; my own little Denver food secret.

So I was surprised when I stumbled across a CPR article earlier this year that claimed my Chada Thai was the very first Thai restaurant in the U.S. The article says the original Chada opened in the 1960s on 20th Avenue and has since been passed from the original family to another Thai family and relocated a few streets over. But inside you’ll still find newspaper clippings with photos of founder Lily Chittivej smiling down from the walls. And although I have no idea how anyone could possibly verify this restaurant as being the very first of its kind in the entire country, the food makes me want to believe.

The dining room can probably fit no more than 35 people at a time. All the food is served on paper plates with plastic utensils. If you drive too quickly down 17th you’re likely to miss it completely. And it’s absolutely perfect.

My Chada Thai staple order:

Curry puffs: Crispy wontons stuffed with curried potatoes and served with a sweet and sour sauce ($7.95)

Pad See Ew: Wide rice noodles stir-fried to perfection in a dark soy sauce with egg and broccoli ($13) (I add chicken and order it mild)

Sweet Sticky Rice: With coconut milk and topped with toasted sesame seeds ($5.25)

Some more food for thought:

🍩 Third Culture Bakery is leaving Colorado. The Cali-based bakery known for matcha drinks and mochi muffins has announced it will be closing its two CO locations in Aurora and Denver and instead focusing on growth back home in California.

🎉 Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox announces a 2022 re-opening. Denver’s beloved brothel-turned-dinner club spent most of the last two years with its doors closed due to the pandemic. But now, the “gastro-brothel” is promising to welcome back guests and show off some fresh renovations by early February.

🍪 Fancify your Christmas cookies. Indulge in your favorite flavors of the season — spiced gingerbread, gooey chocolate chip, soft sugar, chewy oatmeal — at the Denver bakeries that have perfected this tasty time-old holiday tradition.  

— Peyton Garcia, City Cast Denver Writer and Seeker of Awesome Thai Food


Other Denver Odds and Ends

✈️ Check in, luggage drop-off, security… booster shot? Beginning this week, Denver International Airport has partnered with Safeway to set up COVID vaccine booster clinics right there next to security. All you have to do is make an appointment and, boom, getting your booster is as easy as replacing the toothbrush you forgot to pack. 

🍸 “Adult Nights” at Meow Wolf: I’m absolutely a proponent of blowing your 7 year old’s mind with the hands-on psychedelic art at Convergence Station. BUT if you want to experience the multiverse without having to watch where you step, Meow Wolf is hosting “adulti-verse” evenings in January and February for visitors 21+ only. And yes, there will be libations.

❤️‍🩹 Two years and 10,000 deaths later: This week marked the one-year anniversary of the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine to Colorado. Since then, almost 69% of all eligible state residents five and older have been fully vaccinated. But also noted this week, Colorado surpassed 10,000 resident deaths from the virus in the roughly two years since the pandemic first swept through the globe.

⚕️ Tri-County Health is officially no more: This week, Arapahoe County announced its departure from the multi-county health agency, making it the third and final county to do so. After 73 years of partnership, the three counties that made up the Tri-County Health Department — Douglas, Adams, and Arapahoe — will go their separate ways.

🎧 LISTEN: How can we support our nurses? Burnout is hitting nurses hard as we barrel toward the pandemic’s second anniversary. Nearly one in five nurses in Colorado plans to quit their job in the near future, according to an American Nurses Foundation survey. Hospitals across the state are already strained by the number of COVID patients they’re seeing, and staff shortages could make the situation worse. How can you help? We asked a nurse.