Living in Denver these past few years has been a dream. The art museums, the local coffee shops, the proximity to the mountains, all foster a sense of community that fills me with warmth year round. Always, I am particularly grateful for the diverse native tongues, flavors, and perspectives that the greater Denver area has to offer. And I especially love the food here.
From Sawa, the Polish grocery in Wheat Ridge, and the Ethiopian restaurants on Colfax, to the broad offerings of halal and kosher markets scattered across the greater metro area, there’s somewhere that meets everyone’s culinary needs.
But what about a nice night out while eating halal? Sure, you have the means to buy all the ingredients for a good halal meal here, but these days, it’s unrealistic to assume that people will have enough time on their hands to cook every single meal, every single day. And sometimes it’s nice to just have food prepared for you. Going out to eat is a joy, and
it’s so important to feel confident that where you choose to dine follows the guidelines that you value. Denver’s halal offerings are rich, and thankfully, spread across town – so you’re never too far from a great place to eat, no matter where you are in the city. Here are three of the best restaurants with halal offerings in the Denver area.
I’ll just kick it off with a place that has been here for almost thirty years, and is a touchstone of Denver cuisine: Jerusalem Restaurant. Its simple name is as straightforward as its menu, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you’ll be left wanting anything after eating here. First off: their stuffed grape leaves. Lemony, vibrant, with rice that is perfectly cooked – they are genuinely the best grape leaves that I have ever had at a restaurant. They have a broad offering of sides, falafel iterations, and sandwiches.
Their halal beef and lamb gyro is pleasant and filling, and very reasonably priced at only $7.50. Their fries are almost $4, but it’s worth it to indulge in some fries that are confidently halal, since they don’t get deep fried alongside chicken wings like they do in most mainstream restaurants. Jerusalem Restaurant has a simple aesthetic, a great location right by the University of Denver, and fast service. As one of the most well-known casual restaurants in town, they are worth the visit, and you won’t soon forget the meal you had there. I know that I for one regularly daydream about those grape leaves…
Darya Persian Restaurant
Second on my list is Darya Persian Restaurant in Aurora. They serve up some delicious Iranian classics here like ashe-reshteh, a nourishing noodle soup with a variety of greens and beans. They also offer a solid selection of tasty kabobs that are all reasonably priced at $11-$13 for a plate laden with kabobs, bread, and saffron rice. Darya Persian Restaurant also offers the traditional, warm, delightful Persian dish mirza ghasemi, and they do it justice.
A blend of eggplant, herbs, tomatoes, and eggs that you dip their warm bread into, it’s a combination of savory flavors that is truly divine. Finally, as silly as this one sounds, Darya Restaurant is a great place to go when you’re craving a good, halal burger. Sometimes it’s nice to indulge in an unhealthy staple that many people get to eat without a second thought. Being able to eat a burger at a restaurant, and feel confident that the meat is halal, is a great feeling.
Shish Kabob Grill
Last but not least, Shish Kabob Grill also earns a spot on this list for its straightforward, halal fare in the heart of Denver. Located in Cap Hill, this joint has been open since 2004 and is run by a warm couple originally from Aleppo. And despite its unassuming looks, Shish Kabob Grill has the best hummus in town, hands down. So good, in fact, I’ve heard about several people who were staunchly anti-hummus that were converted by Shish Kabob Grill’s creamy dip.
Their chicken shawarma plate is also packed with flavor, and is a huge helping of food for only $15. Finally, the best way to finish any meal is with a hot cup of coffee, and Shish Kabob Grill serves up Turkish coffee with cardamom that is truly out of this world. Once you’ve indulged in some good Turkish coffee, you’ll never think that dessert is a proper meal ending again.
While these are all great options, it’s important to keep in mind that Denver is lucky to have these choices. In smaller towns, there aren’t as many places to choose from that are truly halal, and it’s harder when you’re traveling to be sure you’re eating in line with your values. A safe way to broaden your scope is at vegan and vegetarian restaurants. As there is no meat there to begin with, most halal rules are followed – just be sure to ask your server if something has been made with soy sauce or vanilla extract, as those do contain trace amounts of alcohol.
As a matter of fact, there is a growing movement amongst Muslim millennials to push toward a more plant-based lifestyle, based on the idea that factory farms can never truly be halal, even if rules are followed. For more information on how to incorporate a plant-based diet into your faith, follow The Vegan Muslim Initiative for regular blog updates and engagement with the broader community.