Denver

This Refugee-Run Food Hall Brings Underrepresented Cuisines to Colorado

Mango House is a lifeline for Aurora's refugee population.

Photo by Amanda Villarosa for Thrillist
Photo by Amanda Villarosa for Thrillist
Photo by Amanda Villarosa for Thrillist

From the outside, Mango House looks like any other building on East Colfax Avenue. You’d never guess that inside is a haven where refugees can gain access to healthcare, 15 places of worship, and youth organizations-or that it’s home to a unique, refugee-run food hall that’s open to the public.

Dr. P.J. Parmar founded Mango House in Aurora, Colorado in 2014, with the goal of providing a shared space for local refugees. Initially, the organization consisted solely of Ardas Family Medicine, a healthcare clinic with an open-door policy where refugees could seek out medical, dental, and educational services. After moving into what was previously a sizable mini-mall in 2019, Mango House expanded to include the food hall, which is now home to seven stalls and flags from countries around the world, such as Myanmar, Lebanon, and Ukraine.

Photo by Amanda Villarosa for Thrillist
Photo by Amanda Villarosa for Thrillist
Photo by Amanda Villarosa for Thrillist

“When I saw the place available across the street to move into, which was five times bigger than what we were doing before, it was appealing,” Parmar says. “I envisioned having my patients cook up some food for not only their communities, but for non-refugees who were visiting.”

Parmar’s inspiration to open the food hall came from an influx of non-refugees visiting the original Mango House location, asking for ways to get involved. Mango House does not take donations or volunteers, however, as it’s a private medical practice and business with over 15,000 visits a year. But given that over 20% of Aurora’s residents are foreign-born, with the majority of those residents being refugees, Parmar knew he needed to find a way to bridge the gap between the two groups.”We would have corporate groups and mothers bringing their kids to observe and learn, but that became kind of a zoo-like activity,” Parmar says. “Instead, the food hall allows non-refugees to feel like they’re doing some part by supporting the businesses, and it doesn’t become an exhibitionist sort of thing, where people are trying to pretend to do some volunteer work that isn’t really necessary.”Now, Mango House’s seven food stalls are all run by refugees who are also Parmar’s patients. Locals stop by on their lunch breaks to feast on Nan gyi thoke (noodles coated in chicken curry), Jhol Momo (Kathmandu-style vegetable dumplings), potato samosas, and tabbouleh. It has also become a destination Denverites gladly make the trek for.The wide array of underrepresented cuisines-from Syrian, to Nepalese, to Somali-set Mango House apart from the region’s limited food scene. One of their restaurants, Urban Burma, owned by Siri Tan, was the first Burmese restaurant to open in the Denver Metropolitan area. Altogether, the food hall allows patrons to indulge in fares otherwise not ubiquitous in their neighborhood, and more importantly, it gives refugees the opportunity to serve their native food, which holds warm memories of the homelands they were forced to leave behind.

“The food hall shows their heritage. People have a caretaking nature; they want to show their hospitality. They’re proud of their creations, and when people enjoy them,” Parmar says. “We all eat, we all have our cultural foods that we want to share with others.”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on¬†Instagram,¬†TikTok,¬†Twitter,¬†Facebook,¬†Pinterest, and¬†YouTube.

Kelsey Allen is an Associate Editor on the local team at Thrillist.

Denver

How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Denver This Year

For a successful St. Patrick's Day, hit these parades, barcrawls, parties, and festivals.

VISIT DENVER
VISIT DENVER
VISIT DENVER

Grab your green and your Guinness-St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner, and there’s fun to be had. In addition to being the first big celebratory holiday after New Year’s, St. Paddy’s is also a signal of spring; more hours of sunshine, T-shirt temps, and filling Blake, Market, and Larimer with drunken revelry make up a particularly Denver type of equinox. However you plan to celebrate-with family friendly activities or for those over the legal drinking age only-there are parades to be watched, playful drinks to be sipped, and a whole lot of shamrock-ing to do.

Photo courtesy of Mile High Spirits
Photo courtesy of Mile High Spirits
Photo courtesy of Mile High Spirits

Dance a jig or two at Mile High Spirits’ Shamrock Shenanigans

March 17
If you’re ready to put your dancing shoes to good use, wiggle your way on over to Mile High Spirits-doors are opening at 12 pm and there’s no cover ‚Äėtil 10. Enjoy MHS’ drinks, big dance floor, and even bigger outdoor patio for all the Irish pride and shenanigans you can handle.

Cook Street School of Culinary Arts
Cook Street School of Culinary Arts
Cook Street School of Culinary Arts

Whip up steak for a St. Paddy’s Date Night

March 17
Cook Street’s special St. Paddy’s Day class involves making the perfect steak while sipping on Irish whiskey. On Friday only, learn about proteins, cooking methods, and choosing side dishes carefully while cooking up traditional Irish cuisine.

Crawl around town. You know, figuratively…

March 17 – 18
Is it a drinking holiday in Denver if there aren’t a handful of bar crawls happening? Probably not. St. Paddy’s Day is no different; you can start crawling from a number of bars, but a few in particular have everything plotted out for you (for a small fee). Start at the Ginn Mill and receive a map of over 10 pub locations you’ll be crawling to either Friday or Saturday, plus drink special vouchers. There’s also a crawl departing from Nola Jane (Friday only) with its own food and drink specials, plus a scavenger hunt and some St. Paddy’s merch, too.

The Fainting Goat
The Fainting Goat
The Fainting Goat

Visit one of Denver’s Irish Pubs

March 17 – 18
If you can’t think of a better place to spend St. Paddy’s Day then at a local Irish pub, we salute you-just be prepared to throw a few elbows making your way to the bar. Denver’s got several good ol’ pubs from Broadway to Larimer Square that’ll be in full swing this weekend, pouring fresh pints as far as the eye can see. Check out Scruffy Murphy’s, Nallen’s, The Irish Rover, Finley’s, The Celtic on Market, or the Fainting Goat for that SPD revelry you know, love, and trekked out for.

Photo courtesy of The OG/McGregor Square
Photo courtesy of The OG/McGregor Square
Photo courtesy of The OG/McGregor Square

Sip and savour St. Paddy’s themed bevvies

Through March 17
Everyone pulls out the green food dye and mint flavouring for St. Paddy’s, but there are some other creative drink specials to sample, too. The OG’s got a boozy milkshake for the occasion, aptly named “Who’s Your Paddy,” a mix of vanilla ice cream, Cr√®me de Menthe, Tullamore Dew, Bailey’s, and whipped cream. BEZEL’s Irish Matcha Man is pretty unique, with Teeling Small Batch whiskey, lime, thyme-infused honey, and matcha powder. And then Slater’s 50/50 takes it to another level (unsurprisingly) with its Lucky Mint Green Shake: mint-flavored ice cream in a frosting-rimmed glass with Lucky Charm marshmallows, rainbow stripe sour strips, whipped cream and green sprinkles. Other notable specials can be found at Poka Lola Social Club, Dairy Block’s Moo Bar, and Seven Grand.

Sing along and cheers to live music

March 17
Denver’s The Monkey Barrel is known for its regular live performances, and this St. Patrick’s Day you can tune in to Elijah Petty & The Part-Times and other musical guests if you’re in search of a chiller spot to sip your Guinness. Or, have one of the best burgers in town while relishing the shenanigans and live music of Cherry Cricket Cherry Creek this St. Paddy’s Day. Food and drink specials will also be available through the holiday weekend, so leave extra room or wear your stretchy (green) pants.

HRCA Race Series
HRCA Race Series
HRCA Race Series

Show your St. Paddy’s spirit by‚Ķ running?

March 18
Feeling restless? Or maybe you’re itching to get a few laps in before hammering down several pints this Saturday? Either way, Highlands Ranch is hosting its St. Patrick’s Day 5K where finishing the race gets you St. Patrick’s Day merch, an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, and of course, a complimentary pint courtesy of Living the Dream Brewing.

Holidaily Brewing Company
Holidaily Brewing Company
Holidaily Brewing Company

Drink and do good at Holidaily Brewing Co.

March 17
This St. Paddy’s Day, Holidaily and the Gluten Intolerance Group are putting on their Raise a Pint, Lend a Hand fundraiser. A special glitter and green Firkin tapping is happening at 4 pm at both taprooms, with special (and gluten-free) treats available at the Golden location, thanks to Farmhouse 5280 and Waive the Grain bakery. 10% of all St. Patrick’s Day sales will be donated to the Gluten Intolerance Group.

Talnua Distillery
Talnua Distillery
Talnua Distillery

Party at a local distillery

March 17 – 18
Talnua Distillery is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day bash to remember this year, featuring food trucks, live music, special themed cocktails, and more. Limited bottles of Talnua’s exclusive Olde Saint’s Keep whiskey will be available for purchase, which you can hang onto while you dance along to pipe bands or eat a brat or two from El Jefe’s.

Watch some Irish step dancing

March 17
Head on over to Stanley Marketplace to witness the talent and skill of the students at the Wick School of Irish Dance at 12 pm, and follow it up with a green cerveza at Cheluna Brewing Co. Of course, plenty of tasty lunch and dinner options are available around the marketplace so you can soak up a bit of that beer.

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Erica Buehler is a Denver-based freelance writer and editor. Follow her @e_buehler on Instagram and @e_buehler_ on Twitter for more updates on Denver food and other Mile High shenanigans.

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