The Korean small plates called banchan (which literally translates to "side dishes,") are served ahead of the main course, but they're not appetizers. They represent a category unto themselves: snacks-within-a-meal that function as complements, contrasts, and condiments all at once. And they're totally necessary.

Given that they're not typically listed on the menu and there are 250 million (we counted!) kinds of banchan you may encounter in any given restaurant on any given day, it's not likely a newbie would have any clue what's in all of those little dishes. (Unless it's kimchee -- zero excuses there.)

So here's all the banchan that you're most likely to find in restaurants stateside. Use this in conjunction with our dos and don'ts of Korean dining and our KBBQ guide, and... well, you'll still have a lot of learning to do. This is a cuisine with a lot of moving parts. But at least you'll have a head start.

Written by: Ruth Tobias •

IN THE NEWS: The Denver Post

The Wizard's Chest bringing some magic to once sleepy Broadway block | New 18,000-square-foot store one of handful of new retailers bringing energy to the 400 block of Broadway

By Emilie Rusch
The Denver Post

As  Denver's Sports Castle prepares to close, a castle of another sort is readying for its grand opening a little farther down Broadway.  The Wizard's Chest, the Denver costume and game store whose whimsical castle storefront was a Cherry Creek fixture for years, is putting the finishing touches on its new location at 451 Broadway, in the Baker neighborhood. 

Turrets, battlements and shields dreamed up by artist Lonnie Hanzon and his team now top the one-story brick building; the neutral palette of former tenant Eron Johnson Antiques has been painted over in bright burgundy and purple. 

The 18,000-square-foot costume and game emporium has been open since early December; the Cherry Creek location permanently raised its drawbridge at the end of the year. A grand opening is planned for 6 p.m. March 5, co-owner Kevin Pohle said. 

"If you looked at this neighborhood even six months ago, it was Meininger's, dead spot, then the 7-Eleven and South Broadway," Pohle said. "It was this weird dead spot, and it concerned me."

"But," he added, "it's not going to be for long." 

The Wizard's Chest's move to Broadway isn't the only recent change to the once-sleepy stretch north of the booming restaurant and nightlife scene along South Broadway.

Across the street, Denver-based Van West Partners is almost done transforming a vacant 8,500-square-foot Family Dollar store into a collection of small local restaurants and retailers.

Fat Jack's Subs is open in one of the four new storefronts, as is upscale liquor store  Baker Wine & Spirits next door. 

Korean BBQ restaurant  Dae Gee and  Luke & Co., a high-end pet supply and outfitter, will round out the strip when they open starting in the second quarter, Van West principal Wade Buxton said.

An interior view of the Wizard's Chest at its new home on Broadway. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

Banded Oak Brewing also has signed on to move into the small gray building on the north side of the old Family Dollar property's parking lot. 

"The 400-500 block of Broadway needed activation and interaction with the streetscape, and the transformation from a year ago is spectacular," Buxton said. "We are proud to be a part of it." 

Marty Lavine, president of the Baker Broadway Merchants Association, said there really aren't many empty storefronts in the area anymore, and those that remain likely will be under contract soon. 

"All of a sudden there's restaurants and now the Wizard's Chest is a huge anchor — it's like the end of a mall almost," Lavine said. "That end of the street is picking up."

Things could change even more with whatever emerges from the recent sale of the  El Diablo building a few blocks to the south, he said. Also known as the First and Broadway Building, the historic landmark has been vacant for years following a feud between the previous owner and the city. 

A boutique hotel is one concept being considered by the new owner, according to conversations the two have had, Lavine said. 

"Everything could change depending on what happens with El Diablo," he said. 

The entranceway at the Wizard's Chest at its new home on Broadway. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

The new owner,  Digital Cowboy LLC, is an entity registered to Jeff Oberg, who also owns Denver-based REA Development Corp. and SilveRino, an LLC that owns property in the River North neighborhood, according to state business records. 

Oberg did not return a call for comment. 

For  The Wizard's Chest, the new Broadway location means double the square footage in a much higher-traffic area, Pohle said. 

The parking situation isn't all that different from Cherry Creek, although the store is working with neighbor Fentress Architects to use its parking lot on weeknights and weekends, he said. 

Arca Properties, Wizard's Chest's original owner and the store's landlord in Cherry Creek, owns the shop's new home on Broadway.

In the new two-level store, costumes fill the majority of the first level. The space is decorated with faux tree branches and medieval banners to evoke a castle courtyard. 

Down the central staircase — or ramp lined with hedge-maze murals — are games, science kits and other toys. Gaming rooms for after-hours events line one side of the downstairs space, where faux stonework calls to mind the subterranean levels of a castle. 

Hanzon and his team are behind the spirited interior and exterior artwork and decor, as was the case at the old location.

This time around, though, the store's signature castle facade is more than just a decorative feature, Pohle said. 

"Here, it's necessary," he said. Broadway drivers are "going fast by you. We need to catch their attention." 

Emilie Rusch: 303-954-2457, or@emilierusch


Barbecue Took Off in Denver in 2015

Barbecue was a trendy theme across Denver's dining scene this year.

The Barbecue God smiled down upon Denver's dining scene this year. From the sheer volume of barbecue spots that fired up the smokers and grills, to established dining fixtures featuring barbecue items on their menus, Denver really embraced the smoke, fire, meat, and sides.

November was a huge month for Mile High City barbecue. Globe Hall fired up both the smokers and the dance floor in Globeville with its clever multipurpose approach, Carve on Colorado Boulevard launched its fast-casual barbecue model in November, and GQue Championship BBQ brought Kansas City style barbecue to Westminster.

The fabulous Dae Gee Korean BBQ, the right crossover of the Asian food and barbecue trends that were each so prominent in Denver this past year, announced in June that it would be opening its third location on South Broadway in 2016. The Korean barbecue eatery also hosted Guy Fieri and company while filming an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives over the summer. In other announcements, Crazy Mountain Brewery revealed its plans for a tap room serving barbecue fare in Breckenridge Brewery's former space on Kalamath.


A Little Something for the Weekend

Mark your calendar for a weekend full of birthday celebrations, pop-up events, and special dinners. 

SOUTH PEARL — Ring in the winter season this Friday, December 4 and Saturday, December 5 at South Pearl Street's WinterFest. The event will include fun for all, such as Box Elder horse and wagon rides, a holiday market with gift and food vendors, local merchant open house, appearances by Santa, and live music all weekend. Guests will even have a chance to purchase their Christmas tree at the open air market. Bring the family for a day of winter celebration. Visit the event's Facebook page for more information on WinterFest.

CURTIS PARK — Our Mutual Friend (OMF) Brewing is celebrating it's third anniversary party this Saturday, December 5. Guests can join the for special releases and tappings by OMF's favorite breweries in town, delicious bites from the Summit Kitchen and Marquis Pizza, and Live music by the Gin Doctors, Dead Palms, and Hotel Bar. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the fun doesn't end until midnight.

CAPITOL HILL — DiFranco's Italian Restaurant is hosting a wine dinner this Saturday, December 5. The dinner will feature wines from Corte alla Flora winery from Tuscany. Starting at 7 pm with a light opening wine, the dinner will be followed by 3 other wines and 3 courses. The cost is $60 a person, including tax and tip. Call the restaurant at 720.253.1244 to make reservations.

RINO — This weekend, Zeal Living is having an exclusive pop-up event at The Source. On Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6, the shop is selling it's curated collection of jewelry, home goods and accessories at the Source. From 5 - 8 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday, guests can peruse the pop-up and grab a snack at one of the Source's eateries.

WESTMINSTER — Dae Gee Korean BBQ is commemorating its fifth birthday this weekend with a celebratory dinner. On Friday, December 4, join the Korean BBQ joint for an evening filled with bulgogi, soju, and karaoke. The festivities will begin at 9 p.m. Visit the events Facebook page for additional information.

IN THE NEWS: Westword


The third Dae Gee will open soon at 460 Broadway — but it can't be soon enough for fans of Korean food. And especially for fans of all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue. Lauren Monitz recently checked out that deal at the second Dae Gee, at 827 Colorado Boulevard, and while she was disappointed to see that the do-it-yourself grills have still not been installed on the tables (someone light a fire under the city permitting department!), the deal itself did not disappoint. "We're letting them know what Korean food is about," 33-year-old chef-owner Joseph Kim told Gretchen Kurtz earlier this year. "We're reaching the masses." And giving them good food, says Mike. Read More.



Since expanding into Denver proper from its original location in Westminster, Dae Gee has been hotter than ever — and we’re not just talking about the tabletop fires you cook on. With a third restaurant on the way (at Fourth Avenue and Broadway) and a recent visit from Guy Fieri, who stuffed his face with a "meaty flavorfest," the Korean barbecue lured us into the Colorado Boulevard locationwith an all-you-can-eat special; we wanted to see if it was truly the real deal and worth the hype. Read More.


Oktoberfest Celebrations, Food Festivals, and More

UPTOWN – It's that time of year again for the annual Vine Street Uptown Block Party at the Vine Street Pub & Brewery. The street will be closed off to make space for live music, an outdoor cookout, Oktoberfest beer releases, and the not-to-be-missed hilarious brewer's olympics. The event is absolutely free and all proceeds from beer and food will benefit local charity, New Era Colorado. The fun kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 19 and goes throughout the night.

DOWNTOWN – At Sculpture Park in the Performing Arts Complex on Sunday, September 20, Westword will host its food event, DISH. The event runs from 11 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. and will showcase upwards of forty local restaurants. There will even be a section of the foodie event dubbed 'tacolandia,' an exhibit of Denver's street-style tacos. Beer and wine tastings will be included in the ticket price as well. For more information about DISH and to purchase tickets, visit the event's website.

CONGRESS PARK – The second location of Korean barbecue hot spot, Dae Gee #2, will host its one year anniversary party on location tonight at 9 p.m. The event will have drink specials flowing, DJ's spinning, and of course, the excellent Korean barbecue fare Dae Gee has become known for. Read More.


Korean BBQ concept dishing out new spot

Broadway is getting a new place to pig out next year.

Denver restaurateur Joseph Kim is opening the third location of his Korean barbecue concept Dae Gee – “The Pig” in Korean – next year at Broadway and Arkansas Street.

“My marketing director noticed the spot and thought we should check it out,” Kim said. “We contacted the landlord and everything just fell into place. It’s only a few miles from our second location, but the surrounding neighborhoods are dense enough to sustain both of them.”

It’s Kim’s third Dae Gee restaurant after locations in Westminster and on Colorado Boulevard in Denver. The sit-down restaurant features all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue dishes at prices ranging from $16 to $21 per person. Read More.


Best Bites: Dae Gee's Man Doo Gook

Every culture has a comfort food, whether it's shepherd's pie or pho or hearty stew. My Jewish background means comfort has always equated to chicken noodle soup. Unfortunately, I haven't found many well-executed, regularly served versions around town—until a few weeks ago when I located a surprising facsimile in an unexpected place: Dae Gee, a Korean barbecue restaurant that opened a Colorado Boulevard location seven months ago (the original is in Westminster). Read More.


IN THE NEWS: Westword


In discussions of ethnic restaurants, the first question many people ask is, "Is it authentic?" Restaurateur Joseph Kim is aware of this, so at his two Dae Gee locations (I review the one on Colorado Boulevard this week), his cooks "are doing it exactly the way they would in Korea," he says. But what happens when authenticity bumps up against what customers want?

That's just the predicament Kim finds himself in, because what his customers want is dessert. And dessert isn't customary in Korea. See also: Dae Gee Shows What Korean Food Is All About. Read More.


Seoul food: At Dae Gee in Arvada, pig out on Korean barbecue

Ever play "spin the globe" as a kid?

It was a cool way to fire an 8-year-old's imagination: Set a globe whirling — making sure not to let the school librarian catch you — then close your eyes and put your fingertip on the spinning surface. Wherever it stopped, that's where you would travel someday.

You can pretty much use that same technique to find countries that do some version of barbecue. Grilling meats low and slow, then slathering them with smoky sauce, enjoys worldwide popularity.

South Korea has a huge barbecue culture and, lucky us, Joseph Kim has brought it to metro Denver. His  Dae Gee restaurant in Westminster has introduced lots of locals to various types of bulgogi, which is Korean for "fire meat." Read More.



Dae Gee, which means "pig" in Korean, opened its first location in Westminster and has since gained a loyal following -- and even a 2014 Best of Denver award for Best Korean Restaurant. Owner Joseph Kim's second location is now grilling up marinated pork, beef and more in Congress Park. Photographer Danielle Lirette stopped by to snap some scenes of Dae Gee's hip decor and sizzling cuisine. Read More.



On Sunday, September 7, 2014, Westword will host its twentieth annual celebration of the Denver dining scene, DISH, in Sculpture Park at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, where many of the favorite restaurants of Cafe Society writers and readers will be serving delectable dishes. Dae Gee, named Best Korean Restaurant in the Best of Denver 2014, will be bringing one of its most coveted dishes: Korean lettuce wraps.



No. 79 Pork Bulgogi at Dae Gee 7570 Sheridan Boulevard, Westminster 720-540-0700

Dae Gee's menu might be a little confusing for a novice to Korean cuisine, and even the well-versed might find a few dishes intimidating (like gohp chang jun gol — beef intestines and tripe). But you can't go wrong with the restaurant's encouragement to "pig out!" and stick with one of our favorites: the pork bulgogi. Read More.



Here's a welcome sign: Dae Gee will soon its second location, this one in central Denver, at the former home of 4G's Mexican Restaurant at 827 Colorado Boulevard. The original Dae Gee in Westminster won our Best Korean Restaurant award in the Best of Denver 2014 -- and yes, there was plenty of competition in that category. See also: Best Korean Restaurant -- Dae Gee. Read More.