The fourth and final episode of the new Netflix limited series High on the Hog begins by explaining the background of Juneteenth. Its roots trace back to Texas, which was the last state to abolish slavery, "two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was announced," says host Stephen Satterfield. "And when freedom day finally came, it was Galveston, Texas, that first got the message, on June 19, 1865; the celebration is now known as Juneteenth, our Independence Day."
Adrian Miller is a Denver-based food historian and author of three books: the James Beard Award-winning Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time; The President's Kitchen Cabinet and, most recently, Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue. He also appears in High on the Hog. Between fielding calls about the show and wielding his pen at book signings all over the Denver area, Miller offered his recommendations for local soul-food restaurants.
You can eat at these spots any day, of course, but as Juneteenth approaches, it's the perfect time to visit one of the standout, Black-owned soul-food restaurants in Denver. As Miller admits, it's "not a huge scene, but we’ve got joints that do a good job, and I hope people will support them."
Welton Street Cafe
2736 Welton Street
After a scare when we thought we might lose this longtime Five Points favorite for fried chicken (the kitchen needed new HVAC equipment), we're happy that business seems to be going smoothly. While a note on the cafe's website says the place will be closed June 18 so that staffers can fulfill catering orders for Juneteenth, after that the kitchen will again be dishing up chicken, pork chops, wings and mac and cheese, with sweet tea to wash it all down.
Pork Chop King
It doesn't serve the Southern soul food that most people associate with that term, but Miller gives Pork Chop King his "soul food" nod of approval. With an owner from Chicago, the menu packs flavors from the Windy City along with a variety of burgers, dogs, brats and hot links. The pork chop should obviously be your first order, though: It's a bone-in chop with house spice rub, served on a Hawaiian bun with grilled onions.
CoraFaye’s Home Cook'n & Soul Food
15395 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora
Another longtime favorite for fried chicken, CoraFaye's closed down in March 2020 and was MIA during the pandemic. But this past April, fans were relieved to see it reopen in a new, more visible Colfax location. The menu has been pared down to one page as the staff slowly gets back into the post-pandemic swing of things, but favorites like the fried chicken, smothered pork chops and daily selection of cake are all available.
Swirk Soul Food
2205 South Peoria Street, Aurora
The sign outside this small, takeout-only spot in an Aurora strip mall reads "Swirk Supreme Food," and what a supreme selection it has. Barbecue, sandwiches, seafood and more are all available. Not sure where to start? Go for the Southern King Platter Dinner, which includes a fried catfish fillet, two jumbo shrimp, one hot link and barbecue chicken, with your choice of two sides.
Blazing Chicken Shack II
5560 East 33rd Avenue
This soul-food eatery in Park Hill has all the standard items you'd expect, including fried okra, collards and catfish, but Blazing Chicken also has some options that are less common in Denver. Gizzards, pig ears, pork neck bone and gumbo are all on the menu, as is an oxtail dinner only available on Fridays and Saturdays.
Conveniently, Juneteenth is Saturday. What are you waiting for?
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