Colorado Travel Guide: Noodles in Denver and our stay at the Royal Gorge Cabins

Colorado Travel Guide

Last summer, to fulfill a long-held dream of seeing the unfinished glory of Mt Rushmore as well as a very recent dream of seeing a total solar eclipse in North America, my wife and I packed our tiny 15 year old car and drove from Portland on the east coast to Portland on the west. We started out in Maine, where we debated the benefits of soft vs hard shelled lobsters, meandered down to Cape Cod where we demolished lobster rolls and seafood platters in between games of mini golf, and stopped for farmside peaches (3 for a dollar) as we wound west through the rolling hills of Amish country, windows down and sunroof open on our way to a stop at Lollapalooza in Chicago before ultimately arriving in Oregon.

Pennsyvania Peaches

Throughout the weeks on the road, we ate all the local things. We did deep fried seafood at The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, had almost-fresh-to-the-minute chips during a tour of the potato chip factory at Cape Cod Chips, and gorged ourselves on Frank Pepe’s massive apizzas (not a typo) in New Haven. We even had that year’s top voted Philly cheesesteak – in Pittsburgh – the cheesesteak crown having been stolen from Philadelphia through dubious cheesesteak-election politics.

Best Philly Cheesesteak

Best Philly Cheesesteak in PA? This is what gerrymandering gets you.

But then, as we left Chicago, hard-of-hearing and musically sated from the high of Lollapalooza (and for me, happily full on multiple shake shack burgers) something happened: Steph developed noodle fever. Noodle fever, if you’ve never heard of it, is an irrepressible urge for noodles in the noodle-addicted. Not wanting to derail our plans of making it to Oregon in time for the eclipse, my beautiful wife soldiered on, noodle-needs unmet.

The Search for Noodles

I wasn’t one to give up so easily though. I spent that night in our roadside hotel room searching for a decent looking noodle source somewhere along the back roads of Nebraska. While the authentic-looking pickings were slim, I found a Chinese restaurant nearby with the right item on the menu.

If you know Steph, you know that when it comes to food, indecisive is an understatement and favorites are just about an impossibility. Favorite pasta? No way in the world. Favorite meat-based long pasta from northern Italy, that’d be more doable (Bolognese, of course). This personality quirk means that anytime I hear her tell me a favorite anything, I take note of it. And one thing I’ve made note of over the years we’ve been married is that, without fail, she’ll always order one specific Chinese noodle dish.

Bologna

Bolognese preferably from a place that looks like this

We made a stop the next day at a small town Chinese restaurant, intending to get a box of takeout and continue along our way. When we ordered – Gon Chow Ngau Ho, Steph’s aforementioned favorite – the lady at the register looked at us in a funny way and answered in Chinese. Steph looked at me and translated: “She suggested we order something else, the noodles aren’t good today.” Steph thanked her – also in Chinese – I left a small tip, and together we left noodle-less still. I wondered if, had Steph not understood Chinese, we would have gotten our sub-par yet undoubtedly noodley noodles.

In the car I asked the question on my mind: “how can noodles not be good specifically today?” It was then explained to me that Gon Chow Ngau Ho is made with fresh rice noodles, and out in farm country, unless a Chinese restaurant is going to make their own rice noodles (unlikely), they would probably drive to the big city once a week to stock up on supplies, so it was probably that you could only get good noodles the first couple of days after their restocking trip.

Colorado Travel Guide

No noodles here

Curiosity piqued, I found myself spending a second night in a roadside hotel room googling this fresh noodle requirement – it seemed weird and obtuse to me. While I never got a conclusive answer on whether or not fresh noodles are actually required, I found out that Gon Chow Ngau Ho can go by the much simpler name of Beef Chow Fun.

Where Gon Chow Ngau Ho is difficult to find and often requires secret menus and a decent command of Chinese, beef chow fun, as everyone reading this undoubtedly knows, exists in takeout menus and panda restaurants across America. When I told Steph of both this fact, and that beef chow fun is beloved by everyone and easy to find, she was almost disbelieving of it.

I told her you could even order it that way in Hong Kong, so she promptly messaged our friend who was in Hong Kong on business and basically forced him to order himself multiple plates of noodles from multiple restaurants to see if any waiters failed to understand him. It couldn’t be the same, she said. How could this simple fact have eluded her all her life?

Beef Chow Fun from Hong Kong

Beef chow fun photos from Hong Kong sent to Steph for inspection

The proof, however, laid in all the photographic evidence sent fresh over the Internet from Hong Kong. She needed to try this for herself, and I, knowing that Colorado lay ahead of us, suggested we skip out on Mt Rushmore and head off to Denver, where there would be much more of that noodle life than the Dakotas could offer as well as a chance to prove to herself (and me) that Gon Chow Ngau Ho and Beef Chow Fun are not one and the same thing. Mt Rushmore would always be there, noodles have a short shelf life, I said.

A Colorado Detour

Colorado has always been one of my favorite states. I like to think that everybody has that one place they travel to, where for the first time, they realize the world is bigger and more wonderful than their backyard, and Colorado was that place for me. Colorado was my first hangover. I first visited when I was 21, just old enough to drink and the elevation didn’t help me. Colorado was also the first national park I visited, the first time I raced a car around a track, and the first time I fell in love with the open road.

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Somewhat shamefully, eastern Colorado flew by in a daze. Not because we couldn’t appreciate the serenity of the high prairie that makes up Colorado’s eastern half, but because the siren call of beef chow fun pulled us towards Denver in salivatory anticipation.

As soon as we hit Denver, before we even checked into our hotel, Steph was already googling Denver’s best Chinese restaurant, or at least best Chinese restaurant near our way into the city. As I drove towards downtown, she was on the phone ordering beef chow fun, take out, plus my favorite, beef with black bean chow mein.

We parked on the street and paid for parking so that the free (and mandatory) hotel valet couldn’t judge us.

We got our room keys, ran back to the car to get our food, and promptly filled up our tiny hotel room with the overpowering smell of fresh Chinese noodles. We were those people. Steph took one bite and immediately a flood of emotion hit. From what I could see, she was alternating between overwhelming joy at her first noodle-fix in weeks, and misery at having to admit defeat. Yes, Gon Chow Ngau Ho and Beef Chow Fun were indeed one and the same.

Best Chinese food in Denver

Takeout beef chow fun from Star Kitchen

Colorado Travel Guide

Noodles from Zoe Ma Ma

Colorado Travel Guide

Beef chow fun from ChoLon

Colorado Travel Guide

The most incredible kaya toast from ChoLon

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

We spent the rest of our stay in Denver soaking in the high elevation sunshine and gorging ourselves on all the beef chow fun we could find (along with enjoying the rest of Denver’s fantastic eating scene). We visited microbreweries and ate ice cream at the market and walked around daisy lit streets at night. It was a wonderful time.

Days later, Steph steeled herself to bid farewell to the city that, in her heart, had become inseparably connected to beef chow fun, not knowing that I had a surprise waiting for her. Not just one surprise in fact, but two.

Ever since we started living in Tokyo, we’ve both come to really appreciate in-season fruit, and more specifically, in-season melons. The Japanese elevate melon-growing to an artform, and their top picked in season melons can easily fetch well north of $100 per melon. Don’t believe the hype that the price is due only to the melon’s value as an expensive gift, it is a damn good melon.

While researching beef chow fun places, I randomly found out that we were smack dab in the middle of Rocky Ford Melon season, which online was spoken of in the same breathless wonderment as the Japanese do about their melons – but even better, these melons were celebrated in English, in America.

A Rustic Cabin Getaway

So my surprise for Steph was two-fold. Firstly, we were going to go find an authentic, local Rocky Ford Melon, and secondly, I had secured us a little cabin with a kitchen as a treat and a break between our long time on the road spent in roadside hotels and campsites. It was time to get a little home cooking in, relax a little, and wash off the dust from the long road.

Rocky Ford Cantaloupe

Rocky Ford Cantaloupes, extra rocky looking

We found the Rocky Ford Melons at a local grocery store in Denver and loaded up 3 melons into our shopping cart. While there I bought all the ingredients for beef chow fun (although I went for dried noodles instead of fresh) knowing a kitchen was hours away.

Royal Gorge (where the cabin was) was a short drive away from Denver but the little town felt miles away from everything, and the cabins themselves were super cute and very gorgeous. Our cabin was named the Corner Pocket, which Steph thought was just perfect, and it had an unobstructed view overlooking the valley facing the sunset. That made it perfect for me. I’m a sucker for sunsets.

The cabins were done in a way very familiar to us PNWers, rustic modern with a lot of wood and stone and glass, and it felt like home, but better, in a way that’s hard to describe. We travel a lot, and it’s a close race for me between this place, Niseko, and Hoshinoya Fuji.

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide Colorado Travel Guide

It wasn’t entirely roughing it; that first night we were too tired to cook, so we ordered in chicken wings from the restaurant across the road. But the next day, we pulled out all the stops. We made an early dinner of beef chow fun followed by half a melon each. While we were cooking, the Colorado summer sunshine gave way to a sudden and intense thunderstorm and we rushed to pull the outdoor cushions in. The rain let up just as we finished cooking, and we ate noodles and melons on the patio outside as we watched rainbows and sunsets fade into the night.

The next morning (our last) we breakfasted with more melons, and this time we watched wild bunnies go about their morning routine and enjoyed the still silence of the mountains. When it was time to go, there was still half of the beef chow fun we made the night before, so we packed it into our cooler and headed off to our next destination, Colorado National Monument, where we camped amongst juniper trees and ate cold beef chow fun and our last melon overlooking a wide valley sunset.

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

Under the fading purple sky, I thought of how much I love this state. Colorado has always delivered for me; it was my first for a lot of things, but it’s never been so good to me as it was this time. Even better, I think Colorado will now be forever in Steph’s heart as the home of beef chow fun. For me, that night at the cabin, eating dinner after the thunderstorm and watching the sunset was perfect. We’re already planning our trip back. This time, there is a glamping tent with our name on it.

Colorado Travel Guide

Colorado Travel Guide

What we ate

Zoe Ma Ma
Chinese Street Food
1625 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202, USA
Website

High Point Creamery
Ice Cream
Multiple Locations
Website

ChoLon
Southeast Asian
1555 Blake St #101, Denver, CO 80202, USA
Website

Renegade Brewing Co
Microbrewery
925 W 9th Ave, Denver, CO 80204, USA
Website

Star Kitchen
Authentic Chinese, Dim Sum
2917 W Mississippi Ave, Denver, CO 80219, USA
Website

Where we stayed

Royal Gorge Cabins
Glamping Tents & Modern Cabins
45054 W US Highway 50, Canon City, CO 81212, United States
Website

PS: Our beef chow fun, at least to me, tasted better than anything we got on the road, maybe because it was made with love or maybe because it was just that good. if you want the recipe, let us know in the comments.

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6 Comments

  1. Omg what’s the name of the restaurant you went to in Denver? it looks so good! also I would love to have the recipe

    1. Mike says:

      Oops, you’re right, the restaurants never made it in! Fixed now, the take out was Star Kitchen and the patio was Cholon, both of their beef chow funs were fantastic. The red looking place is Zoe Ma Ma

  2. Donnie says:

    The kaya toast at ChoLon is delicious!
    I would love to try your beef chow fun recipe.
    Thanks, Donnie

  3. Kaiza says:

    Recipe and oh-my-god are those photos gorgeous, thank you.

  4. Marilyn says:

    Could I please have the recipe. It’s almost cruel to wax on about delicious beef chow fun, post pictures of delicious beef chow fun, and not post us the recipe. :)

  5. Kristin says:

    wow, great post! i love colorado too; my husband and i went in january and i can’t wait to go back. royal gorge looks beautiful! adding “glamping @ royal gorge” to my travel list …

Colorado Travel Guide