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The three-course lunch combo at Katsu Ramen in Aurora will cost you less than $15. Photography by Matt Nager

Denver’s Best Bargain Bites

Sixty-eight ways to eat cheap in the Mile High City. Bon appétit!

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We searched Denver and beyond for don’t-miss bargain bites, and oh boy, do you have a lot to look forward to. Each dish here proves that “cheap” and “delicious” aren’t mutually exclusive. So grab a highlighter and plan your gastronomic tour of the Mile High City’s best deals. Your wallet (not to mention your taste buds!) will thank you.


Bargain Bites $5 and Under!

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As bread lovers, we frequent Almostafa International Market in south Denver for French bread–like samoons (five loaves for $3). Pick up creamy feta and plump dried apricots and figs too. 2159 S. Parker Road, 303-337-6527

At African Grill and Bar in Gateway/Green Valley Ranch, Sylvester and Theodora Osei-Fordwuo’s menu is filled with flaky samosas, “moi moi” (steamed bean pudding), fried plantains, and empanada-like meat pies, all for $5 or less. 18601 Green Valley Ranch Blvd., Suite 101, 303-375-7835

Mayfair’s BluNozer Kaffe-Tiques should be a regular stop for coffeeshop fans seeking a cozy vibe and homemade treats. Owner Dorothy Timmons Hotchkiss bakes an ever-changing selection—blondies ($2.50), Scottish oak cakes ($1.50), petite chocolate-chip bundt cakes ($1.75)—from her mother’s recipes. 1475 Ivy St., 720-269-4539

A good bao bun is a veritable minimeal, and Lucky Cat in Lowry offers a fried fish version (crunchy tilapia, cabbage, and tingle-inducing Sichuan tartar sauce) that we love. It’ll fill you up for just $3.18. 7559 E. Academy Blvd., 303-364-2025

La Potranca Taqueria’s tacos. Photo by Matt Nager

For outrageously tasty tacos (pictured above), head to La Potranca Taqueria in Elyria-Swansea. Each comes double-wrapped in warm corn tortillas and is filled with your choice of asada, pastor, carnitas, lamb, chicken, tongue, or tripe—and none cost more than $2.15. 2336 E. 46th Ave., 303-292-3617

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Never heard of a bagel ball? No problem. Pick up one of the tiny, self-contained bagels filled with flavored cream cheese (just $1 each) at Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen in Five Points. 725 E. 26th Ave., 720-440-9880

If the words “cheesy bread” incite immediate hunger, head to Pizzeria Locale (Denver’s fast-casual take on the Boulder original) for pizza dough topped with a mix of mozz, Parm, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and sea salt that’s more than worth the $3.50 price tag. 550 Broadway, 720-508-8828; 3484 W. 32nd Ave., 303-302-2451

The flaky, aromatic curry puffs (two for $5) at Makan Malaysian Cafe in Platt Park are the savory pastries of our dreams. 1859 S. Pearl St., 720-524-8093

Early birds should make their ways to Cozy Cottage in Berkeley, where, on weekdays from 7 to 8 a.m., $2.99 buys two eggs any style, toast with jam, and potatoes. (At any other time, the same meal will cost you $4.99.) 4363 Tennyson St., 720-855-9800

Vinh Xuong’s $5 vegetarian banh mi. Photo by Matt Nager

Vinh Xuong’s $5 vegetarian banh mi (pictured above) is a bargain sandwich we return to again and again thanks to its delightful filling of spicy tofu squares, cucumber, fresh cilantro, jalapeño, mayo, soy sauce, and curls of shaved, pickled carrot and daikon on a crackly house-made baguette. You can add avocado, a worthwhile splurge, for just 75 cents more. 2370 W. Alameda Ave., Unit 15, 303-922-0999

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Maria Empanada’s Argentine-style empanadas (half-moon pastries stuffed with savory or sweet fillings) are a hearty way to stretch your dollar. Choose one of the traditional varieties, such as the beef classico (ground beef, peppers, hard-boiled eggs, and olives), or try something special, like the vegetarian sweet corn and cheese sauce variety, for just $3.19 a pop. Bonus: Now that Maria Empanada’s Denver Tech Center location is open, there are two places at which to stock up. 1298 S. Broadway, 303-934-2221; 8000 E. Belleview Ave., Greenwood Village, 303-221-9012

Uptown’s Ace Eat Serve has just about everything anyone really needs: expertly made cocktails, a feast-worthy happy hour, and pingpong. On weeknights from 4 to 6 p.m., you can nab $5 highballs, $4 kimchi fritters, $3 shumai, $2 veggie spring rolls, $1 wings, and $1 chocolate bonbons. 501 E. 17th Ave., 303-800-7705

At Dos Santos, the year-and-a-half-old Uptown taqueria, we love the $4 shrimp aguachile (a Mexican version of ceviche) served on a tostada. The tangy mix of lime-juice-cured shrimp, tomatillo-serrano chile broth, cucumber, red onion, avocado, and fried leeks perched atop a crispy, fried corn disc is always satisfying. 1475 E. 17th Ave., 303-386-3509

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the vast array of pastries lining the shelves at Aurora’s Cuba Bakery & Cafe, especially when you realize that most are priced at $2 or less. We always walk out with an assortment, but our favorites include the guava-cream-cheese pastelito ($1.50), ropa vieja empanada ($2.50), and ham croquette ($1.50). 15028 E. Mississippi Ave., Aurora, 303-752-2822

While we can’t vouch for the veracity of the name, we can say that Komotodo’s World Famous Avocado Fries are a must-try. Thick spears of perfectly ripe avocado are panko-breaded, fried until crisp, and served with a creamy, ranch-esque sauce. At $4, they’re a crunchy-creamy side to your sushi burrito or a filling snack on their own. 1512 Larimer St., 303-534-0500

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Bargain Bites from Those In the Know

Dakota Soifer, Chef-owner of Cafe Aion in Boulder: “My go-to after-work nosh is the spicy, filling beef gyro ($5.49) at the Smelly Deli & Market on University Hill.”

Erika Thomas, Owner of High Point Creamery:Santiago’s breakfast burrito ($2.25) is a classic Denver cheap eat; I get half mild and half hot green chile.”

Justin Brunson, Chef-owner of Old Major and Culture: “I go to Pho 95 Noodle House and Grill for the #21: pho with filet mignon, brisket, and flank steak for $12.95.”

Mary Allison Wright, Owner of RiNo Yacht Club: Spuntino’s happy hour is incredible: $5 cocktails and wine, $2.50 meatballs, and epic $4 porchetta sliders.”

Kevin Burke, Bar manager at Ste. Ellie: “The JCB (jalapeño cream cheese) Burger ($6.75) at My Brother’s Bar is one of the best late-night deals in town.”

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Katie Lazor, Executive director of EatDenver: “You can’t go wrong with ChoLon’s late-night happy hour: $13 pork belly buns and addictive soup dumplings.”

Rob Lawler, Co-owner of the Truffle Cheese Shop: “I have frequent cravings for Ohana Island Kitchen’s awesome spam musubi, which is a steal at $3.50.”


Bargain Bites $5 to $10

Happy hour at RiNo’s the Populist always makes us, well, very happy. The small menu of bites changes constantly, but the bacon and egg ($7)—grilled bread with bacon jam and a perfectly poached egg—is a staple. Pair it with a $6 gin and (house-made) tonic. 3163 Larimer St., 720-432-3163

We’ll gladly drive to Boulder for Flower Pepper Restaurant’s Sichuan-style sour and spicy sweet potato noodles ($7.99). The tangy broth swims with bok choy, pork, and slippery noodles, while the garnish of roasted peanuts and fried soybeans adds fantastic crunch. 2655 Broadway, Boulder, 720-381-1594

The noodle bowls at RiNo’s Osaka Ramen get top billing, but the true gems are the delightful small plates, which cost $7 or less. The lineup includes the must-try $5 “tamago gohan” (a crispy rice cake with kimchi and a soft-cooked egg). Add an order of the chilled tofu for $4 and you’re still under $10. 2611 Walnut St., 303-955-7938

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With the exception of entrées and a few burgers, Next Door’s entire menu costs less than $10. Our pick is the $8.95 beet burger (check out the recipe in 5280: The Cookbook). And don’t miss the daily happy hours—3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. till close—when that burger is sold as a $4 slider and you can add sides (crispy garlic smashers, anyone?) for $5 each. Multiple locations

Perfectly al dente pastas with delectable sauces are just what you’ll find at Coperta in Uptown. Choose half orders of the spaghetti cacio e pepe, bucatini all’Amatriciana, linguini with mussels, or maccheroni pomodoro, and you’ll dine deliciously for less than $10. 400 E. 20th Ave., 720-749-4666

Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox’s Spring Cheese Incident. Photo by Matt Nager

If you eat one thing at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox in Ballpark, make it the $10 Spring Cheese Incident (pictured above). This starter features a decadent mix of melted cheese, seasonal veg, corn crumble, and zucchini pistou served in a petite cast-iron skillet with hot pita on the side. It’s a fun dish to share—not that you’ll want to. 1215 20th Ave., 303-993-8023

The ultimate breakfast burrito is waiting for you at Blackbelly Butcher in Boulder, where $6 translates to a warm flour tortilla overflowing with scrambled eggs, chef-owner Hosea Rosenberg’s green chile, tater tots, cheese, and the butcher’s choice of meat. Before you leave, grab a $3 corn cookie for later. 1606 Conestoga St., 720-479-8296

Saigon Bowl has long been a cult favorite for Vietnamese fare, and regulars wouldn’t dare visit without ordering the “banh xeo” ($8.99). This massive savory crêpe is stuffed with tender shrimp, pork belly, and bean sprouts and served with fresh herbs, tender lettuce, cucumber, and pickled threads of carrot and daikon. 333 S. Federal Blvd., Suite 134, 303-935-2427

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Head to Desmond Bar & Grill in Park Hill with $10 in your pocket, and you can buy a French onion–chèvre tart with a small salad ($9). Or a falafel salad with tahini dressing ($9). Or hummus with za’atar and grilled flatbread ($7). Or beet carpaccio with Gorgonzola, walnuts, and Dijonaise ($7). Or…well, you get the picture. 2230 Oneida St., 720-542-9035

Almost everyone has fries on the menu, but a pile of perfect frites is hard to come by. Look no further than Satchel’s on Sixth, where the hand-cut potatoes are cooked in duck fat, liberally salted, and only $6. 1710 E. Sixth Ave., 303-399-2560

If you find yourself in RiNo between 10 p.m. and midnight, swing by Cart-Driver for a bargain late-night snack: $5 buys a wood-fired Daisy pizza (mozzarella, tomato sauce, and fresh basil) or sardines on buttered, toasted flatbread. Add a Manhattan for another $5, if you like, and then call it a night. 2500 Larimer St., 303-292-3553

You won’t find a better lunch deal on the 16th Street Mall than the shawarma sandwich from Shondiz, a Turkish-inspired food kiosk. For just $6.75, you’ll score a thick pita heaped with hummus, tomato, lettuce, pickled cabbage, grilled onions, and spit-roasted lamb and beef. For extra flavor, give it a hit or two of the spicy chile sauce. 16th Street and Glenarm Place (across from the Hard Rock Cafe), 303-351-4492

Almost everything at Latke Love in Littleton—from the s’mores-filled blintz to the frank in a blanket—costs less than 10 greenbacks. Our go-to, however, is the Oy Vey Caliente latke bowl ($9.50). This nontraditional dish stars four latkes, an over-easy egg, cheddar, and spicy pork green chile. 699 W. Littleton Blvd., Littleton, 303-995-9708

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When we’re hit with a craving for chilaquiles, we head to Chili Verde on Federal Boulevard. The $8 Puebla-style dish is a masterpiece: Corn tortilla chips are sautéed in salsa verde, aromatic with the Mexican herb epazote, then garnished with queso fresco and sour cream. When your server asks if you’d like to add two over-easy eggs for an additional $2, the answer is, of course, “Sí, por favor.” 2311 Federal Blvd., 720-287-2296

Step inside the Jamaican Grill for a leisurely vacation from the bustle of West Eighth Avenue. Order the Jamaican jerk chicken ($8.61), which arrives as a heaping portion of perfectly spiced, tender poultry atop red-bean-flecked rice. (If you’re feeling bold, order it “hot.”) Got a few extra bills in your pocket? Add one of the Jamaican beef patties to your order—that is, if they’re not already sold out. 709 W. Eighth Ave., 303-623-0013

Euclid Hall’s Leberkäse sausage. Photo by Matt Nager

It would be an oversight to eat at LoDo’s Euclid Hall and not order at least one house-cranked sausage. We love the $5 “leberkase” (a Bavarian blend of beef and pork, served over cabbage) and often add the tomato-apricot chutney and toasted bretzel bun for just $3 more (pictured above). 1317 14th St., 303-595-4255

Downtown sushi cart Yatai delivers a lunch that hits all the benchmarks: affordable, quick, and delicious. Check the Facebook page for the daily-special hand rolls, which include fanciful combinations such as crab, avocado, walnuts, dried apricot, and cucumber ($6.50). And whatever you do, don’t miss the refreshing seaweed salad ($2). 17th and California streets, 720-443-1658

Golden’s Amir Grill is a carb-lover’s dream: Almost every dish comes with a stack of piping hot, cooked-to-order pitas, each nearly a foot in diameter. Use the soft bread to scoop up the silky hummus, creamy labneh, and smoky baba ghanoush (each just $5.99). Or order the Amir Pizza ($6.99), which features the pita topped with chicken or beef, tahini, cheese, and hot sauce. 103 N. Rubey Drive, Unit E, Golden, 303-278-1011

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We like to make a meal out of Yak and Yeti Restaurant and Brewpub’s street-food-inspired samosa chaat appetizer ($7). The hearty plate includes two crispy vegetarian samosas—bursting with a gingery mix of potato, pea, and onion—and drizzles of house-made yogurt, mint, and tamarind chutneys. Use the extra cash you saved on a pint of Chai Milk Stout ($5.50), brewed on-site at the Arvada outpost. Multiple locations

Blue Pan Pizza’s Detroit-style pie. Photo by Matt Nager

To score a deal at Highland’s Blue Pan Pizza, you’ll have to visit Thursday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and order the Square Deal. For just $10, you’ll get an individual deep-dish, Detroit-style pizza (pictured above) with two toppings, a salad, and a soda. Thanks to the cheesy, caramelized crust, it’s one of the best slices—not to mention bargains—in town. (It often sells out, so go early.) 3930 W. 32nd Ave., 720-456-7666

The diverse menu at Hong Kong BBQ on Federal will make your head spin from the sheer number of meaty options, ranging from $8 to $10. We’ll make it easy for you: The kitchen butchers whole animals for dishes such as crisp crackled pork shoulder and juicy roast duck, both of which are exceptional. 1048 S. Federal Blvd., 303-937-9088 

South of the Denver Tech Center, Greek to Me should be your regular haunt for Mediterranean fare. The kitchen’s attention to detail is evident no matter what you order, but our favorite bargain is the spanakopita. For $7.95, you get a large, golden spinach pie with a crisp crust and a perfect balance of salty feta, earthy greens, and just a whisper of dill. 9251 E. Peakview Ave., Greenwood Village, 303-220-3447


A World Tour

No time (or money) to travel? Eat your way around the globe with this affordable crawl down Aurora’s East Iliff Avenue. —Ruth Tobias

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Soban Korean Restaurant: No tabletop barbecue grills here. Rather, hit this Korean transplant from Los Angeles for hearty comforts like “yukgaejang” (shredded beef soup) and “eundaegu jorim” (braised cod). 12101 E. Iliff Ave., 303-369-0919

Cody’s Cafe and Bar: The Vietnamese chef-owner of this quirky locals’ lair threads Asian flavors through her mostly Italian menu: Think portobello pot stickers or penne with lemongrass sausage and ginger-soy dressing. 10253 E. Iliff Ave., 303-750-1580

Sudan Cafe & Khairat Bakery: This tiny strip-mall outlet offers tangy Sudanese-style injera and earthy legume stews. Our fave is the “fatta foul,” a luscious mix of torn bread, mashed favas, veg, cheese, and fried bread crumbs. 10375 E. Iliff Ave., 303-337-7409

Sunburst Grill: Head here for tasty Filipino fare, from “kare-kare” (oxtail and tripe with peanuts and “sisig” (pan-fried, egg-topped pork and onions) to the shaved-ice sundae called “halo-halo.” 2295 S. Chambers Road, Suite M, 303-752-6389

The Athenian Restaurant: This eatery is an oasis in Denver’s desert of Greek cuisine. Amid statues, urns, and other faux relics of the ancient empire, lunching on “keftedes” (meatballs) or gyros makes for a charming—and cheap—treat indeed. Dinner’s pricier, but not by much. 15350 E. Iliff Ave., 720-449-0224

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Bargain Bites $10 to $15

Vital Root’s $12 showstopper of a breakfast dosa includes scrambled egg, sweet potato, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and carrots inside the crispy shell—plus sweet coconut sambal, mint chutney, and charcoal oil on the outside. It’s sweet, savory, and spiced just right. 3915 Tennyson St., 303-474-4131

Your reward for discovering Kitchen Table Cafe, a Kansas City–style barbecue outpost in City Park West, is down-home barbecue and soulful specials. Order a two-meat combo plate ($11.99) and you’ll understand why this tiny spot draws such a crowd: Friendly owner Dave Kilroy’s juicy chicken, pulled pork, and sides such as collard greens and macaroni and cheese taste like home. 1426 E. 22nd Ave., 720-456-6967

If you’re looking to pamper yourself, turn to the lunch combo at Katsu Ramen in Aurora. For $14.94, you’ll get a massive bowl of ramen (opt for the peanut-y spicy-chicken version), a rice bowl, and three hot-from-the-pan gyozas. Servers pace the meal, so you feel as if you’re eating a luxurious three-course tasting menu. 1930 S. Havana St., Aurora, 303-751-2222

Bar Dough’s slow-roasted pork sandwich. Photo by Matt Nager

Sunday brunch is the only time of the week you can order one of Bar Dough’s best dishes: the incredible slow-roasted pork sandwich (pictured above). It’s piled high with a fried egg, salsa verde aïoli, red onion, Calabrian chiles, and sweet onion caramel, all on grilled ciabatta. $14 is a steal for the only meal you’ll need all day. 2227 W. 32nd Ave., 720-668-8506

The hummus plate is usually a straightforward offering, but not at Congress Park’s Bar Max. There, the $12 platter is a thing of beauty: The tahini-rich spread meets crudité, olives, caper berries, and toasted ciabatta to become a full meal. 2412 E. Colfax Ave., 303-333-0003

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One bite of the Post Chicken & Beer’s juicy, crunchy (gluten-free!) fried chicken and you’ll be hooked. Enjoy a two-piece dark-meat meal—which comes with a buttermilk-cheddar biscuit and a side such as the green chile mac and cheese—for just $11.95. (The Denver location is slated to open this month.) 1258 S. Hover Road, Longmont, 720-558-2883; 2200 S. Broadway

At Aurora’s Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant, the prices ($13 for beef-tartare-like kitfo, $10 for beef tibs) belie the generous portions. Don’t miss the $12.99 veggie combo with lentils, cabbage, chickpeas, and salad. With injera, it’s enough to feed two. 306 S. Ironton St., Aurora, 720-532-0266

You can’t go wrong with any of the bowls at Biju’s Little Curry Shop, but our standby is the extra-hot vindaloo chicken ($10.95). Unless you’re famished, you’ll likely get two meals out of this filling combo of rice, poultry, and spiced lentils. Multiple locations

If you haven’t yet discovered Guadalajara Mexican Buffet on East Colfax, drop everything and get in line. For just about $13 per person, you can fill your plate repeatedly with tacos, flautas, pozole, tamales, moles, menudo, tostadas, enchiladas, pupusas, cakes, and puddings. 11385 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora,303-344-3862

Lunch deals are nothing new, but just northwest of downtown, Sushi Sasa’s vegetarian option stands out for its value and quality. For $14, a midday meal includes a bowl of rich miso soup, a vegetable sushi roll, and the house salad with addictive carrot-ginger dressing. 2401 15th St., 303-433-7272

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Brunch Bubbly On A Budget

Here are the best bottomless mimosa deals in town—based on availability, price, and whether you’re required to order that stack of pancakes. (You probably should.) —Rachel Trujillo

Breakfast on Broadway

The deal: $8.50

When: Mon.–Sun., 6:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

Food order required: Yes

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Average cost of entrée: $8

Irish Snug

The deal: $9

When: Sat.–Sun.,10 a.m.–3 p.m.

Food order required: Yes

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Average cost of entrée: $10

The Corner Office

The deal: $10

When: Sat.–Sun., 7 a.m.–3 p.m.

Food order required: No

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Average cost of entrée: $10

Washington Park Grille

The deal: $9

When: Sun., 10 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

Food order required: No

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Average cost of entrée: $10

Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana

The deal: $10

When: Sat.–Sun., 11 a.m.–3 p.m.

Food order required: No

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Average cost of entrée: $10

Historian’s Ale House

The deal: $10

When: Sat.–Sun., 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

Food order required: No

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Average cost of entrée: $11

Barracuda’s

The deal: $10

When: Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

Food order required: Yes

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Average cost of entrée: $9

Gary Lee’s Motor Pub & Grub

The deal: $9

When: Sat., 11 a.m.–4 p.m.

Food order required: No

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Average cost of entrée: $9

This article appeared in the January 2017 issue of .

Amanda M. Faison, 5280 Contributor

Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.

Callie Sumlin, Associate Food Editor

Callie Sumlin creates stories for 5280's Eat & Drink section, manages the dining guide, and oversees 5280.com's digital food-related coverage and weekly e-newsletter, Table Talk.

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