Denver’s Best Bargain Bites

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

January 2017

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

Bargain Bites $5 and Under!

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

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.”