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When’s the last time you had a really nice two-course meal with a glass of wine—and it only cost you $50? That’s the ballpark figure that Michelin inspectors hover around when selecting recipients of their Bib Gourmand award, which recognizes places where you can score a “high-quality meal at a good value.” Although the exact dollar amount can fluctuate place to place, the $50 should generally cover two courses and a glass of wine or dessert, not including tax or tip.
You probably know that’s a hard ask. Even with inflation subsiding and the popularity of discounted lunch menus in town, it’s tough—or impossible—to slide out of your leather banquette with a tab under $50 at many of Denver’s greatest restaurants.
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So, when Michelin announced Denver’s first-ever Bib Gourmand winners, I started crunching the numbers out of curiosity.
You could certainly leave AJ’s Pit Bar-B-Q with a full belly under $50, where that money could get you smoked brisket ($16), Texas sausage ($12), and a fill of $6 sides including the custard-filled cornbread that Michelin recommends. And you could make Tavernetta work on a technicality: Course one has to be the focaccia ($7), then you order one of the lowest-priced pastas like the rigatoni with lamb ragu ($29), and you squeak out with a Pinot Grigio ($13) for a grand total of $49.
But the Bib Gourmand announcement got me thinking about some other places around Denver where you could get a fantastic meal for around $50 without ordering the least expensive options.
Here are seven restaurants where the math adds up.
The move: Head to Temaki Den for lunch (noon to 4 p.m., Friday through Sunday). Located in the center of the Source Hotel, this sushi spot has a killer lunch deal for $24—a set of five hand rolls with crisp nori swaddling blue crab, salmon, red shrimp, negitoro (minced tuna), and negihama (minced yellowtail). Pair it with a lunch cocktail, like the lychee mimosa ($11) or the yuzu-lemon Chu Hi Spritz ($12). Then, tack on some spicy garlic edamame ($5) and finish off with a matcha affogato ($8) and your multi-course menu comes in right below the $50 mark. 3350 Brighton Blvd.
A trattoria on Tennyson Street with a cute patio, Parisi has been in the neighborhood for 25 years, predating the recent restaurant boom in the area. The counter-service spot serves generously sized caprese, bib, and Caesar salads—but the shareable $10 Insalata Pera with gorgonzola, pears, and walnuts drizzled with a balsamic reduction is a standout. Pasta dishes range from $13 to $18, with homemade butternut squash ravioli swimming in sage butter and shrimp tagliatelle among the most expensive. Pair it with a $10 spritz or Negroni and you’ll still have money leftover to grab a scoop of stracciatella or salted caramel gelato from the counter on your way out. 4401 Tennyson St.
Super Mega Bien
Maybe the hack to a delicious $50 meal is to bring a friend and order dim-sum-style dishes to share. Do just that at chef Dana Rodriguez’s cheerful Latin spot Super Mega Bien, where you can nosh on saffron arancini or albacore tuna ceviche, share a heaping pan of paella, and wash it all down with G&Ts. Then, split the tab evenly for 50 bucks each. 1260 25th St.
Slurp a few market-price oysters for starters, usually between $3 to $5 each. Then, your next order of business is to order a Cart-Driver pie. (Both the RiNo and LoHi locations have their own versions of Palisade peach pizzas this time of year, each a bit above $20.) Round out your under-$50 meal with a chocolate budino (a decadent pudding) or slab of cheesecake, and you’ll probably still have a few slices to save for lunch the next day. 2500 Larimer St., Suite 100; 2239 W. 30th Ave.
Pit Fiend Barbecue
Denver, a barbecue city? Along with AJ’s Pit Bar-B-Que, Pit Fiend is helping to put the Mile High City on the map for a tasty spot to get some ’cue. In addition to pork, chicken, racks of ribs, pulled lamb, and other meats, the Pit Fiend team fires up vegan barbecue dishes, too, made of jackfruit or mushrooms. Seasonal sides and a rotating sausage of the week keep the menu interesting. There’s all kinds of ways to get a meal under $50 here, including the Fortune’s Favor combo ($35) you can customize with a 1/2 pound of meat, two sides, and two drinks for $35. Have them throw in a cornbread muffin with hot honey ($4) to sop up the sauce. 2826 Larimer St.
Denver has a solid roster of vegetarian and vegan restaurants including Somebody People, where the mural- and monstera-filled interior is as colorful as the plant-based dishes that come parading out of the kitchen. $50 for two courses? The restaurant can do you even better with a $38, six-course Sunday Supper that starts with bread service, finishes with dessert, and fits four hearty, flavorful veggie dishes in between which change up weekly. At that price, you can still add on a zero-proof watermelon-and-basil cocktail, glass of wine, or beer and clock in under $50. 1165 S. Broadway, Suite 104
Q House, a Chinese restaurant on Colfax where old-school hip hop plays in an industrial space, is another spot where sharing is encouraged. So, if you’ve got a dining buddy, your combined $100 could fill your table with a combination of dishes like crispy-crackly chicken wings to dunk in tomatillo-ginger sauce ($16), confit duck lo mein ($19), stir-fried bok choy with fermented tofu ($14), and fall-off-the-bone, sweet-and-spicy spare ribs ($29). Enjoy some $10 sake or a $7 Japanese lager with the meal. 3421 E. Colfax Ave.