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Yes, inflation is nuts right now, including at some of your favorite local restaurants, but there are still deals to be had. Keeping prices affordable is as important to many eateries as providing quality service and food, which is why climbing ingredient costs have them scrambling to figure out how to make ends meet without pricing out their customers.
“It is difficult right now; we’re happy to break even at this point,” says Sam Armatas, third-generation partner of the 95-year-old Sam’s No. 3. “That’s how we’ve operated this past year. We’re just happy to pay our bills.”
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Despite the soaring price of eggs—not to mention the new minimum wage, higher energy rates, and other operational woes—Sam’s No. 3 hasn’t raised prices at its Downtown location in more than a year. (They did raise prices at the Aurora and Glendale locations to match Denver’s menu.) And Armatas says he’s hoping to keep it that way.
“Customers are feeling it in their households, too. They’re feeling it at the grocery store,” Armatas says. “I think there’s a fear on our part—you can only go up so high, and then the customer’s not going to visit you anymore. We had that fear that if we raise prices, we’re going to hurt ourselves, rather than just wait it out.”
So for now, the daily specials remain at Sam’s No. 3, as well as at other restaurants across the metro area. If it feels like finding an affordable dinner spot is harder than scoring a dozen eggs for under $5, we’ve got you covered. Here, 10 seriously delicious spots (and no Taco Bells, either!) with food and drink deals under $10.
Early risers can score specials at Sam’s No. 3 weekdays before 10 a.m., including the two-egg breakfast with potatoes and toast for $6.99 and the breakfast melt sandwich with scrambled egg, cheddar, and ham, bacon or sausage on Texas toast for $8.99. If you’re up in strictly brunch hours, though, order a full stack of sweet cream pancakes or two slices of challah French toast for just $6.99. 1500 Curtis St.; 435 S. Cherry St., Glendale; 2580 S. Havana St., Aurora
Treat yourself to the flaky, indulgent pastries at nearly year-old Bánh & Butter Bakery Café, where the ham and cheese croissant will fill you up for $5.35. (And if they have the split strawberry croissants—aka the best $2.95 you’ll ever spend—grab one, or maybe 10.) 9935 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora
You can eat for less than a Hamilton anytime at Empanada Express Grill. The nearly softball-size pockets of beef, chicken, plantains, and more are $3.75 to $4.99 per empanada and $4.25 to $5.25 for the arepa version. If you’re in the neighborhood before 3 p.m., the $8.50 lunch special scores you your choice of empanada or arepa plus rice and beans. 4301 W. 44th Ave.
Arguably the best banh mi in town is also one of the cheapest. The lemongrass-marinated and grilled pork banh mi at Vinh Xuong Bakery is just $6.50, cheap enough to have money left over for an iced chrysanthemum or jasmine green tea. 2370 W. Alameda Ave.
For a non-fast-food burger south of $10, you can count on the classic My Brother’s Bar. The basic Steerburger rings in at $9.50, which probably would have bought you food for weeks back when the restaurant first opened in 1873 but isn’t too shabby 150 years later. 2376 15th St.
Of course you can get pizza for under $10, but we don’t mean a greasy delivery pizza or a mere slice. The Neapolitan pies at fast-casual Pizzeria Locale are always well-priced, with the margherita setting you back just $6 on Mondays, and $9.50 any other day of the week. Cap your meal with a $3 budino—velvety butterscotch pudding with chocolate and whipped cream. Various locations
Plan your visit to RiNo Beer Garden for a Tuesday or Wednesday night. $10 gets you a taco plate (on Tuesday) or a grilled cheese and cup of tomato soup (on Wednesday) plus a 10-ounce draft beer. Dinner and a brew for $10? Feels like the early ’00s up in there. 3800 Walnut St.
Yes, you can eat at one of 5280’s 25 Best Restaurants for under $10. At Tocabe, an American Indian Eatery, $9.89 buys you your choice of four vegetarian plates, like an Indian taco on their puffy fry bread or Medicine Wheel nachos with red, white, and blue corn chips topped with beans and melted cheese. 3536 W. 44th Ave.; 8181 E. Arapahoe Rd., Greenwood Village
For Happy Hour
From 3–6 p.m. on weekdays, the happy hour at Humboldt Kitchen & Bar serves up great deals on both food and drink. Mules, margaritas, and well drinks are $7, or step it up to the elderflower basil martini or barrel-aged old fashioned for $1 more. Food is even cheaper; choose from fried green tomatoes, garlic fries, and totchos (magical tater tots topped nacho-style with white queso, pork green chile, and Mexican crema) for $6, or splurge for a trio of $8 mini crab cakes. 1700 Humboldt St.
Uchi isn’t exactly known for being budget-friendly, but between 4 and 6:30 p.m. daily, it’s a steal. Bites include $5 salmon temaki, $6 scallion pancakes, and $7 crispy rice with charred broccoli and salsa macha. Wash it all down with a Sapporo or sake for $5.50. 2500 Lawrence St.