It's 8 a.m. and the summer heat is already radiating off of the asphalt in waves. I have ten dollars in my pocket. In most cases, that modest amount of dough can't even get me through breakfast, let alone three square meals. But today I've got an empty stomach and a keen sense of adventure. Challenge accepted.
For my first meal I've decided on the ubiquitous Mexican breakfast classic, the king of southwest gas station fare: the breakfast burrito. There are infinite options for the breakfast burrito in Denver, ranging from smothered gut bombs served atop diner tables to grab-and-go vegetarian varieties. For my economical first meal of the day, I've chosen the $1.50 breed from a family Mexican eatery in Jefferson Park called Araujo's. A mere dollar and fifty cents gets you a breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, potatoes, green chile, and the meat option of the day (ham in this case).
The small to mid-size burrito was the perfect amount of food for me and the fuel I need to continue my mission in economical eating.
Amount spent: $1.50
Amount left: $8.50
Lunch: For the midday meal I make my way down south Federal to sift through the vast array of cheap eateries. I stumble upon a strip mall of Asian cuisine and worldly wonders and opt for a colorful Vietnamese bakery, Ba Le Sandwiches. A menu behind the counter greets me with colorful images of the Vietnamese specialties, namely banh mi sandwiches and boba drinks.
I almost break the bank at $3.50 for a barbecue pork banh mi. The banh mi is the delectable lovechild of French and Vietnamese cuisines and this particular specimen fits ideally into my tight budget. Savory and tender pork, aromatic cilantro, spicy jalapeños, tangy pickled carrots and daikon, and charred scallions all atop a baguette that is at once crusty on the exterior and warm and soft inside. I consider that three dollars and fifty cents well spent.
Amount spent: $3.50
Amount left: $5.00
Dinner: With five dollars left in my pocket and two of my three meals down, I'm ready to splurge. I head to one of my all-time favorite Denver eateries, Cart-Driver, in the RiNo district. It's happy hour and I've opted for the famed house-made mortadella hot dog. True, Cart-Driver is known for the wood-fired pizzas, which are undoubtedly the best in town. But my ten dollar day has a not-so-subtle pork theme to it and I'm sticking with my porcine cravings.
Suffice to say, this is not your standard hot dog. The mortadella frank is expertly crafted in house and served with sauerkraut, whole grain mustard, and a side of pickles, all of which are also made in house.
Amount spent: $5.00
Amount left: $0.00
Ten dollars isn't much, but with a little bit of effort, a sense of adventure, and a knack for seeking out the excellent, I have learned that eating well can still be achieved on a budget.