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American Indian frybread topped with bison, cheese, and vegetables
Tocabe’s Indian taco loaded with shredded bison, cheese, hominy, and other toppings.
Rachel Greiman

16 Mainstays for Affordable Eats in Denver

Filling fare for under $15

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Tocabe’s Indian taco loaded with shredded bison, cheese, hominy, and other toppings.
| Rachel Greiman

Though a few of Denver’s most beloved spots for budget grub are temporarily closed due to the pandemic — looking at you, Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs — these 16 are holding down the fort as reliably as ever. (It helps that the majority did bang-up takeout business to begin with.) From gut-busting breakfasts to burgers and bánh mì, they’re all about giving diners their money’s worth. And if we somehow missed your favorite dine-on-a-dime spot, show it some love in the comments or send us a tip.

A number of Denver restaurants are open for takeout-and-delivery service. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the Colorado Department of Public Health website. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process.

Tocabe, An American Indian Eatery

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With locations in Berkeley and Greenwood Village, one of the nation’s few American Indian restaurants serves customizable fry breads, grain bowls, and more that showcase ingredients from indigenous and local producers — from wild rice and wheatberries to blue corn and red quinoa. Topping options are near-endless, but signature combos streamline the process for indecisive types: The Fancy, for instance, combines braised bison and chili beans with cheddar, lettuce, hominy salsa, ancho-chipotle sauce, and sour cream.

Stuffed frybread smothered in hominy salsa and sour cream
Tocabe’s stuffed frybread can be customized with a choice of fillings.
Ruth Tobias

Chickee's Lil Kitchen

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This no-frills Sunnyside eatery has been serving made-to-order Mexican and Cajun classics from its walk-up window for more than 40 years. Open for breakfast and lunch only, it’s known for its gumbo, weekend-only boudin balls, and custom breakfast burritos smothered in green chile.

Comal Heritage Food Incubator

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This acclaimed nonprofit kitchen in RiNo trains immigrant and refugee women in the business of restaurant operations — but the real beneficiaries here are Denver diners. In addition to regularly changing lunch menus featuring the likes of chicken fajitas and pork ribs in salsa verde, Comal has just begun offering weekly dinner kits built around entrees like cow’s feet tacos and marinated pork shoulder steamed in banana leaves; serving four to six people, they’re a steal at $60.

Plate of griddled tacos with salsa and lime wedges

Quiero Arepas

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With three locations including the flagship in LoHi, this hit specialist in Venezuelan-style arepas stuffs its masa pockets with the works. The Pabellon, for instance, comes with stewed beef, black beans, cheese, sweet plantains, and guasacaca — a cilantro-laced, guacamole-like sauce — while the Reina Pepiada is filled with chicken-avocado salad in citrus mayo.

Three Venezuelan arepas to go
Quiero Arepas offers about eight different varieties at any given time.
Quiero Arepas/Facebook

Denver Biscuit Company- Stanley Marketplace

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The newest of four enormously popular Denver-area locations, this may be a dedicated daytime spot, but its biscuit sandwiches and platters are so enormous and filling there’s generally more than enough left over for later. Breakfast for dinner, anyone?

Fried chicken sandwich on a biscuit
Denver Biscuit Co. offers 10 enormous sandwiches in all.
From the Hip Photo

Zoe Ma Ma

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Like the Boulder original, the Union Station outpost of this Taiwanese counter joint maintains a menu that’s as comforting as it is concise, with dumplings, bao, and noodles being the staples. Longtime crowd favorites include za jiang mian (fresh egg noodles in ground pork sauce with veggies) and the “CPR”: chicken and potatoes over rice. 

Potstickers with two dipping sauces
Zoe Ma Ma’s potstickers, like everything else on the menu, are based on a family recipe.
Ruth Tobias

Bourbon Grill

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In Denver’s huge new pack of chicken shacks, this humble longtimer still leads. Platters of grilled or blackened bird over rice are its bread and butter, accompanied by optional sides like egg rolls or mac-and-cheese, but it also slings wings in five flavors.

Chicken over rice with green beans
Bourbon Grill’s combo platters come with two sides.
Ruth Tobias

Pete's Kitchen

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Though legendary restaurateur Pete Contos passed in 2019 and pandemic-era regulations have forced his family to limit operating hours to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (it’s usually open 24/7), this classic diner hasn’t otherwise changed a bit in decades: The menu’s still giant. The portions are still giant. And yet the prices are still paltry.

Mexican burger smothered in green chile and cheese
In classic diner style, Pete’s menu is a hodgepodge of American, Greek, and Mexican dishes.
Ruth Tobias

El Taco de México

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Last year, this Lincoln Park taqueria received a James Beard America’s Classics Award to show for the comida its dedicated crew has been cranking out with the best of them for 35-plus years. At around $9 and $12, respectively, the burritos and taco platters here aren’t the cheapest in town — but they’re well worth the extra handful of pennies.

Three tacos with beans and rice
The beans and rice on this taco platter are no afterthought.
Ruth Tobias/Eater

Pizzeria Locale

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The fact that this fast-casual pie parlor was founded by the guys behind Frasca Food & Wine makes its price point all the more surprising: From the famous Mais with ham, corn, and crème fraîche to the Supreme with pepperoni, sausage, onions, and peppers, not one 11-inch option cracks the $10 mark, and on Mondays, Margherita pizzas go for $5. (Three other locations in the Highlands, Central Park, and Hale spread the wealth.)

Pizzas lined up on a counter for topping
Locale’s pizzas take all of three minutes to cook.
Adam Larkey

Cherry Cricket

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Prices at Cherry Creek’s long-lived and long-loved hamburger hub (along with its Ballpark sibling) have crept up slightly with the times, but only slightly: From snacks and salads to the sizeable selection of sandwiches, most menu items still hover around the $10 mark. A bowl of the legendary pork green chile, meanwhile, goes for just $6. 

Classic cheeseburger with onion rings
A classic cheeseburger with onion rings from The Cherry Cricket.
The Cherry Cricket

Vinh Xuong Bakery

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Meatball, tofu, pork, and all, Denver’s standard-bearer for bánh mì serves up eight versions of the staple Vietnamese sandwich (not to mention three gluten-free alternatives) — not one over $6.75. May as well take two.

Vietnamese pork sandwich on French bread
Vinh Xuong’s grilled pork bánh mì.
Courtesy of Feed Media

Pho Duy

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Speaking of Vietnamese food: Though the local competition has grown tenfold over the years, fan loyalty to this Federal Boulevard fixture never wavers. Steaming bowls of pho (including a vegetarian option) take center stage, of course, but myriad vermicelli bowls and rice plates also await.

Maria Empanada

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Lorena Cantarovici puts all the heart and soul of her native Argentina into the hand-crafted and hand-held stuffed pastries on which she’s built an mini-empire. Though some locations are temporarily closed due to the pandemic, the Platt Park original is still churning out 15 different types at $4 a pop, including breakfast versions stuffed with scrambled eggs and potatoes, and various meats as well as staples like chicken with chimichurri and creamed spinach with parmesan as mozzarella. For a change of pace, there’s stellar tortilla española.

Tortilla española in a serving pan
In addition to the namesake item, tortilla española is a specialty at Maria Empanada.
Ruth Tobias

Amira Grill

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Despite its low profile in a nondescript University Hills strip mall, this Lebanese cafe has found a following over the years for not only familiar Middle Eastern fare — shawarma, shakshuka, falafel — but also the lesser-known manaeesh. Think pizza, only with toppings like lamb, lebne, tahini, za’atar, and honey.

Lebanese flatbread with cheese and honey
Manaeesh with lebne and honey from Amira Grill.
Ruth Tobias

Garibaldi Mexican Bistro

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One of Denver’s best (not to mention unusually vegetarian-friendly) Mexican kitchens just so happens to be located inside an Englewood gas station. It’s perhaps best known for its quesadilla-like quekas and tostada-like tlayudas, but regulars fill ’er up with off-menu specials like weekends-only pozole and lamb barbacoa as well.

Chile en nogada at Garibaldi Mexican Bistro

Tocabe, An American Indian Eatery

With locations in Berkeley and Greenwood Village, one of the nation’s few American Indian restaurants serves customizable fry breads, grain bowls, and more that showcase ingredients from indigenous and local producers — from wild rice and wheatberries to blue corn and red quinoa. Topping options are near-endless, but signature combos streamline the process for indecisive types: The Fancy, for instance, combines braised bison and chili beans with cheddar, lettuce, hominy salsa, ancho-chipotle sauce, and sour cream.

Stuffed frybread smothered in hominy salsa and sour cream
Tocabe’s stuffed frybread can be customized with a choice of fillings.
Ruth Tobias

Chickee's Lil Kitchen

This no-frills Sunnyside eatery has been serving made-to-order Mexican and Cajun classics from its walk-up window for more than 40 years. Open for breakfast and lunch only, it’s known for its gumbo, weekend-only boudin balls, and custom breakfast burritos smothered in green chile.

Comal Heritage Food Incubator

This acclaimed nonprofit kitchen in RiNo trains immigrant and refugee women in the business of restaurant operations — but the real beneficiaries here are Denver diners. In addition to regularly changing lunch menus featuring the likes of chicken fajitas and pork ribs in salsa verde, Comal has just begun offering weekly dinner kits built around entrees like cow’s feet tacos and marinated pork shoulder steamed in banana leaves; serving four to six people, they’re a steal at $60.

Plate of griddled tacos with salsa and lime wedges

Quiero Arepas

With three locations including the flagship in LoHi, this hit specialist in Venezuelan-style arepas stuffs its masa pockets with the works. The Pabellon, for instance, comes with stewed beef, black beans, cheese, sweet plantains, and guasacaca — a cilantro-laced, guacamole-like sauce — while the Reina Pepiada is filled with chicken-avocado salad in citrus mayo.

Three Venezuelan arepas to go
Quiero Arepas offers about eight different varieties at any given time.
Quiero Arepas/Facebook

Denver Biscuit Company- Stanley Marketplace

The newest of four enormously popular Denver-area locations, this may be a dedicated daytime spot, but its biscuit sandwiches and platters are so enormous and filling there’s generally more than enough left over for later. Breakfast for dinner, anyone?

Fried chicken sandwich on a biscuit
Denver Biscuit Co. offers 10 enormous sandwiches in all.
From the Hip Photo

Zoe Ma Ma

Like the Boulder original, the Union Station outpost of this Taiwanese counter joint maintains a menu that’s as comforting as it is concise, with dumplings, bao, and noodles being the staples. Longtime crowd favorites include za jiang mian (fresh egg noodles in ground pork sauce with veggies) and the “CPR”: chicken and potatoes over rice. 

Potstickers with two dipping sauces
Zoe Ma Ma’s potstickers, like everything else on the menu, are based on a family recipe.
Ruth Tobias

Bourbon Grill

In Denver’s huge new pack of chicken shacks, this humble longtimer still leads. Platters of grilled or blackened bird over rice are its bread and butter, accompanied by optional sides like egg rolls or mac-and-cheese, but it also slings wings in five flavors.

Chicken over rice with green beans
Bourbon Grill’s combo platters come with two sides.
Ruth Tobias

Pete's Kitchen

Though legendary restaurateur Pete Contos passed in 2019 and pandemic-era regulations have forced his family to limit operating hours to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (it’s usually open 24/7), this classic diner hasn’t otherwise changed a bit in decades: The menu’s still giant. The portions are still giant. And yet the prices are still paltry.

Mexican burger smothered in green chile and cheese
In classic diner style, Pete’s menu is a hodgepodge of American, Greek, and Mexican dishes.
Ruth Tobias

El Taco de México

Last year, this Lincoln Park taqueria received a James Beard America’s Classics Award to show for the comida its dedicated crew has been cranking out with the best of them for 35-plus years. At around $9 and $12, respectively, the burritos and taco platters here aren’t the cheapest in town — but they’re well worth the extra handful of pennies.

Three tacos with beans and rice
The beans and rice on this taco platter are no afterthought.
Ruth Tobias/Eater

Pizzeria Locale

The fact that this fast-casual pie parlor was founded by the guys behind Frasca Food & Wine makes its price point all the more surprising: From the famous Mais with ham, corn, and crème fraîche to the Supreme with pepperoni, sausage, onions, and peppers, not one 11-inch option cracks the $10 mark, and on Mondays, Margherita pizzas go for $5. (Three other locations in the Highlands, Central Park, and Hale spread the wealth.)

Pizzas lined up on a counter for topping
Locale’s pizzas take all of three minutes to cook.
Adam Larkey

Cherry Cricket

Prices at Cherry Creek’s long-lived and long-loved hamburger hub (along with its Ballpark sibling) have crept up slightly with the times, but only slightly: From snacks and salads to the sizeable selection of sandwiches, most menu items still hover around the $10 mark. A bowl of the legendary pork green chile, meanwhile, goes for just $6. 

Classic cheeseburger with onion rings
A classic cheeseburger with onion rings from The Cherry Cricket.
The Cherry Cricket

Vinh Xuong Bakery

Meatball, tofu, pork, and all, Denver’s standard-bearer for bánh mì serves up eight versions of the staple Vietnamese sandwich (not to mention three gluten-free alternatives) — not one over $6.75. May as well take two.

Vietnamese pork sandwich on French bread
Vinh Xuong’s grilled pork bánh mì.
Courtesy of Feed Media

Pho Duy

Speaking of Vietnamese food: Though the local competition has grown tenfold over the years, fan loyalty to this Federal Boulevard fixture never wavers. Steaming bowls of pho (including a vegetarian option) take center stage, of course, but myriad vermicelli bowls and rice plates also await.

Maria Empanada

Lorena Cantarovici puts all the heart and soul of her native Argentina into the hand-crafted and hand-held stuffed pastries on which she’s built an mini-empire. Though some locations are temporarily closed due to the pandemic, the Platt Park original is still churning out 15 different types at $4 a pop, including breakfast versions stuffed with scrambled eggs and potatoes, and various meats as well as staples like chicken with chimichurri and creamed spinach with parmesan as mozzarella. For a change of pace, there’s stellar tortilla española.

Tortilla española in a serving pan
In addition to the namesake item, tortilla española is a specialty at Maria Empanada.
Ruth Tobias

Amira Grill

Despite its low profile in a nondescript University Hills strip mall, this Lebanese cafe has found a following over the years for not only familiar Middle Eastern fare — shawarma, shakshuka, falafel — but also the lesser-known manaeesh. Think pizza, only with toppings like lamb, lebne, tahini, za’atar, and honey.

Lebanese flatbread with cheese and honey
Manaeesh with lebne and honey from Amira Grill.
Ruth Tobias

Related Maps

Garibaldi Mexican Bistro

One of Denver’s best (not to mention unusually vegetarian-friendly) Mexican kitchens just so happens to be located inside an Englewood gas station. It’s perhaps best known for its quesadilla-like quekas and tostada-like tlayudas, but regulars fill ’er up with off-menu specials like weekends-only pozole and lamb barbacoa as well.

Chile en nogada at Garibaldi Mexican Bistro

Related Maps