Indulging in some of Denver's hottest restaurants doesn't mean you have to deplete your bank account. Here, at these 10 top-notch food temples, you can eat like the 1% for $30 or less (excluding tax and tip).
Chef-owner Paul Reilly's menu benefits from unassailable, impeccably sourced ingredients, a combination that often results in Prada price tags, but scattered among the double-dollar-sign entrees are plenty of affordable choices: order one of filling flatbreads (margherita $11; fig + pig $12; patata rossa $13), and pair the oval masterpieces with a white balsamic-dressed salad ($8) of local lettuces, candied pepitas, dried cherries and chèvre. Even if you spring for a $6 barn house saison, brewed exclusively for the restaurant, the tab still falls below the $30 threshold.
719 E. 17th Ave.; 303-623-3223
Talk about a killer meal deal. Every Thursday night, Amerigo, Iain Chisholm's charismatic, art-themed Italian in RiNo, makes the most of culinary abundance, featuring a beautifully crafted four-course dinner, including antipasto and any salad, pasta and dessert that graces the menu, for the bargain-basement price of $30 per person.
2449 Larimer St.; 303-862-9850
Monday nights are justifiably popular at this lusty LoDo seductress, which unleashes a three-course supper (starter, entree and dessert) for the set price of $30. The Monday menu changes monthly, but you can always count on bold flavors, seasonality, lovely presentations and an array of Vesta's extolled dipping sauces.
1822 Blake St.; 303-296-1970
Chef Dana Rodriguez, whose Latin-laced menu mimics her infectious personality, doesn't believe in allowing anyone to go hungry, and her menu is just as conscious with its pricing, offering a jumble of dishes that fit squarely into a $30 budget. Start with the lamb pozole ruddy with guajillo chiles ($8) and follow up with a half-pound of the cochinita pibil ($12) paired with a heap of creamy braised greens ($5). And for $3, you can add a sugar rush of butterscotch pudding festooned with almond toffee.
2500 Larimer St.; 303-292-0700
At Mary Nguyen's effervescent Uptown American bistro, indulging in a terrific dinner for under 30 bucks isn't difficult, a perk that explains why the dining room is a favorite of foodniks that want to eat like royalty without paying aristocratic prices. The chorizo-and-mussels, served with frites ($9.50), are an ideal prelude to Nguyen's fettuccine carbonara, a tangle of pork belly, fresh peas and Pecorino topped with a fried egg ($15).
1600 E. 17th Ave.; 303-399-0988
At this nod to noodles, chef-owner Tommy Lee and his kitchen cohorts quell the crowds (there's always a mass of congestion near the front door) with excellent starters and steaming bowls of ramen that don't skimp on quality — or quantity. Start the journey with an order of soft-shell crab ($10) or shrimp steamed buns ($7) and seal the deal with the chashu ramen with braised pork belly, kale, bean sprouts and a floating egg ($14).
2215 W. 32nd Ave.; 303-433-3263
Just about everyone who eats at Lola kicks off dinner with the tableside guacamole ($7 or $10), whose ingredients are tucked into bowls and wheeled to tables on carts — a ritual that concludes with a few mashes and tosses in a molcajete. For a main course, order the "el jefe," a plate that links a chicken thigh with shrimp, chorizo, corn and fried fingerling potatoes ($20).
1575 Boulder St.; 720-570-8686
At first glance, the prices at these super-popular shrines to seafood and fish might make you choke on your cutthroat trout, but there are plenty of bargains among the nautical choices. A bowl of seafood chowder, flush with impeccable seafood, is a $15 meal in itself, although starters of fried calamari ($9) or tuna poke on sticky rice ($9) turn the voyage into a full-blown dinner. And the generously portioned Maine lobster roll ($24) served with housemade potato chips and pickles — and paired with a side of braised greens and root vegetables ($6) — makes us swoon.
1539 17th St., 303-292-5767; 650 S. Colorado Blvd., 303-756-6449
You'll need to forgo your carnivorous impulses to stay under the $30 mark at Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch's Larimer Square Mediterranean. But it's hardly a sacrifice when you're rewarded with Jasinski's justifiably lauded artichoke tortelloni ($11.50 for a half order) followed by her "vegetarian four squares," an artfully composed plate of four seasonally motivated dishes that's just $18.50. And while the selections change on a whim, the current lineup includes mashed sweet potatoes with Asian pears and balsamic; glazed haricot verts scented with rosemary; parsnip and apple purée matched with smoked macadamia nuts and cocoa nibs; and grilled shishito peppers with togarashi aïoli.
1431 Larimer St.; 303-820-2282
If you're in possession of an invite-only Amex black card, go for broke and splurge on chef Wayne Conwell's mind-blowing omakase. But if you're not, you can still score big flavors while counting your pennies. Begin with the spicy garlic edamame ($6) and then feast on the assorted sushi combo ($24), a gorgeous assemblage of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, scallop, shrimp, white fish and either a California roll, spicy tuna toll or tuna roll. The price also includes miso soup and a salad.
2401 15th St.; 303-433-7272