You don't have to drop an arm — or a leg — to take a bite of the Mile High City. From a trio of Japanese appetizers to a plate of pig's ears, here are 10 of Denver's best tastes for $10 or less.
Pad Thai Pig Ears from Euclid Hall
While Euclid Hall consistently earns praise for its arsenal of housemade sausages, its playful riff on traditional pad Thai — a heap of crisped pig's ears, the cartilage and flesh glossed with tamarind sauce studded with chiles and then topped with mung sprouts, peanuts and a fistful of fresh herbs — is an explosion of spicy, sweet and tart flavors.
1317 14th St.; 303-595-4255
Chicken Karaage from Osaka Ramen
Chef-owner Jeff Osaka's chicken karaage — fried chicken done the Japanese way — is one of his best dishes at his duo of lively ramen restaurants. Boneless pieces of dark meat, marinated in ginger, garlic, soy and citrus, are crusted with potato flour, yielding a crisp skin and incredibly tender meat within. The spicy Japanese mayo that comes alongside is excellent too.
Elk-and-Jalapeño Brat from Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
When you order a hot dog from Biker Jim's, expect the unexpected. To wit: reindeer, wild boar, pheasant and the elk brat spiked with jalapeños and mellowed with cheddar cheese. All of the dogs have hordes of fans, but the elk brat is brilliant, and it doesn't hurt that owner Jim Pittenger, a Denver legend, torpedoes his grilled dogs with a blast of cream cheese squeezed from a caulking gun and sugar-smacked onions caramelized in Coca-Cola.
White Truffle Egg Salad Sandwich from Masterpiece Deli
Old Major chef Justin Brunson, who also owns the forthcoming Masterpiece Kitchen, as well as a slice of Masterpiece Delicatessen, with locations in LoHi and Uptown, riffs on the classic picnic-in-the-park sandwich by flecking his egg salad with white truffles, adding a crisp leaf of romaine lettuce and tucking the decadent spread between two slices of olive oil–brushed and toasted white bread. A side of chips, fruit, coleslaw or macaroni salad is included too.
Pollo Albondigas Torta from Poco Torteria at Avanti Food and Beverage
Avanti Food and Beverage, a collective culinary hall in LoHi, is a food lover's utopia, with seven different restaurants dispensing everything from arepas to shawarma. The best bang for the buck, though, goes to Poco, Kevin Morrison's torteria. There are eight variations, plus specials on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and while a full sandwich is more than $10 (just), half sandwiches –– which are huge –– are all less than $7. We're smitten with them all, but the pollo albondigas, smeared with chipotle sauce and stacked with homemade chicken meatballs, mojo de ajo–braised spinach and queso fresco, is a strikingly good standout. And the liberally salted fries that come alongside are among Denver's best tubers.
3200 Pecos St.; 720-885-5069
Tacos from La Calle Taqueria
It may not have the flair and flash of restaurants like Tamayo, or the festive ambiance of Lola, but this humble taqueria is one of Denver's greatest Mexican dives for a slew of reasons, including its top-notch street-style tacos paired with a condiment bar parading a half-dozen housemade chile-spiked salsas, pickled vegetables, lime wedges and cilantro.
Price: $7.95–$8.95 for four tacos
1565 W. Alameda Ave.; 720-583-6586
Chicken Curry Bowl from Biju's Little Curry Shop
Brimming with chicken, white or basmati rice, vegetables, curried lentils, cubed potatoes, crushed pappadams and your choice of a variety of housemade chutneys and sauces, the curried chicken bowl from Biju's is a symphony of intoxicating flavors — it's fast-casual cooking at its best.
1441 26th St.; 303-292-3500
Empanadas Verde con Elote from Leña
The kitchen crew at Leña excels in its homage to Latin American cuisine, and the team is particularly fanatical about its tacos and empanadas. They're all crave-worthy, but the empanadas — especially the one filled with fresh roasted corn and spinach, wrapped in green plantain dough and served with a spicy and tangy aji rojo dipping sauce — are little marvels of lust.
24 Broadway; 720-550-7267
Margherita Pizza from Bar Dough
Some of the most sought-after pizza in Denver can be found at this LoHi hot spot, and while most of the wood-fired masterpieces are priced beyond the $10 threshold, the margherita pizza, in all its charred and mozzarella-blotted glory, is $10 even. Better yet, if you hit up happy hour, featured from 3–6 PM daily, it's a mere $6. And for another five bucks, you can match it with a glass of the house red or white wine.
Price: $10 ($6 during happy hour)
2227 W. 32nd Ave.; 720-668-8506
Zensai from Sushi Ronin
Chef-partner Corey Baker — who spent years perfecting Japanese cuisine at Sushi Sasa, Sushi Hai, Sushi Yoshi and, most recently, Sushi Den — knows how to kick off a stellar meal: offer a season-inspired zensai, a trio of ever-changing small bites that makes you swoon. Baker dots the plate with bites of fish (think kelp-steamed salmon) and vegetables (boiled chives slicked with sesame sauce, for example), and every bite pops with flavor.
2930 Umatilla St.; 303-955-8741