With so many great restaurants to choose from, cash-strapped Denver newcomers — challenged with rising rents and skinny paychecks — are finding it hard to have a fun night out without blowing the bank. Twenty- Something for Twenty-somethings will help you find hot destinations where you can enjoy cutting-edge cuisine in a stylish setting — all within a twenty-something budget ($29 or less per person). And you don't need to be under thirty to take these recommendations; just be ready for a great eating adventure.
Walking into Cho77, you immediately feel the pulse of the restaurant, and not just because the bass is pumping. The vibe is contagious and exciting, as it should be for a fun night out — but what makes Cho77 different? There's a certain je ne sais quoi that makes the place feel like a New York City restaurant with a natural hustle and bustle. Cho77 has an open design that draws your eyes to a brick wall decorated in graffiti art, as well as a community bar fronting an open kitchen where you can watch chefs cook up their creations.
Start your night with a Drunken Monk cocktail, which offers a refreshing citrus blast that's like biting into a grapefruit over and over, with herbal notes of gin to balance the tartness. Or, if you're in more of a whiskey mood, try the Cho Fashioned. Both are especially tasty when sipped alongside appetizers — in this case, pork-belly buns and shishito peppers. Cho77 also makes some outstanding dumplings, whether the classic red-chile pork dumplings or a recent bacon-cheeseburger shumai special, but our favorite is the bao mi buns: a combo of fluffy Chinese bao buns and bright Vietnamese banh mi fillings.
Dive into the buns and enjoy the cloud-like texture as your teeth sink into the sweet dough, which gives way to salty-sweet pork and crisp cucumber, carrot and cilantro. Vivid green shishito peppers make another great starter (curbing your appetite without filling you up), with notes of miso and honey and a grilled taste in each bite.
Now that your belly is temporarily satisfied from the appetizers, it's time to move on to the mains. Chilled Takara sake goes great with Asian cuisine, but a full pour can be a little overwhelming for sake novices, so sharing a glass is a great way to save money while sampling something new.
Some of the restaurant's dinner options (like the noodle soups) aren't great for sharing, but the wonton noodles and the wok-tossed duck leg are perfect for two. The wonton noodles are tender and come topped with caramelized pork belly (yes, we love pork belly) and bok choy, providing a balanced freshness to the dish. The wok-tossed duck leg is an inventive dish, using shredded duck in curry to make it stand out. The dark-meat flavor marries with the curry in an addictive way, so you may find yourself fighting for the last shreds.
It’s the holiday season and a time to meet up with friends and family; a visit to Cho77 makes for a fun, hip and affordable meal that will impress them all.
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The damage is just $29 or $28.50, depending on the entree you choose to share with your dining partner. Here's how it breaks down:
Total: $29 or $28.50
Drunken Monk or Cho Fashioned cocktail: $10
Takara sake (shared): $3.50
Bao mi bun (shared): $4
Shishito peppers (shared): $2.50
Wok-tossed duck leg (shared): $9, or wonton noodles (shared): $8.50
Cho77 also has happy hour from 5 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 2 to 6 p.m. on weekends, with a second happy hour from 9 p.m. to close Wednesday through Saturday, if you're looking to stretch the savings even further.