Best of Denver

The Twelve Best New Places for Cheap Eats in 2019

Linnea Covington
At Grabowski's, the crust is thin and the pie is cut into squares.
Cheap is a relative term these days, since you can easily drop $100 on drinks and snacks at Denver's trendier eateries — without ever cracking the supper menu. But a good lunch or dinner for $10 to $15 doesn't seem unreasonable, especially when the food is well made, unique and impeccably sourced. We've been scouting the scene for the past year in search of new joints where we can make a habit of stopping in for great eats without dropping a whole paycheck. Certainly, a new surge of food halls, including Broadway Market, Tributary Food Hall, Rosetta Hall and Edgewater Public Market, have contributed to the counter-service scene, and we recommend visiting all of them to find your favorites. But we looked beyond the convenient, all-in-one food courts to bring you this list of the best new cheap eats in Denver.

click to enlarge American Grind is grinding it out on South Penn. - MARK ANTONATION
American Grind is grinding it out on South Penn.
Mark Antonation

American Grind

81 South Pennsylvania Street

American Grind moved out of Avanti Food & Beverage and into the sleepy Speer neighborhood last summer, giving the area a great burger joint turning out satisfying sandwiches without a lot of fuss. The menu is small but ticks all the boxes: burger, cheeseburger, fries, a few gussied-up sandwiches boasting toppings like Tender Belly bacon and jalapeño cream cheese, and a fantastic vegan burger. Don't say "burger," though; just call it a "burg" at American Grind. While priced a little above the standard fast-food burger, these are built with local ingredients, and everything — even the ketchup, mustard and mayo — is made in-house.

click to enlarge The Firebird sandwich at Chicken Rebel. - LINNEA COVINGTON
The Firebird sandwich at Chicken Rebel.
Linnea Covington

Chicken Rebel

3618 Tejon Street

A transplant from San Diego, Chicken Rebel descended on Denver in 2017, regularly selling out of sandwiches at breweries and Finn's Manor before doing a four-month stint at Avanti Food & Beverage earlier in 2019. In November, owner Lydie Lovett opened her first full-on restaurant in LoHi. Chicken Rebel makes a variety of sandwiches, but the Nashville hot, called the Firebird, is a favorite. Slathered in a fiery sauce that resembles barbecue sauce, the hot chicken here doesn't have a traditional appearance, but the cayenne bite makes your mouth remember what the dish is all about.

click to enlarge Guilin rice noodles come with broth on the side at Chinese Noodles in Aurora. - MARK ANTONATION
Guilin rice noodles come with broth on the side at Chinese Noodles in Aurora.
Mark Antonation

Chinese Noodles

12393 East Mississippi Avenue, Aurora

Slotted in alongside Aurora's Pacific Ocean Marketplace, Chinese Noodles makes no bones about what's being sold inside. But the kind of noodles you'll find, rice noodle soups of China's Guangxi province, are new to the metro area. Two signature bowls stand out: Luosi rice noodles and Guilin rice noodles. The first comes with a deep, dark broth made with beef bones and snails (you won't find escargot-like pieces in your bowl, though), along with wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, pickled vegetables and crunchy peanuts. The second comes as a bowl of thick, chewy rice noodles coated in a small amount of clingy sauce and served with slices of brisket and pork belly, along with pickled green beans, peanuts and scallions. A side of mild broth is provided as a palate cleanser between bites; you can also add it to the bottom of your noodle bowl so that you can spoon up the last of the tasty bits.

click to enlarge Jared Leonard dishes up a taste of his Chicago childhood at Grabowski's. - LINNEA COVINGTON
Jared Leonard dishes up a taste of his Chicago childhood at Grabowski's.
Linnea Covington


3350 Brighton Boulevard

Chef Jared Leonard knows what people want when they're craving something specific. He's the man who brought the Budlong Hot Chicken, AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q and Hamburger Stan to Denver from his home town of Chicago. But his most craveable offering to date might be the square-cut, tavern-style pizzas served at Grabowski's, which opened at the Source in September. Loads of gooey cheese and tangy sauce make these pies messy finger food, and the reasonable prices mean you and your friends can load up without breaking the bank. Start with the Classic Chicago (this is is a thin-crust, though, not the standard Chicago-style casserole) for just $19 for a 16-inch pizza — enough food for three or four hungry adults.

Hank's owner Chris Nicki slices his smoked brisket. - MARK ANTONATION
Hank's owner Chris Nicki slices his smoked brisket.
Mark Antonation

Hank's Texas Barbecue

5410 East Colfax Avenue

Texas barbecue starts with brisket, a pricey cut of beef once it's been slow-smoked for hours by a vigilant pit master. So you can drop a few bucks at Hank's if you're so inclined, but daily specials and sandwiches ring in at reasonable prices. Stop in on Fridays for smoked hamburgers and two-dollar Lone Star beers, or take a peek at the restaurant's Instagram page for other specials like smoked bologna sandwiches. Go early, though, because the meats by the pound often sell out well before dinner.

Savory borek pastries at Istanbul Cafe & Bakery. - MARK ANTONATION
Savory borek pastries at Istanbul Cafe & Bakery.
Mark Antonation

Istanbul Cafe & Bakery

850 South Monaco Parkway

Head east to find delectable Turkish pastries both savory and sweet at this little bakery in a shopping center off Monaco and Leetsdale. Skip your boring morning bagel and sink your teeth into some açma, with a texture somewhere between a croissant and a bagel, or simit, somewhat like a circular pretzel coated in sesame seeds. Or go for lunch and enjoy meat- or cheese-filled borek — coiled buns made of flaky pastry. And Istanbul Cafe can't be surpassed when it comes to baklava, since you can choose from seven varieties of the nut-and-honey-filled bites. Relax at a cafe table with a strong Turkish coffee or tea to wash it all down.