Best of Denver

The Twelve Best New Places for Cheap Eats in 2019

At Grabowski's, the crust is thin and the pie is cut into squares.
At Grabowski's, the crust is thin and the pie is cut into squares. Linnea Covington

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Kealoha's BBQ

500 16th Street

Vendors on the 16th Street Mall come and go with the frequency of the mall buses themselves, but the best kiosks tend to stick around as they gather loyal followings from the surrounding businesses. The 808 area code gives Kealoha's instant cred to draw Hawaiian transplants (of which there are many in Denver), but the barbecue ribs and chicken, both lacquered in lilikoi (passion fruit) barbecue sauce, the rich oxtail soup and the succulent laulau are proof of Kealoha's Hilo, Hawaii roots.

click to enlarge The guys at Little Beast are ready for you. - MARK ANTONATION
The guys at Little Beast are ready for you.
Mark Antonation

Little Beast Street Food

2730 East Colfax Avenue

Juicy burgers, crispy fried tacos and a killer chicken sandwich are what makes Little Beast worth returning to for big-time flavors inside the tiny eatery. Lee Hernandez-Ball, Sung Choi and Tyler Ryen, all Table 6 alumni, launched their fast-food joint last July, and we immediately fell for the Korean fried-chicken sandwich loaded with housemade kimchi. They've since swapped out the chicken for fried shrimp, and the chicken sandwich now comes with collard greens and buttermilk dressing — giving us two new reasons to go. Everything on the menu rings in at under $10, so you can slot this one in as a regular lunch stop on Colfax.

Mistfit Snackbar at the Middleman

3401 East Colfax Avenue

Rebel Restaurant was one of Denver's most adventurous and rewarding eateries during its three-year run in RiNo, and when it closed in August 2018, we didn't think we'd soon see the kind of inventive, delicious cooking put out by co-owners Dan Lasiy and Bo Porytko anytime soon. But Porytko, who's been working at some of Denver's top kitchens and staging in Mexico over the last year or so, recently took over the shoebox kitchen at the Middleman, where he's turning out a mix-and-match menu of amped-up popcorn, fried bites and sandwiches to keep late-night drinkers fed and happy. The most expensive dish is a chicken-fried short rib sandwich (at $15), but most other selections ring in at well under $10, so you can double up, for example, with a kielbasa corn dog jacketed in buckwheat breading and a samosa-stuffed chile relleno.

click to enlarge Post Oak Barbecue does smoked meats with all the sides. - COURTESY POST OAK BARBECUE
Post Oak Barbecue does smoked meats with all the sides.
Courtesy Post Oak Barbecue

Post Oak Barbecue

4000 Tennyson Street

Follow the smell of oak smoke wafting over the Berkeley neighborhood to Post Oak, where pit master Nick Prince has been turning out brisket, ribs, pulled pork and spicy housemade sausage since last June. Even if you're not hungry enough to load up on meat by the pound, you can go a little lighter with brisket tacos, dry-rubbed wings and loaded baked potatoes (okay, "lighter" might not be the right word here). Don't leave without satisfying your sweet tooth with a mini pecan pie.

click to enlarge The ramen is the star at Ramen Star. - MARK ANTONATION
The ramen is the star at Ramen Star.
Mark Antonation

Ramen Star

4044 Tejon Street

Ramen chef Takashi Tamai installed his very Japanese noodle bar in the Sunnyside neighborhood last April, turning out housemade noodles (a real rarity in Denver) and silky, luxurious broths in a minimalist setting. While tradition can be tasted in every spoonful, Tamai also shows the creative side of ramen with uncommon toppings. Ramen can often be overwhelmingly salty, but Ramen Star relies on layer upon layer of umami for flavor, so downing a bowl doesn't feel like being hit by a sodium bomb.

click to enlarge Tip Top's New Zealand-style hand pies are great on the go. - COURTESY TIP TOP SAVORY PIES
Tip Top's New Zealand-style hand pies are great on the go.
Courtesy Tip Top Savory Pies

Tip Top Savory Pies

105 North Public Road, Lafayette

New Zealand is a long, long flight from Denver, but fortunately, Lafayette is nearby (especially for Boulder County residents). Because this is the only place to find New Zealand-style meat pies, thanks to Christine Carr and Robert Morrow, who sell hand pies out of what looks like little more than a garden shed on Lafayette's main drag. Breakfast pies filled with eggs and green chile, bacon or sausage are a great way to start the day, or come by at lunch or dinner for meaty variations like beef Wellington, steak and ale, or curry chicken. Meatless options like cauliflower tikka masala or mushroom and ale are also for sale. Seating is limited inside, but you can always load up on refrigerated or frozen pies to bake up at home.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation