Best of Denver

The Best New Cheap Eats We Ate in 2017

The Chica Picada platter at La Chiva is a great way to sample Colombian cuisine.
The Chica Picada platter at La Chiva is a great way to sample Colombian cuisine. Mark Antonation
There were plenty of splashy restaurant openings in Denver in 2017, but most of the time we can't drop a couple of Benjamins on dinner. To balance the big-time operators (and to keep our budget balanced) with something a little more affordable, we searched every strip mall, street stand and hidden corner of the city for food bursting with flavor that won't bust the bank in the process. Here are ten new spots we discovered in the past year where we found the best cheap eats of 2017.

A plate of empanadas makes for a good starter for several people at Antojitos Colombianos. - MARK ANTONATION
A plate of empanadas makes for a good starter for several people at Antojitos Colombianos.
Mark Antonation
Antojitos Colombianos
6625 Leetsdale Drive
303-379-9520
This tiny Colombian eatery in east Denver serves up a wide variety of appetizers as well as belt-busting platters. You can make a meal by mixing and matching arepas, pandebono (round, fluffy cheese buns), papas rellenos (stuffed potato croquettes), fried plantains and empanadas. Bring friends so you can sample your way through the menu, or opt for the bandeja paisa, a heaping plate of beans, rice, pork, beef and plantains that will keep you in leftovers for days.

Bourbon Grill's new location includes actual tables and chairs. - MARK ANTONATION
Bourbon Grill's new location includes actual tables and chairs.
Mark Antonation
Bourbon Grill
571 East Colfax Avenue
303-355-3821
The Bourbon Grill isn't new (in fact, it's been on East Colfax Avenue for more than a decade), but a move to a new sit-down restaurant from its original walk-up window brought the char-grilled chicken to a whole new demographic. Piles of rice, veggies, gooey macaroni and cheese and spicy-sweet chicken can be had for under $10 — and you can now sit down at a table inside to enjoy it all.

click to enlarge Crispy bits of cheese are an added bonus on El Tazumal's pupusas. - MARK ANTONATION
Crispy bits of cheese are an added bonus on El Tazumal's pupusas.
Mark Antonation
El Tazumal
258 Santa Fe Drive
720-584-6068
The pupusa is El Salvador's gift to the world. The tender disks of grilled cornmeal masa oozing with cheese and plumped with meat or vegetable fillings make a delightful and inexpensive midday meal. El Tazumal's pupusas have just the right balance of crisp and tender, with crunchy flakes adhered to the edges where the cheese has leaked out and caramelized on the grill. Just look for the bright yellow sign announcing "Pupusas" if you're driving north on Santa Fe from Alameda Avenue.


click to enlarge This ham-and-cheese croissant is one reason to head to Hinman's. - FACEBOOK/HINMAN'S BAKERY
This ham-and-cheese croissant is one reason to head to Hinman's.
Facebook/Hinman's Bakery
Hinman's Bakery
4850 East 39th Avenue
303-287-3431

Hinman's Bakery opened a couple of years ago but added a retail counter and lunch hours last spring. When the weather's nice, you'll find an outdoor grill turning out cheesesteaks, burgers and other hot sandwiches. But for a tasty bargain, stop at the indoor counter for savory hand pies and croissants. Recent options have included butternut squash, green chile, and "biscuit and gravy" hand pies with all the good stuff (pork sausage included) on the inside. Flavors change with the season, so regular visits are a must.

The Chica Picada platter at La Chiva is a great way to sample Colombian cuisine. - MARK ANTONATION
The Chica Picada platter at La Chiva is a great way to sample Colombian cuisine.
Mark Antonation
La Chiva
1417 South Broadway
720-389-9847
Colombian cooking experienced a surge in Denver in 2017, and nobody does it better than Jorge Aguirre, who opened La Chiva on South Broadway last summer after several years of serving empanadas, arepas and other specialties out of his food truck. The Chiva Picada sampler plate is a great way to enjoy sausage, fried plantain, marble-sized potatoes and yucca fries, but don't miss the lomito sandwich bursting with shredded pork or a set of empanadas filled with cheese, chicken, beef, pork or a veggie blend.

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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