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 (less than $30 per person). And you don't need to be under thirty to take these recommendations; just be ready for a great eating adventure.
Denver is getting a late-winter dusting of snow, which makes for beautiful nights filled with winter cityscapes. At Low Country Kitchen, you can enjoy a Southern meal with a big view from a wall of windows that separates diners from the surrounding LoHi neighborhood. The restaurant, created by Southerners Katy and Brian Vaughn, is a popular spot that can come with a high price tag, but instead of viewing this as a deterrent, get creative for an affordable meal at a top Denver restaurant while still leaving with a full belly. Building a meal around fried chicken means the rest of the night's big plans need involve only moving from your chair at the restaurant to your couch — making for an even more budget-friendly night.
The open space of the main dining area at Low Country has a long, inviting bar as its centerpiece, with the energy of guests enjoying cocktails and grooving to ’70s classics ("I'll Be There," by the Jackson Five, was playing during our visit) adding to the ambience.
To join in the fun, start with a glass of rosé or the Ginny Jam from the cocktail menu. The bright, acidic notes of rosé pair well with rich, spicy food, especially fried chicken, while the carbonated gin cocktail is fresh and lively, finishing with the barely-there flavor of strawberry preserves — a nice country touch — that settle to the bottom of the glass.
Next up is Low Country Kitchen's "main attraction" (as labeled on the menu, even): the fried chicken. The chicken is brined in a mixture of buttermilk and seasonings for 48 hours before being battered and fried. For mains, the three-piece fried-chicken entree and an order of shrimp and grits will keep you and a companion under budget.
The portion size of the shrimp and grits is impressive; cheddar notes and a good, toothsome texture — with just the right creaminess — make for a filling dish. Mixing the grits with the accompanying tomato-bacon gravy lends sweet, smokey and salty notes to the succulent Gulf Coast shrimp.
The fried chicken comes with a choice of more than ten different sides; we went with mashed potatoes — a classic combo — but you can also choose from other staples like collard greens, sweet potatoes, hush puppies or macaroni and cheese. Each bite of the chicken drips with juices, and the fried skin adds a salty crunch and a hint of spice. The thick crust stays on the chicken rather than falling off as you eat, giving plenty of textural contrast to the last bite. The mashed potatoes are whipped to a near-pudding-like consistency — a thick, creamy foil for the crunchy chicken.
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SHOW ME HOW
Dining on a budget in Denver isn’t hard when you come across a menu like this, loaded with big flavors and healthy portions. If you want to explore the menu more, happy hour offers discounted chicken biscuits, deviled eggs and other down-home favorites from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and even longer on Saturdays and Sundays.
The damage is just $29.50 for each. Here's how it breaks down:
A glass of rosé: $8
The Ginny Jam cocktail: $8.5
Share Two Mains:
Shrimp and Grits: $23.75
Three-piece fried chicken plate with mashed potatoes: $18.75