Maybe thanks in part to Instagram — the king of presenting an idealistic reality — we tend to think of travel as glamorous, very expensive, maybe even unaffordable.
As someone who has made travel a lifestyle rather than an escape, I say there are a lot of strategies to buck those ideas and make adventuring fit into your regular budget. One of the keys to that, of course, is eating cheap. Make no mistake, that does not mean eating bad — in fact some of my favorite bites, the world over, have been for less than $10.
Here are 8 of my favorite cheap eats in Denver, Co.
Los Gallitos. As with most great Mexican food, you have to travel a little out of the center for this one, but at Los Gallitos you’ll be treated with a taco menu like you’d find south of the border — cabeza, suadero, lengua and tripa among the protein offerings, as well as a HUGE spit of al pastor and fresh, housemade salsas.
Jelly Cafe. If you’re hoping to dine in, there’s a good chance you’ll be subjected to a line at Jelly Cafe — so get a coffee first — and then order the four or eight-piece donut holes in a bowl, with a Central Perk-level cappuccino and get your day off to an excellent start.
J’s Noodles Star Thai. There is a heat code within most good Thai restaurants …no matter what levels of spice they display on their menu, if you say “Thai hot,” they will bring. it. J’s Noodles did just that, leaving me red-faced, watery eyed and hungry for more. The green curry is immaculate, as is the larb, filled with flavor regardless of your heat choice.
My Brother’s Bar. There is something very charming about a great dive bar — and My Brother’s Bar one certainly is one that fits into that category (with the hilarity bonus of people asking who your brother is when you recommend it). There is one thing to eat here, and it’s the cheeseburger, which arrives with a caddy of fixins and a simple wax wrapper to eat it on. (There are actually more things to eat, but you’re getting a burger, OK?) It’s perfectly simple, greasy and just $7.75. Wash it down with a High Life and call it a night.
Pho 95. Drive down South Federal Blvd and you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a Vietnamese or other Southeast Asian restaurant (I do not condone throwing rocks though, honestly, that’s rude.) Fodder for a pho crawl? Wow, great idea if I do say so myself. But if you just want one bowl of the sultry steaming soup, you can’t go wrong at Pho 95 where a “small” (it’s huge) bowl costs just $8 and boasts brothy evidence of time and the marrow of many bones.
Odell Brewing Company. Denver breweries are really quite affordable in general, and there are so many churning out stellar brews. Start at Odell, where all drafts are priced at just $5 or $6, and then mull hitting up one of the River North Arts District neighbors, such as Ratio Beerworks or Black Shirt Brewing.
Burrito Co. Breakfast burritos are kind of a thing in Denver where green chili sauce is as famous a food as the Mile High City has. This morning staple is so idyllic here, in fact, that you’ll see versions everywhere from fancy coffee shops to boutique hotels. Don’t fall into the trap! You’ll find what you’re really looking for — a super-filling, super-flavorful, stomach-sized ‘rito at Burrito Co., starting at less than $2. Now that’s a steal. And you probably won’t have to eat again until dinner.
Izakaya Ronin. Looking for a splurge that doesn’t necessarily feel like it when the check comes? Izakaya Ronin has one of the better deals in the city — and it’s not on their happy hour menu. Under the main dining room menu, the “sushi set” costs just $24 and includes seven pieces of nigiri, a simple roll AND soup and salad. It just might be one of the best bargains in the city and you’ll leave feeling like you just had a lux three-course meal.