When I think of all the food we ate during our stay in Denver, I can’t help but revel in how affordable it was. As DC residents, we slowly become used to higher priced menu items and tasting menus that are equal in cost to rent on a nice apartment in other parts of the country.
Eating in Denver, by contract, was a breath of fresh air. Sure, we did seek out more affordable restaurants to stay on budget, but in general everywhere we went offered reasonable prices and tasty food.
A Cheap and Mostly Dog Friendly Denver Food Guide
Breakfast / Brunch
For breakfast, we stuck mostly to a cute, little cafe a short walk from our Airbnb called Whittier Cafe. This place had amazing coffee, a small selection of delicious pastries (my favorite was the zucchini muffin) and breakfast burritos, which was just perfect for us. I also loved the dog friendly outdoor patio and water bowls for the pups. It’s not exactly in a bustling part of the city, but if you find yourself in the area it’s definitely worth checking out.
We did have a very notable breakfast in Washington Park one day, at Devil’s Food Bakery and Cookery. The restaurant was adorably retro, with old appliances on display throughout the dining room. You could order coffee and pastries to go, or sit down to a hot breakfast. We chose the latter.
Although we certainly had our splurge meals in Denver (read on), we tried to keep it healthy when we could. Devil’s Food offered several hearty yet nutritious dishes, like the farm vegetables with poached eggs (above) and Spring vegetable quinoa cakes (below).
Both dishes were filling and warming on a cold and windy Colorado day, and we licked our plates clean. The coffee is excellent as well – don’t miss it.
Lunch is always my favorite time to check out a pricier restaurant. I’d read about The Kitchen in a Travel + Leisure listicle (I love reading about food as much as I love writing about it), but wrote it off as being too expensive for this particular trip. But after searching high and low for a restaurant in LoDo open for early lunch with a dog friendly patio, we stumbled right upon The Kitchen and noticed that the lunch menu was fairly reasonable, we went for it.
The service was excellent not pretentious, another trend we noticed about the Denver dining scene. We started with radishes and ramp butter, a fresh and earthy delight. I don’t love raw radishes as much as I want to, but you can’t go wrong with ramp butter.
Wine prices were pretty high here, a nod to its fine dining roots I suppose, but beers were affordable. We each got a local brew to celebrate the start of our vacation.
Our entrees were fresh and full of flavor. Nothing broke the mold, necessarily, but each bite was delicious.
I had the lamb salad with Crego Farm lamb sirloin, piquillo peppers, olives, feta and lemon while Tom went with the hearty carnitas and peppers sandwich with Niman Ranch pork shoulder, red pepper relish, aioli and a side of mixed greens.
We both enjoyed our dishes very much, but more so the lively patio and friendly service. It was a great start to the trip.
We had another notable lunch just down the street at Marg’s Taco Bistro. We’d actually already been in once before for a drink, and decided we had to go back and try the food. They have a pretty excellent happy hour on top of already reasonable drink prices, so we ordered discounted margaritas and an obligatory order of chips and queso.
It’s easy to say you can’t go wrong with chips and queso, but actually that’s very far from the truth for me as I’m quite picky about such things. I’m happy to report, however, that Marg’s delivered with thin, flaky chips (a must) and rich queso with a hint of spice. This isn’t authentic Mexican cuisine, but we knew that going in. It’s comfort food, and it’s good.
We tried some tacos too, of course.
The caprese with chicken, fresh tomatoes and basil and a citrus basil spread was far and away my favorite, but we also tempura battered shrimp, vindaloo and menonita (fried cheese!). They weren’t the best tacos I’ve ever had, but very tasty overall and at a great price. I’d definitely be there for happy hour all the time if I lived in Denver.
Snacks + Drinks
We really didn’t do much snacking in Denver, which is unlike us. But it seemed it like we were always on the go or plenty full from a hearty meal. We did have a great afternoon bite at Eat + Drink, a casual wine bar with a dog friendly patio.
We opted for glasses of wine (rosé for me, tempranillo for him) and a trio of bruschetta, the perfect little afternoon bite. They also have an excellent selection of cheeses I definitely would have tried with a bigger appetite.
Other great spots to grab a snack and a drink, as heard through the Denver locals grapevine:
- The Source – An artisan market complete with a bakery, brewery, cheese shop, one of Denver’s hottest restaurants, and lots more.
- Avanti Food and Beverage – A super hip food hall with seven food trucks and two large bars.
Both of these places would also be great for lunch or dinner, or a cool date night. We went to The Source to visit Crooked Stave brewery and it was a really cool atmosphere that I’d definitely check out again.
Our Denver dinners were usually an afterthought after a long day of exploring. On our first night, we intended to pick up barbecue from a place by our Airbnb, but finding it closed settled for takeout from a local pub that was less than stellar. Luckily, the next two nights’ impromptu meals were more successful.
Before heading to Red Rocks on Thursday, we spent a leisurely afternoon at First Draft in RiNo.
First Draft is a pour-your-own taproom and restaurant with forty self-service taps and a delicious food menu. I’d been to similar places where you could pour your own wine, but really enjoyed it from a beer perspective because I’m not a huge beer lover and tend to be pretty particular about what I like.
They had a great selection of sours, IPAs, ESBs, amber ales – you name it. I tried a one to two once pours of several sour and amber brews, as well as a kombucha.
For our early dinner, we shared the Spaetzle mac and cheese with brown butter, Alpha Tolman cheese and parsley along with the crispy Brussels sprouts with mint and a Citra hop aioli. This was some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever eaten, and I don’t say that lightly. The Brussels sprouts were good, but nothing groundbreaking. The cheese plates and pretzels also looked promising.
I will say, the beer prices can add up quickly if you don’t pay attention, but it’s a fun place to go to try new brews if you can keep your pours in check.
If you’re looking for a casual and quirky dinner, then you can do no better than Cart-Driver, located inside a shipping cart in RiNo. We stopped in here with friends one night and had an awesome time. They serve wood fired pizzas and fresh oysters flown in daily. An odd combination, but with attentive service and affordable prices I thought it was a great concept. We opted just for pizza, which crusty and delicious with just the right amount of sauce.
Dog-Friendly Food in Denver
If you have a dog, be sure to check out some of the places I mentioned above for dog-friendly patios:
- Whittier Cafe
- The Kitchen
- Marg’s Taco Bistro
- Eat + Drink
- First Draft
We didn’t take Ashton to all of these places – it was too hot or cold or raining much of the time – but it was nice to find so many dog-friendly options in the city.
Have you been to Denver? What did you think of the food? What did I miss?
I was really bummed not to get to go to Linger or Illegal Pete’s while we were there… next time!