We're not saying that it's a perfect idea to spend your last $10 eating out, but if you were going to anyway, here's where we think you might do well. Every entrée on this list costs ten bucks or less, and is guaranteed to be good.
In a short time, 503W (503 W. Colorado Ave., 503w.co) has gone a long way in what used to be a dingy (if beloved) west-side hangout. Our readers' co-favorite for Best New Restaurant kicks out the craft cocktails and food like its kimchi burger. The cabbage goes through a 48-hour fermentation before joining eggs, bread crumbs and ground beef in a thick patty seared over hot sesame oil. That baby's then topped with house pickled onions and a soy-sesame mayo before getting tucked in a brioche roll from Old School Bakery.
Bella's Bakery & Bistro
You could do a lot worse than ordering meatballs from a woman who used to dream of cooking them for you, and you couldn't do much better than eating Katherine Schmidt's version at Bella's (3 E. Bijou St., bellasbakeryandbistro.com). Get 'em with a robust marinara, or a dark chipotle-cranberry sauce that will remind you of a rich French onion soup when combined with beef meatballs and mozzarella on a chewy roll.
Despite the intriguing rows of groceries at Carniceria Leonela (3736 E. Pikes Peak Ave., carnicerialeonelagrocerystore.com), make for the good-sized cafe in the back and prepare thyself for pescado — or, more specifically, the tilapia mojarra. It's a sight to behold, this whole fish with juice boiling from slashes across its deep center, the skin having crisped into a meat chip flecked with salt. Pull the whole thing apart into flaky chunks, and don't forget to watch for the bones.
The Corner Cafe
Sitting in a squat strip across from the county courthouse, The Corner Cafe (7 E. Vermijo Ave., cornercafecs.com) is perfectly situated to salve legal shock. You can try a variety of methods — the habanero ketchup is sublimely pissed off — but we recommend the Kick'n Burger. Co-owner Bob Smoot takes fresh beef and pairs it with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and a jalapeño-ranch dressing, resulting in a sloppy, stinging hug. Sub in a fried chicken breast to really feel the love.
Duca's Neapolitan Pizza
There are big, sexy Stefano Ferrara ovens at the back of Duca's two locations (12229 Voyager Pkwy. and 236 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., ducaspizza.com). Their wood fire turns the heat up to around 1,000 degrees, meaning 11-inch Neapolitan pizzas cook in about a minute and a half. Pizzas like the one delicately layered with Gorgonzola and caramelized onion. Delicious blobs of cheese dot a thick, chewy crust marked with rosemary.
Odyssey (311 N. Tejon St., odysseygastropub.com) stepped into big shoes when it moved into the space that previously housed the classic Tony's Bar (now across the street), but it did so with swagger — as seen with the restaurant's fish and chips. The plate starts with mahi mahi replacing the traditional cod. It gets tossed in a batter made from sparkling water and Deschutes Brewery's Black Butte Porter, fried, then placed alongside tartar sauce laced with Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce and waffle fries.
El Poblano Mobile
El Poblano runs its mobile unit out of an old school bus parked on the side of the road (230 N. Chelton Road, 209-4385) and retrofitted with a diner countertop and matching stools. Entering through the rear, you'll see the kitchen in the front, from which all manner of succulence is secured — but especially, tripe tacos. Usually made using beef or pork intestines, tripas are boiled to tenderness before being fried in their own fat, leaving an addictively crisp outside to shelter a luscious inside. Throw on some cilantro, white onions and pepper sauce.
The view up the pass is worth the drive whether you stop for lunch or not, but if you do, you might think "fried discs of cheese." It's the house-made fried mozzarella at Sorrisos (108 E. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, 686-1212) that we dream of, its golden crust of crunch holding back thick, oozing cheese, pulled in-house. A side of marinara splashed with cream could almost be tomato bisque, and the fresh Parmesan is a nice touch.
El Taco Rey
Though there's usually a line out the door at El Taco Rey (330 E. Colorado Ave., eltacorey.com), filling up any space between the few tables inside, trust me, it's worth the wait: You need a pork avocado burrito in your life. The magic starts with a juicy, pulse-raising shredded pork that's been deeply marinated in spice, gifting a muddy scarlet color. It continues with some crunchy lettuce, cheese and tomatoes. A thumb-thick layer of freshly mashed avocado seals the deal.
Urban Steam Coffee Bar and Café
Simple is always sexy, especially when it comes with a thick slice of baked ham from High Valley Farm in Castle Rock. Thus cometh the Tourist, a crisp English muffin topped with two golden eggs over-easy, Tillamook cheddar and the aforementioned pig. (Or turkey, but who are we kidding?) "I just wanted something simple and easy for both the kitchen and customers to order," says Kelly Bubach, owner of Urban Steam (1025 S. Sierra Madre St., urbansteamcoffee.com), "and it's turned into this little icon."