Cheap eats around and at ONA16


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Tea on the street in downtown Denver.

Narrowing cheap — and delicious — food options in Denver down to 10 (or so) suggestions is much harder than expected.  The city has a booming, diverse food scene that reflects a steady influx of new residents. A few notes for your week of eating:

Eating @ ONA16:  Host hotel Hyatt Regency at Colorado Convention Center offers full-service restaurant Altitude (main lobby), the Strata Bar open daily until 2 a.m. with drinks and snacks (main lobby) and beautiful Peaks Lounge, on the 27th floor of the hotel, which is not a cheap selection, but definitely worth the elevator right up at night to check out the view.

Perks Coffee, in the main lobby, is a combination deli/coffee and sundry shop — open 24 hours a day! It also sells wine — again, 24 hours a day. The hotel will also set up inexpensive grab-and-go options at lunchtime at kiosks on the first floor for a quick, portable lunch to bring with you to the Midway.

Be sure to visit Disney’s networking lounge (Mineral Foyer, third floor), Google’s coffee lounge,’s refuel lounge and Viafoura’s hydration lounge (all in the Centennial Foyer, third floor) for conversation, education and a variety of drinks and snacks throughout each day of ONA16 programming. Many other ONA exhibitors also will be offering treats, non-alcoholic refreshments and even libations in their lounge and booth spaces, so be sure to watch the #ona16 hashtag and make the rounds of the Capitol Ballroom (fourth floor) and Centennial Foyer (third floor) to see what’s available.

There are also a variety of receptions and events every day of the conference featuring smoothies, drinks and appetizers. Some require an RSVP for a drink ticket, but most are open to all full conference pass-holders. Check the ONA16 schedule page for details.

Food trucks/food carts: As you walk around downtown,  you’ll see a number of food carts serving everything from hot tea to sushi. On Thursday, Sept. 15, a few blocks from the Hyatt Regency, food trucks will gather in Civic Center Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., for the 3x-weekly Civic Center EATS. Lobster, bao, cupcakes — it’ll all be there. Track Denver food trucks here.

Donuts, tacos + beer: These options abound in Denver; each one could support its own blog post. Donuts to explore any time of day include Glazed & Confuzed, an outpost of famed Oregon bakery Voodoo Doughnut and Jelly (which boasts a great breakfast menu).

Taco houses worthy of worship include Marg’s World Taco Bistro, Austin import Torchy’s Tacos (get the fried avocado) and El Taco de Mexico.

Set up your own brew tour and explore Ratio BeerworksLittle Machine (near Broncos stadium), Great Divide Barrel Bar, newcomer Spangalang Brewery and literary themed Fiction Beer Company. And what could be better for a crew of word nerds than suds and Shakespeare?

10 Cheap Eats + Drinks (all distance estimates are from Hyatt Regency)

  • Sam’s No. 3 (1500 Curtis St., five-minute walk): Classic diner with large portions, featuring amazing local smoked fish (from Honey Smoked Salmon) and Colorado green chili. Open early and into late evening.
  • Mad Greens (several, closest is 16th St. and Stout on the 16th St. Mall, five-minute walk): Locally sourced quick-serve salads, wraps, juice and soups. Allergy-friendly!
  • Pinche Tacos/Tacos, Tequilas, Whiskey (1514 York St., 10-minute ride): Former food truck offers more than a dozen kinds of savory tacos under $5 (try the Shrimp & Scallop Xnic-Pec) and an expansive list of — you guessed it — tequila and whiskey.
  • Habit Carbon (1553 Platte St., 12-minute ride): This combo donut shop-bakery-coffee shop-cafe offers an “Exploded Breakfast Burrito” — egg, green chili, cheese and tater tots stuffed into a  brioche cone– that you should try at least once in your life. Extensive vegetarian options for lunch and dinner, too.
  • D’Corazon ( 1530 Blake St., 15-minute walk): Mexican comfort food and $3.57 margaritas, made from scratch. Really.
  • Larimer Lounge (2721 Larimer St., 10-minute ride): Happy hour specials include $2.50 PBR, $2.50 wells and $6 Happy Meals (Jim Beam + PBR). Resident food cart Rino Grill is parked in during Thursday’s Happy Hour Bingo + weekends offering burgers (including veggie!) and sausages.
  • Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs (2148 Larimer St., 8-minute ride): The self-proclaimed Colorado sausage czar offers 15 gourmet sausages, ranging from rattlesnake and wild boar to reindeer and pheasant cordon bleu.
  • Cook’s Fresh Market (1600 Glenarm Pl./16th and Glenarm, along the 16th Street Mall, 5-minute walk): Locally owned and sourced breakfast and lunch options, as well as a full service market.
  • Thrive360 (1001 17th Street @ Curtis, 10-minute walk): Fast, nutrition-focused breakfast and lunch, loads of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. Jenny’s noodle bowl offers local roasted tofu, miso-marinated clear noodles (carb-free), a trove of vegetables and Asian pickles and an organic quinoa-wild rice blend.
  • Ohana Island Kitchen (2556 15th St., 10-minute drive): Hawaiian food, lunch only. If you love SPAM Musubi, this is the joint.

And last, but always important to journalists: coffee. Eater published a recent guide to find top cups across the city.

Still hungry and on a tight budget? Denver Magazine 5280 has great reporting on affordable dining around town.

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