Typically the words French and affordable do not go hand in hand. Rather in most cities a French restaurant will be the most expensive and often the most pretentious (“sorry you can’t wear yoga pants in here”). But in Denver we have the exception to that rule, a place where you can get your finely crafted charcuteries and bouillabaisses without breaking the bank… Le Central, located on 8th and Lincoln, is this shining beacon for all snobby restaurateurs to see that French food can be affordable and delicious. Here you can get fresh poultry, seafood and beef dressed in a finely crafted sauce for under $20 as well as a bucket filled with mussels marinated every which way with unlimited fries for only $11. It is no wonder this place has been in business for thirty years and continues to be one of the most well-loved and revisited restaurants in Denver. Personally I was even a little giddy while reviewing this place because I was so excited that a restaurant like this exists. Beef Bourguignon for how much? Whattt?
The only detectable differences that I could sense from the $50-a-plate French restaurant to the one at Le Central are minuscule (a little lack of acidity here and an uncreative pairing there). But overall this place is definitely worth revisiting over and over not only because you can afford to do so but because they change their menu not once but twice a day. This type of creative collaboration is always exciting to be a part of even as a diner because it’s easy to see (and taste) that every dish is a product of love and pride. Plus seeing a more lax side of French culture is refreshing. This calm atmosphere along with the eclectic European décor is how I like to imagine the artists and poets of 19th century bohemian France wined and dined (but without all the smoke and absinthe). Hopefully the people of Denver will continue to be as loyal of patrons as those poets and artists once were because Le Central is a thing of culinary beauty and I would be more than happy to see it last another thirty years.