A solid weekday lunch is arguably the most underrated meal situation in Denver. Think about it — for a city abundant with exceptional restaurant options — the midday dining crowd is comparatively bleak. Understandably, people may not be especially keen on the prospect of breaking the bank during their lunch break. However, there are several affordable and flavorful options to consider for those seeking a satisfying bite to get over that afternoon slump. From perfectly portioned power-lunches to unique mix-and-match deals — a few of Denver’s restaurants have you covered this spring.
Where: 2601 Larimer Street, Denver.
Hours: Lunch is offered Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
The Lowdown: Did you know in Italy, lunch is often regarded as the most important meal of the day. While Italian fare may typically be associated with a carbohydrate-induced coma which isn’t necessarily conducive to daytime productivity — Il Posto’s power lunch proves to be something quite different. Just look at chef and owner Andrea Frizzi — brimming with energy and contagious fervor — Frizzi’s enthusiasm about Il Posto’s midday offerings will change the way you think about Italian lunch. Frizzi has lowered the price point while maintaining the portions of several Il Posto favorites. This includes the famous burrata with lavash crackers, 12-year-aged balsamic and basil; calamari with ciabatta bread, garlic, caper, shallot, anchovy, san marzano and kale; and pappardelle with berkshire pork-marjoram ragu, oyster mushroom and grana padano. Even the sandwich option is surprisingly light. The house piadina with mortadella, caciocavallo and Altius Farms mizuna comes in a perfectly light package of thin Italian flatbread. Additionally, Frizzi has brought back his chef’s counter lunch service with four courses for ($45) with half glass wine pairings. If day-drinking on Il Posto’s glorious patio strikes your fancy, but returning from a business lunch with a buzz isn’t on your agenda — try one of Il Posto’s delightful nonalcoholic concoctions. A virgin Negroni or virgin prosecco may please your palate. Also, if you aren’t sold yet — let the house-made gelato program be a sweet reward for your workday.
Where: 3033 Brighton Blvd, Denver.
Hours: Lunch is offered Tuesday though Friday, 11:15 a.m.-2:15 p.m.
The Lowdown: This spring, renowned chef Troy Guard’s cool, contemporary, Hawaiian-inspired concept introduced a lunch program for the very first time. Mister Tuna, a “neighborhood sanctuary” in RiNo, is offering a lunch plate with a choice of one main course, two sides and a beverage, (agua fresca or house lemonade,) for ($13.50). Main course options include rotisserie chicken (Muay Thai style or jerked), lentil “faux’lafel,” crimson cabbage, oak grilled sausage, eight day aged pastrami and — last but not least — the sweet and savory, absolutely succulent Kona coffee brined Kalua pig. Side dish choices are plentiful and surprisingly special — char grilled English peas with miso shallot butter, macaroni salad with green onion gribiche and cucumber and Thai kelp noodles with peanuts, cilantro and tamarind dressing — to name a few. Chef Tristan Epps —who has introduced the delightfully accessible lunch program along with many on-point spring items to Mister Tuna’s menu — will also offer the RiNo burger ($14.50), a masterful creation with a duck fat studded Angus patty, local pretzel bun, fontina soubise, T4 sauce, potato chicharonnes and mustard garlic aioli. Seeking something sweet to finish off your wood-fired lunch selections? Try a brown butter blondie ($3) or gluten-free bubu cookie ($3.50).
Hearth & Dram
Where: 1801 Wewatta St., Denver.
Hours: Lunch is offered Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
The Lowdown: A two-course lunch special in downtown Denver for ($16)? If this sounds too good to be true, roll over to Hearth & Dram — the sleek modern saloon next to Union Station with an impeccable whiskey selection, rock n roll attitude and bold, made-from-scratch approach to new American dishes. For the first course, there is a choice of buffalo mozzarella toast, avocado toast, falafel or shishito peppers. The second-course options adhere to the archetypal lunchtime salad or sandwich situation — however, executive chef Adam Vero and chef de cuisine Jeff Hickman have gone over and beyond to ensure that simple flavors go a long way. While the Denver Burger Battle peoples’ choice award-winning H&D burger with thick-cut bacon, cheddar and umami aioli (with the option of fries or a side salad) is an obvious choice, the smoked tofu Bahn mi is an excellent contender as well. Also, the salads are stunners like the chipotle shrimp salad or the teriyaki steak salad. Or give the larger plates ago — those include the California rice bowl with avocado, cucumber, nori and black pepper-wasabi vinaigrette or braised short rib shepherds pie with crisp potato gnocchi, roasted baby carrot and short rib jus. Unsolicited advice? Just dive into everything.
Where: 1702 Humboldt St., Denver.
Hours: Lunch is offered everyday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
The Lowdown: Denver, meet the perfect 10. To celebrate the launch of White Pie’s lunch program, any of the pizzas on the lunch menu will be available for ($10) for the rest of June. Not convinced? Okay — let’s dig a little deeper. For the same ($10), try a seriously delicious sandwich. We recommend the hot Ricky Bobby panini with prosciutto, mortadella, brie, pear, fig jam, arugula, pesto aoli and balsamic, or The Game Changer with burrata, pesto, roasted peppers, hot honey and basil. “Growing up in Connecticut, my brother and I always loved simple, warm pressed paninis and sandwiches with fresh ingredients for lunch. Things you never regret eating and crave the next day,” said Kris Wallenta, chef and co-owner of White Pie. If New Haven-style pizza and other Italian specialties spark your interest — White Pie is certainly worth a try during any afternoon.