cheap eats boulder

Don’t miss the pan-fried chicken at The Mediterranean in Boulder. (Photo: Courtesy of The Mediterranean)

Eat + Drink

Best Restaurants in Boulder on a Budget

What do you get when you cross a university town with a year-round population of endurance athletes? A great collection of restaurants serving serious calories at prices that will make you think it’s 1995 again.

And the bonus? All of these restaurants are locally owned and operated, and some use organic, locally sourced vegetables and grains and antibiotic-free, hormone-free meats when available.

Gondolier Italian Eatery

When carbs are what you crave, head to “The Gondo” on Tuesday for the $6.99 All-You-Can-Eat-Spaghetti special — and they aren’t kidding. Your server will continue to bring you plates of thick-cut homemade pasta until you cry uncle.

Spaghetti is served with marinara sauce or oil and garlic; you can also do a plate of half and half. Meatballs are extra.

The Mediterranean

cheap eats boulder
Affordable small plates and an elegant atmosphere make “The Med” a must. (Photo: Courtesy of The Mediterranean)

Happy hour at “The Med” is one of Boulder’s most elegant budget menus. Choose from an extensive selection of hot and cold tapas, most between $4 to $6. Favorites include the gambas a la plancha, calamari fritti, baba ganouj and tabbouleh. Order a few plates to share, and you’ll still have money left over for a glass of sangria. The best news: They recently added late-night happy hours!

World Famous Dark Horse

The World Famous Dark Horse is Boulder’s best dive bar, with a menagerie of antiques and other random items covering every inch of wall space, nightly drink specials, karaoke, bingo, live music, trike races and the starving-student meal deal: burger, fries and a beer for $5.50.

If you don’t have a student I.D., you might as well just go all out and order the Jiffy Burger and fries ($7.99) or a basket of their famous chicken wings ($8.99).


cheap eats boulder
Craving Nepalese on a budget? Head to Sherpa’s. (Photo: Getty)

Boulder has more than its fair share of good Nepalese restaurants, but Sherpa’s, located in a historic Victorian just off the Pearl Street Mall, is a favorite. Chef Jangbu Sherpa summited Mt. Everest 10 times without oxygen, so yeah, the food’s authentic.

For about $8, you can fill up on their daily lunch special, one of the best deals downtown. A very hearty dinner runs from $12 to $15.

Illegal Pete’s

There’s no better budget meal than free, especially if it’s a humungous, Mission-style burrito. If you’re in a band traveling to Colorado for a gig, head to Illegal Pete’s (the original location is on The Hill) and ask for their Starving Artist special. For everyone else, fork over the seven bucks for a burrito and find somewhere quiet to relax and digest.

Sushi Zanmai

Sushi Zanmai has a nightly happy hour with food and drink specials, but the best time to visit is Saturday night when all rolls are $1 or $2 off, and there are drink specials and karaoke from 10 p.m. on. You can also take introductory Japanese lessons on Sunday morning.

Other Notables

Don’t miss 50-cent wings on Wing Night Wednesdays at Boulder Beer on Walnut; breakfast at The Buff with 99-cent Bloody Marys, mimosas and tequila sunrises (expect a wait at peak brunch times, especially on game-day Saturdays); or the whole menu at the Mountain Sun or Southern Sun, where most items are under 10 dollars.