In addition to the rapid growth of Denver’s fine dining scene comes the idea of healthy, affordable fast-casual fare for the entire family. Instead of rolling through the drive-thru for what might be a questionable meal, check out these options when you’re on the go, but want to feel good about what you’re feeding the family.
Fans of Acorn and Oak at Fourteenth can confidently dine at Brider with little ones in tow. The order-at-the-counter menu caters to three meals a day, including a house-made egg and cheese bagel, the Oak meatball sandwich, an herb rubbed rotisserie chicken, and a shredded Brussels sprouts Caesar salad. The kids menu offers familiar bites, such as the grilled cheese, chicken fingers with mac ‘n’ cheese, or for the more adventurous child, meatballs and polenta.
Biju’s Little Curry Shop is a quick and convenient place to get your ethnic fare fix. The somewhat customizable menu can easily please the pickiest eaters. Biju Thomas first opened The Little Curry Shop in the RiNo district, and has since expanded into its second location on Tennyson Street. The coconut curry chicken is a customer favorite and is served with rice, lentils, sauteed cabbage, chutney, shallot yogurt, and slaw. Order a mango lassi—a smoothie made with yogurt, mango pulp, ice, and a touch of brown sugar—as a treat.
Call joined the RiNo neighborhood early last year, and has been noticed by food critics and national magazines ever since. The casual atmosphere, cool decor, and great patio make it the ideal spot for a family breakfast or lunch. The menu includes favorites such as salmon tartine, the aebleskiver (a Danish puffed pancake), and chicken salad sandwich. If you’re dining on the patio under the cosmic wall mural (created by artist Stella Maria Baer), see if you and the kids can name all the planets in order.
When it comes to pizza, the Neapolitan-inspired pies at Cart-Driver are craveworthy. The counter service is ideal for picking up a pie to-go or sticking around. (Seating can be limited on a busy night.) Located inside a shipping container with 25 seats, the restaurant offers quick and tasty wood-fired pizza with an eight-pie menu and no option to build your own. A must-try pie is the white, with the perfect amount of mozzarella, smoked ricotta, basil, and garlic.
The Chop Shop, with locations on East Colfax and in Lowry, is owned and operated by chef Clint Wangsnes, who has more than two decades of experience. Families on the go will keep coming back for the casual atmosphere and delicious American fare. The kids menu is comprised of favorites such as grilled cheese, cheeseburger, and chicken, with additional bites such as grilled steak and potatoes or the crispy fried tofu served with mashed potatoes. The main menu has a tender 48-hour slow cooked short rib, grilled achiote salmon, an Asian chop salad, and more.
Located in the RiNo district, the concept of Dio Mio comes from chefs Spencer White and Alex Figura, both of whom have extensive fine dining backgrounds, but decided to open a more casual approach to Italian cuisine. Pasta is made daily with fresh ingredients focused on what’s in season. You’ll still find kid-friendly and fan favorites such as cacio e pepe (fettuccine with black pepper and parmesan) and spaghetti alla chitarra (red sauce) along with a drink menu for the adults.
Known for their baked goods and delicious allergy-friendly menu, Olive and Finch (Uptown and Cherry Creek) makes a great stop. The kids menu boasts $5 meals of roasted chicken with veggies, grilled cheese served with kettle chips and fruit, and yogurt with granola, blueberry compote, honey, and fruit. On nicer days, families visiting the Cherry Creek location can place their orders at the counter then enjoy their meals outside while playing games of Jenga and cornhole or even enjoying the sandbox.
Cafe-style dining and quick service allows for an easy, family-friendly meal of tacos and authentic Mexican at this little spot tucked in a strip mall off Havana Street in Aurora. The recipes have come from generations of home-cooked meals and the food is served by family members running this quaint space. The prices are affordable ($1.50 for a taco or tostada, most entrees under $10) which makes trying new dishes an easy feat even for the littlest of diners. The menu is filled with tacos like al pastor (marinated pork), buche (pork stomach), or nopales (cactus).
After opening the doors to vegetarian- and vegan-friendly fast-casual dining on Tennyson just over two years ago, Vital Root continues to be a favorite. Whether dining indoors or out, there is something to keep children and parents happy, including kids activities and kid-friendly food. The kids menu includes a cheese quesadilla with avocado, country fried tofu with maple mustard, and an almond butter and jelly sandwich. There’s even a tasty smoothie menu with sips such as the blueberry and acai smoothie with almond butter, hemp seed, banana, spinach, and basil.