Best local chain restaurants in Denver: 5 staples for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems).

“Chain restaurant” can have a negative connotation.

But these Colorado-based chains are some of my favorite meal stops any day of the week for high-quality food, reasonable prices and little to no fuss.

Note: To be considered a local “chain,” I’m including restaurants with three or more locations in town. I’ve also included what I like to order at each.

(Have another favorite local chain? We’d love to hear about it, so feel free to email with suggestions.)

Chook feels like a healthier and better-sourced Boston Market (I grew up eating at the latter). James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Seidel started the fast-casual chicken shop on South Pearl Street in 2018 and has since grown it to include three more locations around Denver. I get the Chook for Two for $29.95. It comes with a half-rotisserie chicken and a choice of two sides (try the mashers & gravy and charred mixed veg), plus a small salad and sauces such as barbecue or chimichurri (my favorite).

Four locations in Denver; chookchicken.com 

Dae Gee started in Colorado in 2012 and has since expanded to five locations along the Front Range, plus a franchising program for restaurants farther away. The Korean menu includes a special unlimited barbecue option for lunch ($30) and dinner ($38), but I go for Bee Beem Bhop (bibimbap) with steamed rice, a fried egg, gochujang sauce, veggies and beef short rib (galbi), for $17.

Five Front Range locations, with another on the way, daegee.com

Illegal Pete’s 10 Colorado locations make it an easy choice for giant Mission-style burritos, filling tacos and all the chips, queso and guacamole you can fit in. Frankly, I prefer it to Chipotle for my frequent Ameri-Mex cravings. And the bar, featuring local drafts and strong coin-style margaritas, is always consistent. Go for the face-sized potato-and-carnitas-stuffed burritos ($10.58), or ask for a somewhat healthier veggie burrito bowl with cilantro-lime rice ($8.29).

10 Colorado stores, illegalpetes.com

Pizzeria Locale is my go-to for mais pizzas (corn, creme fraiche and ham, $11) and cups of budino (butterscotch and chocolate pudding, $2.50) for dessert. I feel like a really fancy kid when I order this specific combination, so I usually add on a salad to sound more grown-up. The Neapolitan-style pies are delicious at this fast-casual spinoff of the Boulder sit-down restaurant. It’s family-friendly, with a menu that food-lovers of all ages can appreciate.

Four Denver-area locations, pizzerialocale.com 

Snarf’s is the king of hoagie-style sandwiches as well as juicy burgers at three Front Range Snarfburger joints. My new favorite sandwich is the vegetarian with bacon (yes, I know, $8.65), and you have to order the Cubano at least once. (A selection of Zapp’s potato chips also add to the fun.) If you make it to one of three local Snarfburgers, be sure to order sides of frozen custard ($3.50) and fries ($2.60).

Two-dozen-plus locations open and coming soon to Colorado, eatsnarfs.com, snarfburger.com

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