College, a place to come and rack up tens of thousands of dollars of debt, buy vastly overpriced text books and feel blessed when they give you a quarter when you sell them back. There's also the price-gouged rent, overpriced drinks and bail money.
This bottomless money-sinking black hole can strain your finances to the breaking point. Sure, there are ramen noodles — copious soul-crushing amounts of ramen noodles. You can doctor them up. You can drink yourself half blind before you eat them. But they are still ramen noodles and I can't stand ...
Calm down. Here are some cheap places to eat.
2000 Arapahoe Ave.
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday,
The owners of the tasty chain of Snarf's Sandwich Shops have given this cute hamburger stand the kiss of life — KISS as in the "Keep it Simple, Stupid" model of smooching. Perhaps taking inspiration from In-N-Out, the slim, classic menu offers only burgers, a few sandwiches, fries, onion rings and frozen custard, and all are priced to move.
A single patty is only $3.99, and the more satisfying double is $5.75, but the fun and nostalgia of the tiny location and outdoor picnic table seating has value in itself. Vegetarians might be surprised that the $5.75 veggie patty, crisp in a falafel crust with a topping of the house hot-pepper giardiniera, holds its own against the beef. Add those peppers or A-1 steak sauce, barbecue sauce, relish or Thousand Island to any burger for no extra charge.
Zoe Ma Ma
2010 10th St.
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
The name of the Dim Sum/Then Some category of Zo Ma Ma's menu will not only make you smile, you can also fill your belly with five choices of small plates for under $3 each: pork-and-shrimp pot stickers, vegan dumplings, pearl meatballs, steamed buns and a hot-and-sour soup with a killer stock of pork and shitake mushrooms.
You also can't go wrong with any noodle-based dish, because all the noodles are made in-house. You can sometimes see those and the dumpling dough being rolled out behind the counter. One of the splurge-iest things on the menu is the Sunday-Tuesday special of the homemade noodles with Sichuan-braised beef at $11.79, but it's a rich, delicious meal that two light eaters can split.
To best enjoy the casual, street-food concept, plan on sharing one of the few indoor community tables, dining on the patio or taking your quick bite to go.
Las Palmeras Taqueria
1131 Francis St., Longmont
6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
No, it's not in Boulder. No, I don't care. College students need a little culturing, and you'll be surprised how much different Longmont is, even if it's just about 12 miles up the road.
Las Palmeras has your standard Mexican fare, and Longmont-bound reporters eat there — a lot. The breakfast burritos are dirt cheap and come with a variety of awesome meats — bacon, chorizo. The thing to get, however, is a plate of barbcoa tacos. Barbacoa is cow cheek, and it is delicious. Eat five or six of those, and you can skip the Adderall-fueled study sessions. Seriously, barbacoa is working man's food.
John Bear: twitter.com/jonbearwithme