1675 Garden of the Gods Road, 444-5238, aspenpointe.org
AspenPointe Café sits inside the cavernous El Paso County Citizens Service Center, a place typically considered only when it's time to push paper at the DMV or get a travel vaccine at the El Paso County Public Health office. But with its noticeably affordable prices and secondary feel-good — operating as a social enterprise and culinary training program that empowers disenfranchised community members — it's worthwhile as a better-than cafeteria destination.
An atypical pad Thai ($5.99) is healthfully more veggies than noodles, including crisp squash and zucchini amid chicken chunks and traditional garnishes, while a large cranberry and feta salad ($6.29) strikes a sweet and salty balance under red wine vinaigrette with accenting slivered-almond crunch. The well-composed Chicken Cordon Bleu ($6.49) does its satisfying ham-and-cheese-stuffed dance next to generous wilted greens and real mashed potatoes. — Matthew Schniper
3750 Astrozon Blvd., #110, 596-4019
Our town's only Filipino/Hawaiian eatery has been in this location for the last year of its 31/2 in business, now under the care of Julie and Romeo Arruiza exclusively. Romeo handles the excellent savory goods, pre-made daily to stock a hot line for grab-and-go or dine-in. You can get one ($5.75), two ($6.95) or three ($7.95) items, with rice, or à la carte sandwiches and Asian bowls. See p. 21 to read about the guilty crispy pork belly, but also consider the dinuguan, which boils pork with vinegar, salt, onions and tomatoes before adding in corn starch-thickened pig blood to create a viscous, salty, tangy sauce.
Julie makes beautiful, nicely under-sweet desserts, like ube halaya (pasty purple yam balls) and cassava cake (dense yucca with tapioca texture, both $3.75). Also find tupig (coconut flakes compressed with rice flour) and suman (compacted sweet rice), both coconut-milk- and sugar-sweetened and elegantly wrapped in banana leaves ($1 each). — Matthew Schniper
Flatiron's American Bar & Grill
2540 Tenderfoot Hill St., 576-2540, flatirons.biz
Flatiron's seems to be doing a really kick-ass job helping the gluten-intolerant eat as widely as anybody else. Once requested, an entire menu was delivered to our table, and our server walked us through all ordering intricacies, including the disclaimer, also listed on the menu, that the restaurant "can't guarantee total absence of gluten in our food" due to shared cooking services, et cetera.
Either way, our entrées impressed. A penne à la carbonara ($13.95, plus $2.50 for chicken) brought good-sized chunks of smoky bacon together with grilled chicken and snappy peas in a clean and light cream sauce. As far as the gluten-free penne from Heartland Pasta, I could discern no difference. The Udi's Gluten Free bun on the country club ($9.45) was a little more dense than normal, but not enough to distract from the juicy, inch-thick pile of Black Forest ham, turkey, bacon, cheddar and Swiss with an herb mayonnaise. — Bryce Crawford