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Coquette's Bistro dishes delight from downtown Colorado Springs

Appetite

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Since 2009, Coquette's Bistro has been in the gluten-free business and, cousin, business is a-boomin'. The restaurant has undergone multiple expansions, going from a small Manitou Springs spot for crêpes to a full bakery. Its goods, made with proprietary flour, are sold in Whole Foods Markets across the state. Its sassy logo has been redesigned for a slightly more demure look, and the menu expanded out of the French niche.

Coming up on its fifth anniversary, Coquette's is starting yet another new chapter as a player in the Springs' downtown scene, replacing the Curry Leaf Restaurant in the location across from Poor Richard's on Tejon Street.

The new restaurant battles the wide-open space by dividing it into sections: an entry bakery counter, a mid-section dining area, and a back bar made of black granite. Taken together, it's a pretty chill space, even if the back two-thirds still feels a little too airy.

And once you're in the kitchen's hands — where co-owners Turu Marx-Eurich and Michelle Marx handle the baked goods, while Turu's husband Danny helms the stove — little goes awry. At every turn, Coquette's is trying to surprise or delight with a menu that's 100 percent gluten-free, not to mention sensitive to the needs of vegans and those with food allergies.

If you ask me, it's the desserts where the restaurant really flexes. There's something about an Earl Grey crème brûlée ($7) next to clear puddles of anise syrup set off with islands of cream that just gets the pulse going. Or consider the Lavender Love Floret ($9), where a fried shell looking something like a flower holds a cold mound of lavender-infused chocolate mousse. A huge slice of black-and-white cake ($7.50) may be a little dry, but it's also dense and rich; while even a simple vanilla-chai cupcake ($4.50) tastes notably like spice and cream. I usually can't stand the texture of bread pudding, but the apple and walnut version here ($9) was a cinnamon-and-brown-sugar bomb of delight.

And through none of this did it occur to me that everything is gluten-free. You just never notice. You might notice the price, because between desserts and drinks like the fresh orange-basil martini ($9), it's pretty easy to stack a check. But I bet you'll never decipher an off texture or weird taste.

The biscuit-like bread on the Veggie Burger ($11) doesn't keep well, but it's perfect at the restaurant, where the Southwestern bean patty is a fun eat. Or go with an impressively thick Cuban sandwich, where mounds of pork butt reign supreme. Heartier options include a creamy chicken pot-pie ($13) and an amazing hanger steak ($23). The latter plays with the charred flavor of the grill, versus the meaty taste of warm fat.

The best salmon is barely seasoned, but adding strawberries and sage ($20) makes for an interesting plate. The Tokyo Crepe ($14) was the only bummer, its dry rice setting off a dry shell packed with bland ahi tuna.

Appetizers include jalapeño corn-dog bites ($8) with a salty-sweet shell perfect for eliciting carnival memories; OK shrimp bruschetta ($10); and Caprese Bites ($8) that come off like little pouches of balsamic-laced bliss.

Actually, all together, you might better describe Coquette's as being in the bliss business. And, cousin, business is a-boomin'.

bryce@csindy.com

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