306 S. Eighth St., 633-9616, lacasitamexigrill.com
I have let my stomach go too far: I'm grumpy hungry, near ravenous, heading down Highway 24 and desperate. Then all I see is pink. Pink stucco, to be precise, a Pepto-Bismol pavilion of sweet relief, whose drive-thru meets every desire I have at that moment. Which is speed — they're awesomely fast, even at peak lunch hours — and a foam box of gut-bomb goodness.
La Casita isn't epic, it's just essential, so right in so many moments of need, with some of the finest, fluffy flour tortillas known to the famished, and wholly serviceable Tex-Mex and Southwestern staples like the green chili plate ($7.29): a starchy, goopy rendition with mild heat but hearty pork flavor, best swirled into the accompanying moist Spanish rice and decent refried beans, topped of course with a couple mini-ramekins of the hottest house salsa for some panache. — Matthew Schniper
Carniceria Leonela Meat Market
3736 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 637-2641, carnicerialeonelagrocerystore.com
My order is called out across the orange, yellow and green room inside the large Latin market, so I walk to the cash register, followed by the blaring of trumpets bouncing from the speakers. Next to the register is a bottle opener on the wall, from which the hiss of opened soda sings out every couple minutes. "Tilapia mojarra?" I nod, because I can't speak. Holy mother of god: This thing — with its juices still boiling from three deep slices across its blackened, crispy flesh — is effing huge; especially for $9.99, and especially for how ridiculously entertaining an experience the eating of it is. The chunks fork off in big, white, flaky cubes. It's mild and clean, but like every roasted meat, the fish's salty skin, which tears almost like fish jerky, is the best part.
Watch the clear, thin bones; use the corn tortillas and guacamole to get taco with it; and relish the non-cloying house horchata ($2.29). — Bryce Crawford
Rockyard Brewing Company
880 Castleton Road, Castle Rock, 303/814-9273, rockyard.com
Though Rockyard may have the feel of a Rock Bottom, it's been independently owned since its inception 14 years ago and it boasts plenty of personality beyond the please-alls, not to mention GABF awards. I visited for the recent, inaugural and excellent Colorado Brewers Guild' Rendezvous at the Rock, grabbing a bite and overall commendable seven-beer sampler ($9.80) beforehand.
The mango bbq pork wings ($15.95), actually bone-in shanks, boasted a nice array of sides and super tender meat, but the chipotle-mango-stout glaze lacked expected fruitiness, pizazz and potency. Instead, take our waitress' sage advice and get the Rockyard Knots ($8.95), two giant, soft, cheese-stuffed pretzels, which are incredibly satisfying dipped in the unique, kick-ass house cream of jalapeño soup ($3.75/cup). Our favorite brew: the Ryed Hard rye pale ale. — Matthew Schniper