- Matthew Schniper
Annually in this Insider guide we try to mix up our offerings. This year we have opted to highlight coffee shops, gourmet and Mexican places and the following list of venues we like for atmosphere. Our working concept was "cool/hip spots," the type we're likely to recommend to tourists and family visitors when we wish to show them the Springs' colorful culinary and drink face.
That said, we're leaving off many a fine establishment that doesn't fit under the themes we chose to highlight. Perhaps next year we'll weigh in on our favorite sushi spots, Thai eateries, pizza places or some other niche genre (meanwhile, check out our readers' favorite dining and nightlife spots on p. 53). For now, take this tour of businesses that lead with personality.
702 S. Cascade Ave., shugas.com
A leader in style, Shuga's exceeds expectations for a hipster spot. Sure, there's cheap PBR cans to fit under your waxed mustache, but we go for great cocktails and the Parisian-bistro menu aesthetic, to include small plates and the awesome spicy Brazilian shrimp soup.
1791 S. Eighth St., burrowingowllounge.com
It's essentially a vegan dive bar, where jackfruit pretends to be pork, soy protein informs sloppy joes and beer can options number high into the 10s. We love the use of apple cider vinegar and other fun touches in the cocktails, too.
616 S. Tejon St., coquettesbistro.com
Coquette's will be close to reopening in its new South Tejon Street space as this issue goes to print; they're aiming for a mid-April return, having originally launched in Manitou Springs before a move downtown. They could have just branded as a gluten-free eatery, but they've pushed beyond that with a playfully cheeky attitude that includes killer cupcakes, a fine bar and stellar eats. Expect expanded offerings in the new spot.
503 W. Colorado Ave., 503w.co
Asian fusion's the idea here, with several Korean influences, pork belly placed just right, and items like bao buns and Ahi tuna invoking gems from Eastern cuisines. Brunch brings the fun Bloody Mary bar, and 503 boasts a big craft beer selection and smart cocktails to support the eats.
The Wobbly Olive
3317 Cinema Point, wobblyolive.com
These cats pulled off the unthinkable by establishing an independent, craft-driven eatery and drink house smack in the middle of chain row on Powers Boulevard. They create lengthy seasonal cocktail lists, executed beautifully, and keep the food alluring, eclectic and interesting as well. Your spot for a kangaroo meat quesadilla and a Distillery 291 bourbon old fashioned spin-off with chocolate bitters. Also see their just-opened spot, The Collective, at 7702 Barnes Road.
- Matthew Schniper
- The Wobbly Olive
IV by Brother Luck
321 N. Tejon St., fourbybrotherluck.com
As I write this, Brother Luck Street Eats is just about to close at 1005 W. Colorado Ave. as chef Brother Luck transitions to his new haunt in the former Coquette's Bistro space. The chef remains on a high streak after having beat Bobby Flay on TV last year, which alone speaks to the caliber of creative food we expect to see at IV. Also check out neighboring Rooster's House of Ramen (323 N. Tejon St.) via Luck's collaborator Mark Henry, a Chopped winner, opening around April's end.
311 N. Tejon St., odysseygastropub.com
The long dining room is seemingly always packed, with the bar representing the Colorado craft beer and spirits scene well. Regulars return for items like braised bison gnocchi and mahi mahi street tacos. We always start with the crispy Brussels sprouts under Parmesan shavings.
2South Wine Bar
2 S. 25th St., 2southwinebar.com
The converted Victorian offers a charming spot to take in a drink with a charcuterie board or house flatbread. Nab a fine keg wine or microbrew and retreat to one of the intimate corners or the patio in summer months.
717 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, swirlismybar.com
Delivering a sophisticated, stylish drink house to Manitou, Swirl's a great spot for a good cocktail or lesser-seen wine and conversation inside a cool space.
Brooklyn's on Boulder
110 E. Boulder St., brooklynsonboulder.com
This swank speakeasy's really the tasting room front for Lee Spirits Co. and their array of excellent gins. The wait to get in can be long, but it's worth it and drinks are roundly outstanding. Wednesday to Saturday only.
- Matthew Schniper
- Bonny and Read Fresh Seafood & Fine Steaks
Bonny and Read Fresh Seafood & Fine Steaks and the Rabbit Hole
I'm lumping these two spots together as they're under the same ownership, which is also behind the barcade Supernova. The seafood house sets a fresh standard in a cool-colored atmosphere, while the subterranean space heads to a red and dark decor, ideal for late-night bantering, romancing and cocktail sipping.
La Baguette Upstairs
2417 W. Colorado Ave., labaguette-co.com/wine-bar
Hidden above the popular bakery, this loft space, open Thursday to Saturday only, hosts a small, smart wine list, some brews and spirits, including absinthe traditionally served. Nab a cheese plate, fondue or French raclette spread.
2527 W. Colorado Ave., pizzeriarustica.com
Envisioned partly as spillover or waiting space for the downstairs Pizzeria Rustica, Enoteca sports its own vibe, with more authentic Italian inspiration. There are ample wines to choose from and excellent digestivos or aperitifs, plus awesome small plates like octopus carpaccio.
The words "cool" and "hip" don't come to mind as much when citing the following places, but there are other types of personality we appreciate and find ourselves pointing people to for various reasons: The Public House Pub & Grill (445 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., facebook.com/PublicHouseColorado) for gourmet eats and sincere charm; Adam's Mountain Café (26 Manitou Ave., adamsmountaincafe.com) for fabulous food in an artful setting and mountain charm minus the "weird" Manitou vibe; Poor Richard's Restaurant and Rico's Café & Wine Bar (322 and 324 N. Tejon St., poorrichards.biz) for wholesome fare in a lively complex that includes toy and book stores; Bambino's Urban Pizzeria (36 E. Bijou St., bambinosurbanpizzeria.com) and Skirted Heifer (204 N. Tejon St., skirtedheifer.com) as sister outfits with likable build-your-own-pie and grass-fed burger concepts, respectively; Bingo Burger (132 N. Tejon St., bingoburger.com) for boozy shakes, Pueblo green chili influence and fun dipping sauces for fries; Alchemy (2625 W. Colorado Ave., alchemypubcolorado.com) for the Irish spin-off and some goofy-good cocktails; and Yellow Mountain Tea House (2616 W. Colorado Ave., yellow-mountain-organic-tea.com) because not everything's about hooch, the tea ceremonies are elegant and entertaining, and the house dumplings as a snack are phenomenal.