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Uchenna expands, Euro Cafe to absorb PJ's and a new(ish) spot for Mediterranean fare

Side Dish

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Ethiopian expansion

Uchenna (2501 W. Colorado Ave., #108, 634-5070) owner Maya Hetman — with whom, it must be said, I'm on "I love you" familiarity with (like many of loyals who've been absorbed by the warm culture) — confirms that she'll soon relocate a few doors down, to Suite 105. The larger space will allow for a minor menu expansion into other North African cuisines such as Algerian and Moroccan, plus wine and beer service, pending a license.

As soon as the new doors open — around month's end, tentatively — Hetman will convert the old spot into La Provence European & Mediterranean Bakery, which will be headed by her family friend Marie-Claude Arnaux, a master pastry chef on the way from France. Expect French and Ethiopian coffees, delicate and authentic pastries ("not those big croissants," she clarifies), gluten-free options, plus grab-and-go salads and sandwiches and a mini retail market featuring some of Uchenna's famed flavors. (It's still ranked No. 1 out of 1,130 in Colorado Springs on TripAdvisor.)

Jerusalem to Egypt

The former Taste of Jerusalem Cafe at 2810 S. Academy Blvd., #150, became Michael's Mediterranean Cuisine, michaelsmediterraneancuisine.com) back in, ahem ... April. Catching us up on that news today, Jerusalem owner Abdul Nasser says it was difficult to be in two places at the same time, so he approached his friend Michael Ezzat, formerly of the Nile Cafe and Westside International Restaurant, Deli & Mart, and asked if he'd buy the place.

After 32 years in the industry, Ezzat says he's also leery of overseeing two kitchens simultaneously — hence his conversion of Westside into a smoke shop this week. (Bam! ... Not late to that.) At Michael's, he's continuing to set himself apart from the local falafel faction by tapping his Egyptian roots — meaning subtle differences in everything from his hummus and tahini to herb-flecked french fries and a unique Arabic tea option.

"We do it differently," he insists, citing items among even his American offerings, such as a lamb burger with feta and olives, that embrace larger Mediterranean flavors.

New PJ's

Paul Jakubczyk, owner of nearly 12-year-old PJ's Bistro (819 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1195) wastes no time announcing his big plans for the future. The lease in his current spot won't expire for another year, but he's already sharing architectural renderings for an expanded, two-story European Restaurant & Cafe at 935 Manitou Ave., which he'll take over from his mother, fusing the two businesses into one by 2015.

Contemporary dining will be on the bottom floor, with a bar on top. A new menu will fuse popular Polish items like pierogi, stuffed cabbage and potato pancakes with American and larger European items. Ahead of that, PJ's is refreshing its menu on Friday, Nov. 15, and Jakubczyk will "spice up" and modernize the 17-year-old Euro Cafe's menu as early as Spring 2014.

Benevolent beer

"If I had to do a mash-up, I'd stay close to home and say it's like a blend of our Yellow Kite, Octoberfest and Winter Warlock," says Bristol Brewing Company (1604 S. Cascade Ave., bristolbrewing.com) founder Mike Bristol.

What's he describing? The newly concocted Give! Black Lager, a German-style Schwarzbier brewed specially for our Indy Give! campaign. (See p. 14 and visit indygive.com.) Starting Wednesday evening, Nov. 20, you'll find it on sale only in Bristol's taproom as well as at all four area Old Chicago locations (oldchicago.com).

With each pint purchased, customers can cast a vote for one of our 59 featured nonprofits; each vote grants that entity $2. When the last of 60 kegs is tapped, the top four vote-earners will split tiered shares of another $1,000 purse.

That's the charitable, financial side of the endeavor, very similar in spirit to Bristol's Community Ales series that includes its Venetucci Pumpkin Ale, Smokebrush Porter and Cheyenne Cañon Piñon Nut Ale. But as for the brew itself, there are several other aspects which have the man who made it quite excited.

For one, says Bristol, he's always wanted to brew a Schwarzbier, and he's finally able, now that the brewery has expanded its capacity with the Ivywild School move. He's also using a German-imported, de-husked malt called Carafa for the first time at Bristol, on top of the 2-Row and Munich malts that the brewery often incorporates into its grain bills.

What the Carafa adds to the "black beer" is a "darkness without the intensity" and "roastiness without the harsh edges," says Bristol, noting that it'd be ideal as well in a style like a black IPA, where one wouldn't want malt bitterness to overwhelm the hop bitterness. Other heavily toasted dark malts' husks contribute to the intense roasted quality of a stout or porter, which is desired for those styles.

This 5.5-percent ABV brew uses German Hallertau as well as Czech Saaz hops (the same duo used in Yellow Kite Summer Pils). It weighs in at a relatively low 23 IBUs, though from a pre-carbonated tasting, Bristol says the hops are more prominent than those numbers imply. Give! Black Lager also uses the same lager yeast from a 200-year-old German brewery as the pilsner, which also goes into the Octoberfest — hence Bristol's above mash-up.

"We love that yeast — it adds a soft, round character to the beer ... we wanted to use it for something else," he says. "This is a very traditional beer and at 5.5 not a big beer, which is nice at this time of the year around the holidays if you're out with friends and want to have three or four."

For mass-market beer comparison, Samuel Adams produces a year-round Black Lager label that incorporates the same malt trio. BeerAdvocate displays an expansive list of mainly international brands, but also some crafts, almost all lesser-known locally.

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