The longtime Ancient Mariner spot at 962 Manitou Ave. in Manitou Springs has become a new restaurant, bar and music space called Armadillo Ranch
as of the Fourth of July.
Former Manitou Springs City Administrator from 2014 until early 2018, Jason Wells, is the owner-operator, and it’s his first foray into restaurant life. He calls the move a “total left hand turn” personally, which he couldn’t have taken without the help of several others, including his girlfriend Jenna Gallas, who’s the special events coordinator for Visit Manitou Springs, in charge of the big town events like Carnivale. But Wells quickly credits bar manager Willis Gray, formerly of the Townhouse Lounge and Stagecoach Inn for bringing “valuable Manitou experience to the team,” and he rests most of the venture’s weight on the shoulders of Chef Lyn Ettinger-Harwell, formerly of Seeds Community Cafe and most recently with Border Burger Bar.
Harwell desired to “up the dinner menu game” says Wells, while still building an affordable menu that generally ranges between $9 and $11, topping out with a $14 shrimp scampi dish.
“Having worked here in the city, I saw lots of employees leaving Manitou for lunch — there wasn’t a quick, affordable deli-style lunch in town,” says Wells, noting an absence since Spice of Life closed years ago. “And there’s no Italian downtown, until you get to Savelli’s — and I love Italian food — so we filled two niches.”
The eclectic menu offers common starters like wings and a quesadilla, but also trendy plates like shishito peppers, while sandwiches made with Boar’s Head meats and cheeses include and Italian grinder, a “Manitou Muffaletta”, a BLT and more. Guests will also find burgers and barbecue plus familiar Italian entrées like chicken Parmesan, classic Alfredo and pasta Carbonara. A house signature dish, Braciole Neapolitan, rolls prosciutto, provolone and mozzarella with pine nuts, raisins, garlic, red onions and basil inside Callicrate Beef top round cuts, finished with tomato sauce over cavatappi pasta.
Wells notes late-night food-service hours, with the bar open officially 11 a.m. to close, often 2 a.m. on the weekends. He aims to have live music every Friday and Saturday night, to grow to Thursdays and Sundays too.
As for the name? “Well, there’s a story,” says Wells. “I tell people to come in and find me for a drink ... there’s a song behind it,” he offers, as a clue.