15 E. Bijou St., 635-8303
Recently reopened after a three-year, fire-induced hiatus, our cigar-smoke-laced, speakeasy-vibe martini bar now struggles to regain its foothold. It's experiencing only a fraction of its old patronage, says owner Alan Pak, who on a slow Thursday, serves free Jameson shots to some (one way to build loyalty), while we receive eggnog shots and complimentary self-cook s'mores over a Sterno can.
The menu has changed little: cloyingly sweet, syrupy, cream-based cocktails ($12) with crude names, like the Multiple Orgasm, whose Cuervo Gold is entirely masked by creamed Frangelico and Kahlua for a nutty, White Russian personality. The Ménage à Trois is a step toward sophistication, with St. Germain, Absolut Pear vodka and Champagne for herbal smoothness with an effervescent edge. Still, so the smut doesn't diminish the swank, I'd vote for a menu overhaul with finer (and local) spirits. The world's moved on since 2010; let's see a phoenix rise from the ashes, not a parrot. — Matthew Schniper
Rustlers Country Café
Hotel Eleganté Conference and Event Center, 2886 S. Circle Drive, 576-5900, hotelelegante.com
Bought in May by a family-owned Texas company, the former Crowne Plaza Hotel features millions in renovations, including a fancy concrete arch and an exterior salmon-and-sunflower paint job that's just this side of a Mexican restaurant. A huge, stone Ten Commandments sits outside the front door, which opens into a spacious room where an employee tells us that it doesn't matter whether we eat in the empty Rustlers Country Café or the empty Rawhide Sports Bar, because it's the same food.
I'd say it matters even less than that, because there's nothing except the name to differentiate Rustlers from the lobby behind it. Classical music, monotonous art and a colorful '60s thing are present throughout. While the ceiling lights periodically flicker, we go with a catfish po-boy and bacon cheeseburger ($8 with fries and drink). Both taste cheap and generic, sometimes dry, sometimes mushy. — Bryce Crawford
1829 Briargate Blvd., 265-6922, joeysnypizza.net
The best New York-style pizza in Colorado Springs only moved a few doors down, in this Briargate shopping center across from the Chapel Hills Mall, but at least quadrupled its dining area from the time when there were only two tables and a trash can. Now, Empire State paraphernalia shares space with corrugated metal and a wall-wide spray-painted mural of Joey Stasolla's first name. The owner, who made a little bit of a name for himself with a short 2011 run on FOX's MasterChef, still mans the front counter, where a sign touts the best wings in town and a two-handed slice of pepperoni goes for $3.
The 10-piece Bada-Bing Wings ($9.50) do indeed boast a delicious, tongue-zapping sauce, but fall prey to a common ailment of breaded wings: They get mushy fast. The pizza is flawless, however — thin, fresh, light, jammed with garlic. There aren't a lot of toppings, but you don't notice as each oozing, lava-hot bite seems to melt down your throat. — Bryce Crawford