Best Of » Food, Drink & Nightlife

Best of 2009: Feasting

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Paravicini's Italian Bistro (2802 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8200,

Co-owner Franco Pisani describes Paravicini's food as "vibrant." He's got it right. If foods were colors, Paravicini's menu items would simply explode with rich reds, golden browns and creamy yellows. Pasta dishes and signature originals such as veal scaloppini with spicy Italian sausage, onions, hot and sweet peppers, capers, olives and garlic (of course!) are hearty and fragrant. Paravicini's loyal customers love the classics such as tortellini carbonara and beef-and-spinach lasagna, but Pisani says they also appreciate the fresh seafood entrées. Take note, if you haven't already: The one-time Palmer Lake location, though still under Pisani's watch, is now called La Zingara. — DA

Dining Atmosphere

Writer's Pick

The Cliff House at Pikes Peak's Veranda (306 Cañon Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-3000,

I said in a recent food review that the cushy wicker chairs and relaxing sound of a nearby courtyard fountain make the Cliff House's veranda the type of space where you could envision lounging and reading a thick book every day for the rest of your life. Sure, there's sweet patio dining all over town, and places with even more scenic overlooks, but there's something truly special about this comfortable and romantic porch. Call it part of the odd Manitou Springs energy if you wish. But you'll find yourself as content as a housecat on a sunny stretch of linoleum the moment you sit down here. — MS

Restaurant for Carnivores

The Famous (31 N. Tejon St., 227-7333,

For so many years, people who frequented downtown Colorado Springs felt shortchanged because there wasn't a truly upscale, high-end, no-holds-barred steak place for those occasions when cost wasn't a factor. The Famous took care of that shortcoming, and it has persevered through the tough times. You can expect to pay more than $40 now for the best steaks — filet mignon, New York strip, porterhouse or the exemplary bone-in Kansas City strip — but sides like asparagus or sautéed mushrooms are usually large enough to serve four people. And we can't forget the appetizers, especially the Maryland lump crabcakes or crabmeat cocktail, both of which are to die for. There's a lunch menu, too, with slightly smaller cuts of meat priced very reasonably. It's definitely a downtown landmark now, as good as anything like it in Denver, Chicago or other major cities. — RR

Restaurant for Herbivores

Adam's Mountain Café (934 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1430,

As a "mostly herbivore" eater, choosing a dish at Adam's Mountain Café is always a challenge. Orange almond French toast or cream-sherry new red potatoes for breakfast? A nut-laden Planet Burger or a pear and pecan salad for lunch? And then there's dinner: The crostini with figs and pears appetizer is a must-have, and I don't care how stuffed you'll get adding it to your main course of Harvest Crepes or Rural Italian Lasagna. While you wait for your meal — their "slow food" prep takes longer and tastes better for it — sit back and enjoy the quirky art of Manitou's own Charles Rockey, which lines the walls. Lift a glass of organic wine and toast Adam's 16th year of winning this category, well deserved. — KA

Wait Staff

Bistro de Pinto (26 E. Kiowa St., 473-3538,

My husband and I have celebrated many a birthday and wedding anniversary at Bistro de Pinto. The cozy restaurant, which seats a max of 32, provides a calming atmosphere in which to relax and enjoy an amazing, high-quality lunch or dinner. Of course, the wait staff plays into that. My current standard for great service is whether or not my water glass is constantly refilled without it first going dry. And let me just say, I've never had to ask for more water at Bistro de Pinto. Add to that friendly, professional staff who seem to live by the motto, "The customer is always right," and you can't go wrong eating at Tammy and Mike Pinto's three-year-old downtown restaurant. — KA


Jamba Juice (3730 Bloomington St., 574-8787 • 1708 E. Woodmen Road, 598-1939

Taking your vitamins never seemed so decadent. Maybe that's why Jamba Juice came in first among readers this year. What's not to like in a vitamin-laced brew of passionfruit and mango juice, strawberries, peaches and a dollop of orange sherbet? And throw in an extra shot of Vitamin C, just because you can. This smoothie, called Caribbean Passion, is a hot seller at the Jamba Juice on Woodmen Road. Smoothie aficionados over on Powers Boulevard prefer orange juice and protein boosts. Smoothies and boosts (nutritional extras) are Jamba Juice's specialty, but the national chain also has sandwiches, salads (try the couscous and produce) and other yummy items such as oatmeal with blueberries and blackberries. — DA


Culpepper's Cajun Kitchen (6502 S. Academy Blvd., 282-8479,

In the last year, Culpepper's has gone through some major changes. But it hasn't skipped a beat. After the economy took a digger, Martin Anderson and his wife, Kathy, picked up their business from Briargate and moved it down to the South Academy and Highway 115 area. They substituted "Cajun" for "Louisiana" in the outfit's name, and created a more casual, less expensive dining experience that retained all its former glory. Martin Anderson says he feels more comfortable with the added time he gets cooking in the kitchen now, and enjoys the bustling lunch traffic from soldiers eager for a taste of Southern spice. — MMR

Longtime Locally Owned Restaurant

Writer's Pick

Maggie Mae's Restaurant & Pub (2405 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 475-1623)

If you're looking for a restaurant with a varied menu that's close to downtown and locally owned, none beats Maggie Mae's. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, the menu offers pages of options, from the hearty "meat lover's omelet" stuffed with bacon, ham and sausage — a heart attack on a plate, but what a way to go! — to salads and sandwiches. Its green chili, whether smothering a burrito or sitting by itself, is some of the best in town. Maggie Mae's has been locally owned for 38 years, plenty of time to wipe away any vestiges of the Village Inn that occupied the building beforehand. — PZ

Patio Dining

José Muldoon's (222 N. Tejon St., 636-2311,

What's better than sitting under the hot sun drinking a margarita? Nothing, except maybe sitting next to a fire pit on a crisp evening drinking a margarita. These two scenes are not just great because of the margarita (though it certainly helps), but because both can be experienced at José Muldoon's. Both day and night, the North Tejon Street fixture accommodates diners and provides bar access on its expansive patio. Winter doesn't even shut down the revelry, now that José's has permanently installed outdoor heaters. Perhaps the best endorsement of the space: Manager Cindy Biondo says hungry customers are willing to wait to get a table out there. — AA


Panera Bread (Multiple locations,

Though Panera offers somewhere between seven and nine different soups daily, a few of them sell particularly well. Employees call them the "Big Four": baked potato, chicken noodle, French onion and the perpetual big seller, broccoli cheddar. If none of that works for you, consider vegetarian, low-fat vegetarian and thicker "sticks-to-your-ribs" varieties. Bridging the categories for which Panera has been voted No. 1: Every soup is available in a bowl, a cup, or an edible bowl made of sourdough bread. And if you prefer your bread without soup? There's more than 50 breads, sandwiches, pastries, scones, muffins, bagels, brownies, cakes and rolls, enough to stall any hungry customer for a moment of delicious contemplation. Sandwiches are served cold, grilled or toasted, and represent a myriad of choices with regard to nutrition. Oh, also, there's parfait. Everybody loves parfait. — AM


La Petite Maison (1015 W. Colorado Ave., 632-4887,

Once again, La Petite Maison rises to the occasion under the leadership and culinary skills of chef/owner Henri Chaperont. But along with his French sensibility and passion for finding the best ingredients to create beautiful food, there are some things the chef himself might not volunteer that truly make La Petite Maison shine. "He just doesn't relax," says sous chef Joseph Ress. Ress describes Chaperont as tough and inspiring to the staff, similar to a good sports coach. And when it comes to the food Chaperont prepares, Ress has only one phrase: "mind-blowing." — MMR


P.F. Chang's China Bistro (1725 Briargate Pkwy., 593-8580,

Good Chinese food is hard to come by, especially in Colorado Springs. Rest assured that even though you might not be able to get your favorite stir-fry from the local stall on the corner, you can always get your fix at P.F. Chang's. The national chain gracefully mixes the tastes of China with more contemporary cooking, and covers all the bases: beef, lamb, pork, chicken, seafood, vegetarian options ... Whether you're considering the $39.95 prix fixe menu for a decadent dinner for two, or just looking for a workday lunch to savor, be sure to try Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps and the Mongolian Beef, the restaurant's signature dish. — KV

Place for a Wedding
Restaurant for a Wedding Reception

Briarhurst Manor Estate (404 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1864,

The Briarhurst keeps alive the prince-and-white-horse fairy tale, offering you a wedding at a historic English-style country home at the foot of Pikes Peak. Enjoy your wedding outdoors, and the Briarhurst will string flowers from the gazebo where you'll exchange vows; if you wed inside the stone mansion, you can wander around feeling like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Even history at the Briarhurst is romantic: It was built for Dr. William Bell, his wife, Cara, and their children in 1876. Bell, a good friend and business partner of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, had loved Cara since childhood and referred to her as his "magnificent distraction." — JAS


Front Range Barbeque (2330 W. Colorado Ave., 632-2596 • 4935 Templeton Gap Road, 598-8895

What can we tell you about this Southern barbecue mecca that hasn't been said over the course of the last three years it's won this category? From owner Brian Fortinberry's down-home family recipes to the top-notch musical talent that plays at the Old Colorado City location (including some of our best local blues players and touring country insurgents like the DeWayn Brothers), Front Range BBQ continually manages to get it right. "It's pretty simple, really," says Fortinberry, "just creating a laid-back atmosphere where people can come in and have a good time, hang out with old friends, meet new friends, eat good food and drink local beer." And as the weather grows harsher, the west side Front Range will this year be covering and heating its patio for the first time, making it that much easier to ward off those cold winter blues. — BF

Restaurant for Dessert

Marigold Café and Bakery (4605 Centennial Blvd., 599-4776,

As a Jersey girl walking into Marigold Café and Bakery, I absorbed a familiar-feeling atmosphere. Yes, the Parisian-inspired decor is unquestionably classy, but there's a diner-esque element, too, that's welcoming and refreshing. When the couple in line in front of me ordered six cinnamon twists, I had to try one; before I knew it, I was eating the last bite of the perfectly light and flaky, nearly foot-long croissant twist and wishing I'd ordered six! If you're on a gluten-free diet, rest assured: The crème brulée and the cheesecake (if you don't eat the crust) are safe. Assistant manager Kelly James says Marigold's unique products and reasonable prices — café lunches start at $8 and dinners at $9.50 — keep customers coming back to the 17-year-old restaurant. — BA

Nationwide Restaurant Chain

Chili's (Multiple locations,

The rattle of the Presidential Margarita as it travels from the bar to your table is only one indication that you're sitting in one of the most popular bars and grills around; the bottomless chips and flavorful salsa is another. Chili's offers a variety of food, from old-fashioned American burgers to enchiladas to gluten-free fare. The bar also offers original mixed drinks and several different wine labels — you won't have to work hard to find the perfect drink to pair with your meal, be it fish, poultry or beef. If you're thinking of visiting during a fall weekend, be sure to get there early, since football season makes the bar even more popular than usual. — AM

Chips 'n Salsa

Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill (802 Village Center Drive, 266-9244 • 9420 Briar Village Point, #100, 955-6650 •

What makes the best chips and salsa? The fact that Salsa Brava chefs make the salsa and the chips fresh, every day. "Our cooks love what they do — and they love the food," says Sarah Lewis, manager of Salsa Brava's Rockrimmon location. All of the restaurant's food, she notes, at both locations, is made fresh daily. And because food is no good without drink, she says that Salsa Brava has started offering Saturday Happy Hour from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. — SC


Saigon Café (20 E. Colorado Ave., 633-2888)

This is the seventh consecutive victory for Saigon Café. When asked why it's enjoyed such success, a soft-spoken waiter named Sunny states, "Because we're the best." His certainty could be mistaken for cockiness — until you try the food. Savory noodle bowls are among many good reasons to love this downtown staple; the big menu, low prices and great service all contribute to securing the title year after year. Spice up this long-term relationship by branching out from your usual favorites and try some of the menu's more exotic offerings. — VL


Edelweiss Restaurant (34 E. Ramona Ave., 633-2220,

It's a cool dozen Best German awards for the Edelweiss Restaurant. And one word stood out in the description of this longstanding gem: "family." Dependability breeds trust, and the customers and the staff share that. Along with all the German charm and hearty schnitzel and braten, folks know that after summer brings fresh fruit desserts, fall means plum cakes. And with Christmas comes the stollen. "We go the extra mile," says German-born Christina Lyons, an eight-year veteran waitress. And she notes, working for owners Helga and Dieter Schnakenberg makes it a place filled with warmth and fun. — MMR


Jake & Telly's (2616 W. Colorado Ave., 633-0406,

A great big "Opa!" to Jake and Telly's on the fourth year winning this category. According to manager Andrew Correll, the family-run restaurant takes a lot of care with its food — items such as some of his favorites: saganaki (flaming Greek cheese), sockeye salmon filet wrapped in grape leaves, and baklava. Correll adds, "When you come to Jake & Telly's, we create an experience that is unlike one that you get at any other restaurant." The last time I ate at Jake & Telly's, our server brought out complimentary shots of ouzo for each (of-age) person in the restaurant. Now that's a Greek experience! — KA


Taste of India (4820 Flintridge Drive, 598-3428,

Butter chicken strikes me as akin to a California roll — undeniably tasty, but almost too easy to like. White-meat chicken, often-mild spice, and plenty of butter, cream and/or yogurt ... eating platefuls of that combination seems a fake badge of Indian-food fealty. So I didn't expect to hear Raj Kumar, manager of Taste of India, reply to a question about what makes his uncle's restaurant special by raving about the butter chicken recipe. "You can't get it as good anywhere else," he says. I shouldn't have been surprised, though. For one thing, he's right. And for another, Taste of India is about as unpretentious a sit-down place as you're going to find anywhere. Friendly people, hearty servings of fresh food (served mild, medium or hot), a $7.95 lunch buffet, even on the weekends ... all this and more makes Taste of India tops for fans of butter chicken and bhindi bhaji alike. — KW


Jun Japanese Restaurant (1760 Dublin Blvd., 531-9368 • 3276 Centennial Blvd., 227-8690 •

Since 1995, Jun has California-rolled its competition in the Japanese and Sushi categories. That's because the restaurant prides itself on serving diners the freshest ingredients — it famously flies in fresh fish four times a week — and most generous helpings, all in a traditional Japanese setting. The menu includes children's portions of some dishes, too, so you can safely take your little ones while in pursuit of an adult meal. Between bouts of table-waiting during the busy Sushi Happy Hour (5 to 6:30 p.m.), server Joel Harris tells me Jun has also expanded its Teppan dining this year, and has focused its energy on providing better service to customers. — DS

Sexy sushi roll

Writer's pick

The Pink Lady at Sakura (3117 W. Colorado Ave., 632-7866,

The Pink Lady takes her name from her delicate skin, a soy paper rosy with vegetable dye. Inside, wonders abound: crab tempura, cream cheese, cucumber, steamed shrimp and avocado. Resting delicately atop her paper is a dusting of tobiko (flying fish roe) and unagi sauce (dark, sweet eel sauce). The Lady seduces with both her good looks and her fabulous flavor, though she's rather voluptuous (and a bit of a challenge to shove in your mouth). Nancy Jang, co-owner of Sakura, says her husband, Jun, created the Pink Lady 2½ years ago in an effort to please customers who have an allergy to seaweed, which is commonly used as a wrapper on sushi rolls. — JAS

New Restaurant (since July 1, 2008)

Five Guys Burgers and Fries (7252 N. Academy Blvd., 264-6400,

Though the argument rages on concerning other — ahem — topics, for burgers it's a definite truism: Size matters. And Five Guys knows it. Upon pulling the foil-wrapped behemoth from the bag, I believe my first word was, "Holy ..." Even better was my first bite: fresh veggies meeting hot, greasy hamburger. The restaurant itself wows with simplicity. The menu basically has three items: a hamburger, cheeseburger or either with bacon; the trio again in a smaller version; and lastly, some hot dogs (oh, and, you know, fries). Manager Ela Lipka, who helped open the store with the owners, thinks specialization has something do with its success. "There's usually a line out the door," she says. If stuck in that line, enjoy some peanuts from the boxes placed around the dining room; nothing else will satisfy like an FG burger, but at least it will keep you from gnawing on the guy in front of you. — BC

Cake Bakery

Little London Cake Shoppe (620 S. 25th St., 475-2340,

This may be the first year we've asked voters to pick a winner in this category, but making cakes is nothing new for the artists at Little London Cake Shoppe — they've got 28 years of experience. With more than 40 flavors of cake, another 25-plus varieties of cheesecake, and 28 kinds of mousse and pie, the shop offers options ranging from traditional to "Oh, my." Check out the online photo gallery to see cakes in shapes as varied as the Eiffel Tower, an armadillo, a soccer ball, a coffin, a circus tent and a rainbow trout. Service is exceptional, too, with the shop handing out a cell phone number "in case of emergency." Though just what a cake emergency entails is unclear, you can sleep well knowing that Little London has got it covered, or frosted. — JT


Einstein Bros. Bagels (6988 N. Academy Blvd., 265-8610 • 4325 Centennial Blvd., 548-8408 • 2848 N. Powers Blvd., 573-7606 •

Todd Wyatt has heard East Coast transplants talk up "real" New York bagels. "A lot of that is sort of myth and reminiscence," Wyatt says. In fact, this area business manager for Einstein Bros. says his company delivers the "consistent shine and crust" that bagel-lovers desire — in 21 varieties, no less — thanks to steam-injected ovens with settings designed for high altitudes. Lower-tech, but as important: Wyatt says six- and seven-year veterans manage each Springs store, with support from young, chipper employees who've followed older siblings into the kitchen. Wyatt himself has modeled the loyalty he and customers cherish: He started with the company in 1997 as general manager for the Academy and Woodmen store that just moved across the street to the Woodmen Commons complex. — KW


San Chang House (3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-1707)

Though it's tucked into a nondescript strip mall, visitors passing through the front door of San Chang House in northeastern Colorado Springs get a quick impression of authenticity, starting with the Korean-language newspapers out front and continuing with a menu capable of bewildering the uninitiated. That feeling quickly passes as employees happily offer suggestions: the bul go ki, a dish of thinly sliced barbecue beef, or the dak gui, a similarly described chicken dish. Both are sweetly spiced and served with rice and a range of pickled vegetables on the side. Longtime employee Kim Morrell estimates that 70 percent of the customers are regulars: That may explain why the restaurant has won this award a few other times. — AL


Amanda's Fonda (3625 W. Colorado Ave., 227-1975)

If you live on the west side, you definitely know Amanda's Fonda, the log cabin Mexican joint that has won this Best Of award 10 times. You know it for its traditional Mexican fare, its hefty portions and its friendly service. You know it because you've spent lazy summer afternoons soaking in your food coma on its creekside patio. Most of all you know it for its parking lot, which is always overflowing during the summer months — so much so that traffic is often stopped on Colorado Avenue while some green-chili-crazed driver desperately tries to negotiate a parking space. Now that's dedication. — JAS


Monica's Taco Shop (5829 Palmer Park Blvd., 597-7022 • 30 E. Fillmore St., 473-1996)

Having spent several months in Mexico, and half my lifetime 50 miles from the border, I can vouch for the authentic Mexican taste of Monica's. As part of my thorough research, I ordered two carne asada tacos — steak and salsa wrapped in a fresh corn tortilla — and an Horchata to wash it all down. It was the real deal, amigos. No wonder Monica's is a hot spot for late-night munchie runs, or midday breaks. And hey, it even sells calling cards, so you can dial up your friends and family and tell them how great the tacos really are. — KAK


Red Lobster (4925 N. Academy Blvd., 594-9494 • 3510 New Center Point, 596-9057 •

Red Lobster is an unstoppable force of nature in the local seafood arena, having taken this award for the sixth straight year. It must have something to do with the constant availability of a myriad of sea creatures served diced, buttered, grilled, filleted and fried, then accompanied by those nefarious cheddar biscuits. Matt Youssef, manager of the New Center Point location, cites the wood grill entrées and new $6.99 lunch options as part of their success. "We've just really been reinvesting into our customers," he says. — BC

Restaurant for Kids that Isn't Fast Food

Red Robin (1410 Jamboree Drive, 598-2473 • 2230 Southgate Road, 447-8810 • 3770 Bloomington St., 622-8157 •

In an exclusive Indy interview, the Red Robin itself reveals some of the secrets to the chain's six-year winning streak in this Restaurant for Kids category. "The kids love coming here because they can run wild in the arcade, eat burgers and bottomless fries, drink lots of Freckled Lemonade and pop, abuse the bird a little bit, and still go home at the end with a balloon," says the bird (who's no less endearing for talking about itself in the third person). And, the tall, blue-eyed spokesfowl adds, parents seem to love the opportunity to kick back and sit for a spell, with "insanely delicious burgers," no less, while someone else entertains all of their little darlings. — JT

Bang-for-Your-Buck Restaurant

La Casita Patio Café (306 S. Eighth St., 633-9616 • 4295 N. Nevada Ave., 599-7829 • 3725 E. Woodmen Road, 536-0375 •

La Casita is the love child of a Taco Bell and your favorite Mexican hole in the wall. It has the garish pink paint and rainbow awnings, and it has a drive-through. It offers a whole bar of homemade salsa and bean burritos for $1.19. La Casita will sell you a taco, or cater a party. Yes, it's affordable. Yes, it's fast. And yet, when you sink your teeth into La Casita's fluffy homemade tortillas, marinated meat and green chili, your taste buds won't ream you for being a cheap-ass. — JAS

Peanut Butter Cookie

Writer's Pick

Like No Other, Etc. (412 S. Eighth St., 328-1290)

Like No Other, Etc. bakery has been tucked in the corner of an Eighth Street strip mall for 11 years. It's easy to overlook, but if you crave peanut butter cookies like I crave peanut butter cookies, you'll want to drop by for a taste. Lightly crispy around the edge, soft and chewy in the middle, and perfectly peanut-buttery, these cookies hit the spot. And while you're there, check out the lemon bars, the individual gluten-free chocolate cakes, and the most beautiful custom-designed concoctions for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. — KA

Middle Eastern

Heart of Jerusalem Café (4587 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 685-9554,

Taste of Jerusalem Café (15 E. Bijou St., 477-1777,

We could write this whole paragraph describing the tumultuous history of Heart of Jerusalem Café. In fact, it would wrap up nicely with an explanation of how the downtown location became Taste of Jerusalem following the summertime split between former partners Hussein Abukhdeir and Abdul Nasser. Most of you, however, care less about this Middle East conflict than you do about the flavorful falafel, wonderfully garlicky hummus and aptly named crisspura fries that you can get at both locations. As has been documented, the Springs has no shortage of Middle Eastern restaurants; winning this category means that even if they've done each other wrong, Abukhdeir (at Austin Bluffs) and Nasser (at Bijou) have done something right. — KW


Wild Ginger Thai Restaurant (3020 W. Colorado Ave., 634-5025,

Order your food "American Hot," and you'll get a tasty meal that even kids will like. Try it Thai Hot, owner Khon Onexayvieng's way, and make your lips swell up like Angelina Jolie's for a couple of hours. (Kind of sexy if you're on a date.) Ask for Kill Me Hot, and quietly observe while your internal organs liquefy. "I don't recommend Kill Me Hot, but you can get food as spicy as you like here — up to you," says Onexayvieng. Whatever the heat level, Colorado Springs loves Wild Ginger. For the ninth year running, the west-side restaurant has crushed the competition, and many of our taste buds, like a Thai hot chili. But we also like Wild Ginger for its friendly, family feel, and its consistently generous, fresh portions at reasonable prices. Here's to another winning decade of Kill Me Hot green curry. — DS

Use of Goraka

Writer's Pick

The Curry Leaf Restaurant (26 S. Wahsatch Ave., 447-0608,

OK, it's the only use of goraka — a dark, fig-like dried fruit that yields a sour flavor — that we know of within a very wide radius. That's because the Curry Leaf is the Springs' only Sri Lankan restaurant. And what a breath of fresh spice it was to have an entirely new cuisine arrive this past year. Try lip-stingingly hot dishes like the deviled shrimp, or mild and sweet eats like the outstanding eggplant curry. Whole sticks of cinnamon punctuate some dishes, and owner Lana Hillstrom uses a 21-ingredient Sri Lankan curry powder that distances her authentic eats from the similar styles of Indian and Thai. Curry Leaf's coconut caramel custard is worth calling ahead to reserve, and the Sri Lankan iced coffee is as crack-like as Thai iced tea. Simply put: We love our first taste of this country. — MS


Jason's Deli (7455 N. Academy Blvd., 302-0234,

Jason's takes its first win in this category, and some might be saying, "It's about time." This large, family-friendly restaurant has chipper staff and tasty soups (the broccoli-cheese is delicious), sandwiches and pastas, along with an all-you-can-eat salad bar loaded with organic vegetables. Everything Jason's serves is free of artificial trans fats, MSG and high fructose corn syrup (except fountain drinks), so it has your health in mind as well as your tastebuds. For kids, Jason's offers peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and mac and cheese, apple slices and celery sticks, but anyone can have a free ice cream cone to top off their meal. — PZ

Post-Court Comfort

Writer's Pick

The Corner Cafe (7 E. Vermijo Ave., 520-1843,

I have this friend who used to make routine stops at the county courthouse on East Vermijo Avenue. This completely real and not-made-up friend loved speeding-ticket-based court appearances like he loved speeding itself, because it meant he could make a stop at the friendliest spot this side of a hug from your grandma: The Corner Cafe. Owners Virginia and Bob Smoot brought their homey ways from California in 2004, and since then I have — I mean, ahem, my friend has — never found anything that soothes the burn from a $400 speeding ticket like sitting at a sidewalk table and enjoying some coffee and a breakfast burrito made with Bob's own pork green chili. — BC


Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches (10 S. Tejon St., 227-7827 • 1035 Garden of the Gods Road, 590-7827 •

Jimmy John's delivers on a number of levels, from rushing sandwiches direct to your door to having them wrapped up and ready to go pretty much by the time you reach the end of the counter. The brainchild of Jimmy John Liautaud, who started the first shop as an Illinois teen in 1983, the chain has grown to 690 stores across the nation. And as its Web site boasts, there are no additives, no junk and, at least according to a sign in the downtown franchise, no hippies. (If a location opens up in Manitou, this will surely change.) There's also classic rock, so you can get a dose of Zeppelin and Clapton with your lunchtime fix. — BF


The Omelette Parlor (900 E. Fillmore St., 633-7770,

Big, fluffy omelettes, pancakes the size of a plate, chili that draws people from all over the state. We know why the venerable Omelette Parlor has been awarded this honor every year since 1996. Its pride in customer service and the quality of the food keep people coming back again and again. Steve Abeyta, general manager, says they "don't skimp on anything" and offer "big portions of good food." The employees remember customers, making the wooden tables and colorful walls feel even that much more homey. And those who head home to try to duplicate the heavenly Omelette Parlor omelette can never quite figure it out. Egg-lovers have been asking for years how it's done, but that secret won't be revealed. — AA

National Pizza Chain

Papa Murphy's (Multiple locations,

Papa Murphy's is no stranger to awards, having won this award in 2005 and 2008, and, on a grander scale, four Chain of the Year honors by Pizza Today. And to think, it's only been around since 1995, when Papa Aldo's and Murphy's merged. Papa Murphy's claims to have pioneered the take 'n bake pizza concept, and it's expanded to other take 'n bake items, including Cheesy Bread and Cinnamon Wheels. "Every year we come up with something new," says Damir Vojvodic, owner of the Powers Boulevard location. "Right now we're testing products." So you'll always have a new pizza — or side dish, or dessert — to munch on. — KAK


IHOP (Multiple locations,

The IHOP company serves more than 700 million pancakes annually, but you need only concern yourself with that fluffy stack in front of you. A Best Of winner every year since 1999, IHOP takes pancakes to a new level, bedecking them with chocolate chips, strawberries and bananas or blueberries, then piling them high with whipped cream. Every table is equipped with a selection of syrups to make the specialty pancakes, or the plain buttermilk variety, even more decadent. The newest location, on Stetson Hills Boulevard, opened in July, and it's already so packed that on a recent weekday, this was the manager's reply to the news that IHOP was a Best Of finalist: "We're really busy. Can you call back later?" — PZ

Fine Dining

Penrose Room at The Broadmoor (1 Lake Ave., 577-5733,

"We don't sit back and rest on our stars and diamonds," says Allison Scott, director of communications at The Broadmoor. That's why the Penrose Room is the first and only AAA five-diamond restaurant in Colorado, and the reason readers have voted it the best fine-dining destination twice in the past three years. Visiting the pinnacle works like this: choose three ($72 per person), four ($78 p/p) or seven courses ($102 p/p) and let chef Bertrand Bouquin and his staff work their magic. Expect a creative, contemporary French flavor best paired with a fine wine from the outfit's boundless, high-end list. Enjoy sweeping city and mountain views from every seat in an elegant, yet non-stuffy atmosphere. In the words of Run DMC, there is none higher. — MS


Souper Salad (3636 Citadel Drive, 597-6124 1434 Kelly Johnson Blvd., 533-0614 • 808 Garden of the Gods Road, 277-0687 •

There are two reasons that one eats a salad: to have a nutritious meal or to fool one's self into thinking one is having a nutritious meal. Whether you subscribe to the former and choose pear walnut salad, or the latter and pick buffalo chicken salad, Souper Salad has plenty of choices. Between the 23 featured salads and the generous selection of toppings at the do-it-yourself bar, it would be a trying task to exhaust all your options. If that sounds like a challenge, well, maybe it is. — VL

Blintz-like Dish

Writer's Pick

Crepes with sweet cheese at the European Cafe (935A Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-3556)

The first time I visited the European Cafe in Manitou Springs, I overheard a departing customer give it the highest praise by asking chef/owner Bozena Jakubczyk to marry him. Though he may have been joking, I understood the sentiment a short while later as I bit into Jakubczyk's crepes with sweet cheese, which are delectable packets of cream-filled goodness. Order them for yourself or, better yet, get an order for the table while selecting one of the café's equally yummy egg dishes. I've returned many times and can happily report that as of press time, at least, Jakubczyk had turned down offers to become anyone's private chef. — AL

Local/Regional Restaurant Chain

Il Vicino (11 S. Tejon St., 475-9224,

Old Chicago (Multiple locations,

This year the title for best local chain restaurant was a contentious battle between Il Vicino and Old Chicago, resulting in a draw. Whether your loyalties lie with Il Vicino's wood-oven creations or Old Chicago's deep-dish specialties, one thing is clear: We have a passion for pizza. And with good reason. Between Old Chicago's happy hour mini pizzas and Il Vicino's Melanzane with grilled eggplant and artichoke hearts, there is a lot to love about these eateries. Winning the hearts and taste buds of discerning pizza lovers is not an easy feat, however, for a chain restaurant. Both have won us over with their homey, decidedly unchain-y atmospheres and generous selections of microbrews. — VL

Local Pizza

Borriello Brothers (Multiple locations,

Despite reigning in this category, Borriello Brothers has no intention of resting on its laurels. The company plans to open two new locations this month, one in Monument and another at Fillmore Street and Centennial Boulevard. "We're growing by leaps and bounds," reports manager Jeff Davis. What accounts for such success in the face of an international economic crisis? The inception of a 2-for-$20 deal this summer might have something to do with it. Two large pizzas with one topping each for 20 bucks is a good deal, especially when those pizzas are 18 inches of New York-style greasy, cheesy goodness. — VL

Restaurant for Dessert

Marigold Café and Bakery (4605 Centennial Blvd., 599-4776,

As a Jersey girl walking into Marigold Café and Bakery, I absorbed a familiar-feeling atmosphere. Yes, the Parisian-inspired decor is unquestionably classy, but there's a diner-meets-French-bistro ambiance that's welcoming and refreshing. When the couple in line in front of me ordered six cinnamon twists, I had to try one; before I knew it, I was eating the last bite of the perfectly light and flaky, nearly foot-long croissant twist and wishing I'd ordered six! If you're on a gluten-free diet, rest assured: The crème brulée and the cheesecake (if you don't eat the crust) are safe. Assistant manager Kelly James says Marigold's unique products and reasonable prices — café lunches start at $8 and dinners at $9.50 — keep customers coming back to the 17-year-old restaurant. — BA


Golden Corral (5410 E. Woodmen Road, 260-9369 • 1970 Waynoka Road, 591-9870 •

When I die, I know that heaven will include these three things: steak, ShamWows and buffets. Thankfully, I don't have to be dead to enjoy two out of three at the same time, at the place that does it best: Le Corral d'Or. One would think that there were no other buffets in Colorado Springs, the way that Golden Corral dominates these awards; this is its fifth win in a row. But when you find a place that offers all-you-can-eat barbecue pork spareribs, rotisserie chicken and breaded jumbo shrimp, in addition to the hundreds of other lip-smacking items, you want to reward it, and deservedly so. — BC

Unusual Soup in a Local Restaurant

Writer's Pick

Oscar's Tejon Street Crawfish Bisque (333 S. Tejon St., 471-8070,

When owner Phil Duhon decided to add more of his Cajun expertise to the Oscar's menu, instead of just saving those specialties for Mardi Gras time, he labeled one of his additions crawfish bisque. It isn't really a bisque, and that word itself might confuse people who expect it to be creamy. This concoction looks more like a gumbo: It's a substantial, thick soup with a dark roux, and it's definitely not a gumbo. (You can get that at Oscar's, too.) The flavor is consistently awesome, with an accompanying small bowl of rice (and Tabasco, though you might not need it) to add as you wish, and the crawfish are more than plentiful. If there's a better Cajun soup this side of the French Quarter, I haven't found it anywhere. — RR


Mediterranean Café (118 E. Kiowa St., 633-0115,

Despite a tough economy that's stymied food crazes and closed down restaurants, it's a good time to be making the Greek-style sandwiches known as gyros. "The gyro business is doing very well," says Med Café co-owner Pat Kennelly, who references a July New York Times story on that very topic. "I think people are looking for quality and price." For $5.50, customers at Med Café get succulent strips of shaved gyro meat piled on warm pitas and served with fresh veggies and tzatziki sauce. For anyone out there counting, that hits all four food groups, making gyros from Med Café a recipe for low-budget bliss. — AL

Ice Cream

Josh & John's (5152 N. Academy Blvd., 593-1220 • 111 E. Pikes Peak Ave.,

My friends have learned the hard way that splitting a cup of Josh & John's oatmeal cookie ice cream doused in hot fudge with me is a near-impossible task. In a euphoric trance exclusively induced by Colorado Springs' premier ice cream purveyor, I have been known to wield a flimsy plastic spoon like a samurai sword. Best (or scariest) of all, my inner ice cream warrior need not hibernate during the winter months, thanks to the Ice Creamometer Card. If you brave inclement conditions to come in for a cone, you earn points toward free scoops. The colder it is, the more points you earn. — VL

Farmers Market

Old Colorado City (24th Street, adjacent to Bancroft Park, 577-4112)

Craft fairs are fine, but don't tell Frank Schmidt that a craft fair with a couple vendors selling squash is actually a farmers market. "To me, that's misrepresentation," says Schmidt, president of the Pikes Peak Farmers Market organization. Schmidt's Old Colorado City market, held from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, brings together "true farmers" from as far away as Palisade, Platteville and Rocky Ford. Among the 28 vendors who've set up weekly in the 2009 growing season are some who've been coming each year since the market started in the early '80s. Some of the customers have come for that long, too, meaning that to call the 24th Street fixture a "farmers market" is actually something of a misrepresentation as well: It's really part reunion, part festival and all good. — KW


Picnic Basket (1701 S. Eighth St., 635-0200,

After 20 years in the business, co-owner Michelle Talarico has catered baptisms, then the graduations and weddings of the same children. And for the 14th time, the Picnic Basket and its subsidiaries, Cravings and Buffalo Gals, have trounced the Best Of competition. But you wouldn't hear Talarico or partner Kathy Dreiling gloat; they say success has only humbled them, and they refuse to become complacent when it comes to food trends. Besides, Talarico credits her cheerful staff for much of their success: "Nothing tastes as good as a smile." — MMR

Sunday Brunch

Lake Terrace Dining Room (1 Lake Ave., 577-5733,

Two words: Ice sculptures. When you find them, you know you're in for a culinary treat. At the Lake Terrace Dining Room, they're only the beginning of the opulence. But you know this. You've voted this 70-item-plus spread ($38, $16 for children; free under 4) to the top 11 times in the past 16 years. You know there's no better place for Mom on Mother's Day or Dad near his birthday. Don't like the crepe station? Fine — hit the omelette line, or load up on gourmet cheese. Try chef Siegfried Eisenberger's international cuisine feature of the week or tell the meat carver to make it Texas-toast thick. Do whatever bounces your bib, just don't forget to make a reservation. — MS

Buffalo Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings (7425 N. Academy Blvd., 594-9464,

If there was any confusion as to what Buffalo Wild Wings was all about, the front counter showcasing its 14 wing sauces should erase it. Flavors like Parmesan Garlic, Honey BBQ and Teriyaki tantalize the imagination. Personally, I've been scorched by the Mango Habañero, Blazin' and Asian Zing sauces, and those are experiences I recommend for anyone needing sinus clearance. Besides wings, BWW also has five projection TVs, 20 beers on tap (and more in the bottle), ribs, burgers and all manner of deep-fried delectability to keep you fueled through that triple-overtime heartbreaker with the (of course) bad officiating. — BC

Grocery Store

King Soopers (Multiple locations,

A Best Of winner for 10 years total, King Soopers continues providing its customers with exceptional products, reasonable prices, excellent service and beautifully designed locations. Its local stores proudly stocked Colorado produce during the summertime, and offer sizable organics sections year-round. Even the cut flowers — so often an afterthought in grocery stores— look healthy and happy. Outside the aisles, at, you can find up-to-date information on product specials and coupons, as well as recipes, healthy living guidelines, product recall information and in-store specials. — SC

Natural Foods Store

Whole Foods (7635 N. Academy Blvd., 531-9999 • 3180 New Center Point, 622-1099 •

Whole Foods in Colorado Springs blocked some tough competition this year — from Sunflower and upscale remodels of big box groceries, to the popular farmers and ranch markets. It does what the others simply can't: price its goods for a few instead of the masses. That means it can offer the freshest, most sumptuous organic and non-organic produce; the most scrumptious baked goods (the fruit tart is worthy of a small orgasm); fish flown in daily from both coasts; organic meats, cheeses and eggs; chef-prepared dishes and specialty products, all wrapped in a colorful, post-industrial package called the pleasant shopping experience. There's no getting up at 6 a.m. on Saturday or standing around in the hot sun for an organic fix. For voters, that's worth the hefty price. — DS

Ethnic Market

Asian Pacific Market (615 Wooten Road, #160, 573-7500)

Walk into Asian Pacific Market and one of the first things you'll see is stacks of green produce. In amongst spinach and eggplant, I counted eight different kinds of "choy." And that's just the produce area. Asian Pacific has row upon row of discoveries, including frozen goldfish-shaped dumplings, live lobsters, coconut drinks and 100-pound bags of long rice. (And thankfully, each item has a tag in English alongside it.) When the employee behind the hot food/cold beverage counter told me I had to try a can of Assam milk tea because it was so good and addictive that it should be called "crack drink," who was I to refuse? Asian Pacific is the perfect resource for those familiar with their items, and just as good a place for adventurous locals. — KA

Local Coffee House
Local Coffee Roaster

Pikes Perk Coffee & Tea Café (Multiple locations)

I go to the downtown Pikes Perk most every morning for a bunch of reasons: 1. Some of their baristas have taken espresso seminars at coffee conventions. (I have no idea what a coffee convention is, but it seems to be working.) 2. They don't wear matching aprons and derive their personalities from corporate employee manuals. 3. They really try to look amused when you regale them with anthropomorphic animal and pirate jokes. (Try it!) 4. Great lattes. All of which makes it easier to forgive the fact that they've introduced a new roast blend called Dream City 2020. — BF

National Chain Coffee House

Starbucks (Multiple locations,

Not only are there more than 40 stores in the Pikes Peak region, but nowhere else in the area can you buy a "venti" size. This national chain certainly offers a good cup of joe, and despite being a multibillion-dollar conglomerate, its conscious business attitude makes it a socially responsible corporate leader. Stores nationwide donate money from bottled water sales to water access programs in third-world countries, and the Colorado Springs locations run a GI coffee program through which pounds of coffee are shipped to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, 75 percent of the company's beans were ethically grown and traded, and the company hopes to have 100 percent reusable or recyclable cups by 2015. The bottom line: The Starbucks nearest you (and there's definitely one pretty close) isn't one-of-a-kind, but it certainly isn't a bad choice. — JK

Innovative Menu

Nosh (121 S. Tejon St., 634-6674,

Even if you're just talking on the phone with Nosh sous chef Shane Lyons, his passion grabs you by the throat. "We want to do out-there stuff," Lyons enthuses. Indeed, the diverse staff works daily to push the boundaries of Colorado Springs dining. Take, for instance, the recent scallop crudo (featuring a raw scallop sashimi), which quickly sold out. He enjoys Nosh's small-plate platform, which frees the 21/2-year-old restaurant from the common entrée-anchored format. From the petite citrus-ginger-glazed chicken skewers to shot-glass-sized desserts, the little stuff always pleases. Also pleasing: weekly wine flights, all-day Happy Hour Tuesdays and some summer nights on the patio devoted purely to pups and their owners. — MMR

Noodle Bowl

Noodles & Company (1812 Southgate Road, 385-0800 • 5844 Barnes Road, 597-4950 • 7234 N. Academy Blvd., 264-0022

A trip to Noodles & Company's Web site will either charm or horrify you. The setting: Noodleville, "a town of taste," populated by musician plates and noodle characters young (riding a skateboard with elbow and knee pads) and old (strolling with a beard and a cane). I respond favorably to cuteness, but a fancy — and to its credit, informative — Internet presence doesn't mean much without a great string of restaurants to back it up. Noodles has served fresh, fast Asian, Mediterranean or American-style dishes through waves of anti-carb diet fads so well that voters have selected it the best place for a noodle bowl for the fourth year in a row. And despite what we know about white wheat products, nothing tastes better than hot, saucy noodles on a crappy day. — EA


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