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Bites presents: 52 Fridays

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Welcome to the Indy's first installment of a culinary compendium we're calling 52 Fridays. As the name implies, we're picking one dining destination per week, over the course of a year, in hopes that readers will discover the diverse eating to be had in this fine city. If you don't see your favorite spot on our list, feel free to write us ... but chances are, we'll spotlight it in the coming years. In the meantime, go ahead and loosen a notch on your belt. Cheers! Matthew Schniper, calendars editor

January

Oscars oysters and beer  cmon, whats not to smile about? - PETER FECTEAU
  • Peter Fecteau
  • Oscars oysters and beer cmon, whats not to smile about?

Oscar's

333 S. Tejon St.

471-8070

American, inexpensive

So, we're landlocked. It hasn't fazed Oscar's from specializing in fresh-shucked oysters. Slurp them raw from the half shell, served with horseradish, cocktail sauce and crackers, or have them flash-fried to golden perfection, with fixins galore. At a buck fifty a pop, order them by the half dozen, dozen or any funky number you please ... and you will be. Pleased, that is.

Adam's Mountain Caf

934 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs

685-1430, adamsmountain.com

Vegetarian, moderately priced

The Manitou staple for hearty, healthy, mostly vegetarian meals continues its legacy in its new Spa Building location, supported by a loyal, regular following. Try the huevos rancheros, orange almond French toast or Planet Burger, and fall in love.

Wild Ginger

3020 W. Colorado Ave.

634-5025

Thai, moderately priced

Curries, pad Thai variations, chef specialties, soups and salads fill the menu at the family-owned and operated Wild Ginger. Besides the delicious food, the personal attention the staff gives to each patron will keep you coming back. By visit three or four, they'll likely know your name, spice level and favorite menu item, and be on your Christmas card list!

Southside Johnny's

528 S. Tejon St.

444-8487, southsidejohnnys.biz

American, inexpensive

Southside Johnny's sits like a beacon to the hungry at the south end of Tejon Street, serving everything from soups and salads to burgers and steaks. Try the 12-ounce Angus New York strip for $14.95 with a cabernet-bourbon glaze. And stick around after dinner to catch live music Johnny's has an ever-changing lineup of great bands.


February

English Dockside: As Hall and Oates might say, your fish is on our list. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • English Dockside: As Hall and Oates might say, your fish is on our list.

Carneceria Leonela

3736 E. Pikes Peak Ave.

637-2641

Mexican, inexpensive

You'll find all kinds of delicious, authentic tacos, enchiladas, caldo, plate specials and horchata, with an amazing salsa bar bearing too many items to mention. It's attached to a Mexican grocery store, and you know it's good when you're the only gringo there.

English Dockside

2220 N. Academy Place

380-7732, englishdockside.com

Seafood, moderately priced

If you're craving fresh fish and seafood (mostly unheard of in Colorado Springs), make time to seek out this tiny, hidden strip-mall gem. Pick your item, then its preparation: fried, grilled, sauted or blackened. The owners, a pair of fun-loving folks, will add their Cajun flavor.

Fine Arts Center dinner theater

30 W. Dale St.

634-5583, csfineartscenter.org

Variable, worth the price

What's easier and more enjoyable than attacking a buffet and then sauntering one door over to take in The Little Shop of Horrors? Plus, coffee and dessert intermission and a drink in the Deco Lounge after the show: That's good times.

Bistro de Pinto

26 E. Kiowa St.

473-3538

Gourmet, worth the price

Youll want to make reservations for this tiny, but elegant, restaurant on Kiowa. The owners bring their New Mexican and Panamanian backgrounds straight to the plates by offering eclectic, artful meals. Meats and dairy used are steroid-, antibiotic- and hormone-free, and the desserts are baked with love from scratch.


March

Close your eyes at Taste of Thai Spice, and youll believe youre in Bangkok. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Close your eyes at Taste of Thai Spice, and youll believe youre in Bangkok.

Merlinos' Belvedere

1330 Elm Ave., Cañon City

719/275-5558, belvedererestaurant.com

Italian, moderately priced

For 60 years, couples and families have flocked from a wide radius to this spot known for superior food and equally good service. Most go for the Italian, and the pasta is homemade with a full selection of choices, sauces and "add-ons." But the varied menu (in items and prices) runs all the way to a 32-ounce T-bone for $33, plus scrumptious sides such as jalapeo chutney.

Mongolian Grill

164 W. 29th St., Pueblo

543-4526

Asian, inexpensive

This traditional restaurant puts the corporate places to shame with food that's always fresh. Grill experts defy gravity with food antics, then serve a delicious meal. Well worth the drive.

The Mason Jar

2925 W. Colorado Ave.

632-4820

American, inexpensive

Not many places offer a family-friendly atmosphere, square meals, daily specials and the choice of wine, beer or mixed drinks. That combination, plus the old-fashioned dcor, has worked for 25 years and counting. The signature dish is chicken-fried steak (more than a million served), but the prime rib-and-shrimp combo is always popular. The broiled Boston bluefish is better for the low-carb crowd.

Jun

3276 Centennial Blvd.

227-8690

1760 Dublin Blvd.

531-9368

Sushi, moderately priced

Whether a sushi eater or not, you wont be disappointed with any bite in the house. Theres comforting miso soup, perfectly teriyaki-ed chicken and beef at the teppan tables (Centennial location only). But if you can only have one thing, it must be the Yummy Roll a melt-in-your-mouth combination of tempura shrimp wrapped in sticky rice, rich avocado and marbled salmon.

Taste of Thai Spice

1609 Lashelle Way

226-1999

Thai, inexpensive

Unlike whats served in most American Thai restaurants, the food here tastes like it does in Thailand. Amazing pad Thai and curry dishes, papaya salad and unbelievable homemade coconut ice cream never mind the strip mall dcor; its all about the food.


April

Samba Brasil is the standard-bearer for local Brazilian cuisine. - JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley
  • Samba Brasil is the standard-bearer for local Brazilian cuisine.

Leon Gessi Pizza

1806 Palmer Park Blvd.

635-1542

1829 Briargate Blvd.

265-6922

Italian/pizza, inexpensive

Pizza varies across the nation, and New Yorkers claim a certain gooey, stringy, thin crust in particular. Leon Gessi does this style right, in a menu-on-the-wall, hot-meatball-sub-on-the- side, music-blaring-from-the-speakers, local-Little-League-supporting kind of way. And if you stop by for lunch, $6 will get you a steaming slice, a sizable salad, a garlic roll and a refillable soda.

O'Malley's Steak Pub

104 S. Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake

488-0321

Steakhouse, worth the price

Want a home-bar atmosphere and the freedom to cook a steak as only you can? That's the lure at O'Malley's, where you can pick the cut and size of your steak, season it as you wish and grill it yourself. If you prefer straight bar food, the wings are awesome. But it's crazy to make the drive and not show off your culinary talents.

Empire Asian

5760 N. Academy Blvd.

548-0334

Chinese, inexpensive

Yes, they've got a huge buffet. But if you'd rather not mine for your dinner underneath a sneeze guard, get to the stirfry area or better yet, the sushi bar, for some of the cheapest fishy treats in town.

Samba Brasil

410G S. Eighth St.

633-1990, sambabrasil.us

Brazilian, inexpensive

Explore the true taste of Brazil with the feijoada, a black bean and salted pork dish served with white rice and toasted yucca flour. Or, take in a soccer match over apps like pao de queijo (cheese bread) or coxinha (chicken dumplings). Wash it down with a Guarana soda, coconut water or acai sorbet.


May

With Margarita at Pine Creeks prix fixe menu, you never know what the chef will toss on your plate. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • With Margarita at Pine Creeks prix fixe menu, you never know what the chef will toss on your plate.

Miyake

3609 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.

268-2565

Sushi, inexpensive

Most of Miyake's patrons whether they go for the sushi or for the Mongolian barbecue know the owner, John, who sits with his guests from time to time. Miyake's best deals come at lunchtime, but the friendly service comes with all meals.

Carlos Miguel's

730 E. U.S. Hwy. 24, Woodland Park

687-7150

Mexican, moderately priced

If you're feeling a bit peckish in Woodland Park, drop into Carlos Miguel's for tableside guacamole and a margarita. Prepared fresh on the spot and to your personal specifications, it's a perfect snack for two, or a great start to an authentic Mexican meal.

The Black Bear

10375 Ute Pass Ave.

684-9648, blackbearrestaurant.com

Gourmet, worth the price

Chef-owner Victor Matthews has received numerous awards for his eatery in woodsy Green Mountain Falls. When you're up for a drive and have a little extra cash in your wallet, sign up for the Chef's Table Tasting Menu, a selection of world-class food and wine courses flavored especially to your taste.

Margarita at PineCreek

7350 Pine Creek Road

598-8667,

coloradoeats.com/margarita/home.html

Gourmet, worth the price

Enjoy chef Eric Viedt's daily-changing, five-course, prix fixe meal, which defies cuisine categorization. Also check out occasional wine dinners and the dinner-and-a-movie night on the riverside patio.


June

To raise pizza this good, it takes a Villa. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • To raise pizza this good, it takes a Villa.

Roman Villa Pizza

3005 N. Nevada Ave.

635-1806

Italian/pizza, inexpensive

Chicago transplants will walk into the cozy 45-year-old Roman Villa and sigh, "Home." Amidst the strong scents of hot homemade sausage and thin-crust pizza, and warm welcomes from the three generations of Biondi women who own the eatery, you'll enjoy every bite of any of the Italian dishes you choose.

Tajine Alami

10 Old Man's Trail, Manitou Springs

685-1119, tajinealami.com

Moroccan, worth the price

The hosts will situate you comfortably on floor cushions surrounded by glamorous drapes and tapestries, and then bring a warm water basin where you can wash your hands. (You get to eat with your fingers here, after all!) After starting off with soup and homemade honey wheat bread, you simply have to share the flowery, pungent entres. Fridays and Saturdays include performances by belly dancers and, often, a chance to participate.

Rita's

302 N. Grand Ave., Pueblo

719/542-4820

Mexican, inexpensive

Most people "think" they know legitimate Mexican food, but not if they haven't been to this former gas station in downtown Pueblo. Order anything without fear. One great choice is the chorizo burritos smothered in Rita's addictive green chile. (With luck, Rita herself will be in the kitchen.) No alcohol, but who cares? Just don't be late; it closes at 7 p.m.

San Chang House

3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.

598-1707

Korean, moderately priced

The spicy chicken, beef and seafood entres are flavorful and filling, but the accompanying flavor rainbow of Korean side dishes including kimchi (cabbage, radish and cucumber), bean sprouts, fish cakes and shredded potato can make you want to order just the delightful traditional sides.

Ranch House American Grill

575 Garden of the Gods Road

593-1955, ranchfoodsdirect.com

Steakhouse, worth the price

When you try Rocky Mountain oysters for the first time, you might as well do it at a place where all the meat comes as pure as can be: no hormones, antibiotics or by-products. Or, just get a hefty steak with some killer mashed potatoes.


July

Before he got a scent of Bird Dog BBQ, this pup was sleeping. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Before he got a scent of Bird Dog BBQ, this pup was sleeping.

Amanda's Fonda

3625 W. Colorado Ave.

227-1975, amandasfonda.com

Mexican, inexpensive

On a warm summer night, after a long day of work or play, Amanda's Fonda is hard to beat. Order a hot, fat Bodacious Burrito and cold, crisp Dos Equis, and enjoy complimentary chips and salsa creekside. Salud.

Island Grill Take-out

1107 S. Nevada Ave. #101

578-1468

Jamaican, inexpensive

When feeling like a pick-me-up lunch, stop in for some jerk chicken and get yourself outside somewhere. (Maybe the grounds of the Pioneers Museum, just up Nevada a few blocks?) Curried chicken and ackee stand out among a variety of interesting main and side-dish choices.

Bhan Thai

1025 N. Academy Blvd.

574-3401

Thai, inexpensive

Come for the pad Thai, stay for the lunchtime prices during dinner hours. For $4 to $7 a dish, your wallet will stay full. And so will your fridge the portions are so large, you'll almost always need a take-home bag.

Bird Dog BBQ

5984 Stetson Hills Blvd. #200

596-4900

BBQ, inexpensive

Bird Dog's barbecue is the juiciest in the city, and side items range from potato salad to fried okra. But the way to top off a visit is with the cobbler. Pick peach or apple in a little cup for just a buck. And if you have a pet pup, bring your dog's mug shot to add to the restaurant's tabletop collection.


August

Rong Cheng

6938 N. Academy Blvd.

594-4849

Chinese, inexpensive

Rong Cheng is the place to go for awesome sesame tofu it's light, crispy and flavorful. The Chinese couple that runs the place is very warm and friendly, adding an extra charm to the food.

Sheldon's Luncheonette

310F S. Eighth St.

520-1654

204 N. Mount View Lane

599-0887

Caf, inexpensive

If you're hungry for breakfast or lunch, and especially if you happen to like roast beef sandwiches, this is your Mecca. The portions come as large as you want, and there are always daily specials. But most people can't go there without ordering a big sandwich, either the Queen or the President.

Juniper Valley Ranch Restaurant

13650 S. Hwy. 115

576-0741

American, moderately priced

(Open April to October only)

Housed in a quaint adobe house on a quiet stretch of Highway 115, the Juniper Valley Ranch serves the same family-style meal it's been serving since 1951. Pass around the home-cooked ham, fried chicken, riced potatoes, cherry cider and biscuits with butter, but don't leave until you've tried the okra. It's the best you'll ever have.

The Sunbird

230 Point of the Pines Drive

598-8990, specialtyrestaurants.com

Gourmet, moderately priced

The Sunbird is all about location, location, location. Its hilltop perch is ideal for sharing dinner and sweet nothings while the city lights sparkle below, or snuggling by one of the patio's fire pits while sipping a drink from the lounge. If you must take the kids, try the Sunday champagne brunch with pasta, omelet and fajita bars, carving stations, seafood, fresh fruits and desserts.

Old Town Guesthouse

115 S. 26th St.

632-9194, oldtown-guesthouse.com

Gourmet, worth the price

On a site that's housed a city hall, fire station and jail, this guesthouse has a perfect vibe for what it calls Mystery Dinner Theatre. While they generally don't schedule such events during the summer, the innkeepers always will consider organizing one for a private party. Round up some hungry, "Murder, She Wrote"-loving friends, and give Old Town a call.


September

Steaksmith simply terrifies paper plates. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Steaksmith simply terrifies paper plates.

Giacomo's

910 W. U.S. Hwy. 50, Pueblo

719/546-0949

Italian, moderately priced

Classy, non-chain Italian places are hard to find in the Springs, and Giacomo's is worth the drive south. The appetizer list includes escargot, and every dinner comes with soup, salad, garlic bread and relish tray. Aside from the usual variety and good wine-beer list, many regulars go for the combos, such as lasagna-rigatoni or ravioli-fettuccine. But it's hard to pass up the veal Oscar.

La Petite Maison

1015 W. Colorado Ave.

632-4887, restauranteur.com/maison

French/gourmet, worth the price

Nothing charms like dining in a converted house with quiet, private rooms. La Petite dolls up gourmet French foods (try anything duck) and rich pastries and desserts. Patio lunches, weather permitting, are famous here.

Steaksmith

3802 Maizeland Road

596-9300, steaksmith.com

Steakhouse, moderately priced

This locally owned steak and seafood house has attracted serious carnivores for more than 25 years. The choice cuts are aged in-house for up to eight weeks, resulting in some of the most tender and flavorful steaks in town. Sides are simple, but tasty, and include fresh bread, soup, veggies, pasta and that meat-eaters' must, potatoes.

Caspian Caf

4375 Sinton Road

528-1155, caspiancafe.com

Mediterranean, moderately priced

When you crave the sea, you crave the sea. The Mediterranean smattering includes everything from gyros, falafel and kebabs to moussaka, seafood and Middle Eastern salads all well-executed. Devour the orange saffron caramel custard for a pleasure-rich brain buzz.


October

The plant isnt part of Halla Sans spread. We dont think, anyway. - PETER FECTEAU
  • Peter Fecteau
  • The plant isnt part of Halla Sans spread. We dont think, anyway.

Halla San BBQ

1231 N. Academy Blvd.

622-9595

Korean, moderately priced

Like every Korean restaurant in town, Halla San offers traditional dishes, including bulgogi, rice and noodle dishes. But the most intriguing thing is the soup selection. You won't want to put your spoon down while slurping the sinus-clearing kimchi soup or the rich Korean miso soup. Work your way through the list, because as Campbell's and now Halla San has taught us, "soup is good food."

Fargo's

2910 E. Platte Ave.

473-5540, fargospizza.com

Pizza, inexpensive

With pizza unlike any other in town (pepperoni and mushroom is the best!), Fargo's is always a good stand-by especially if children are present. Where else can you sit at a fireplace while eating pizza and be waited on by people in period clothing?

Cowboy Kitchen Bar-B-Que

11027 U.S. Hwy. 24 (at Highway 67), Divide

719/686-9090, cowboykitchen.com

BBQ, inexpensive

If you're up for a leaf-peeping drive, stop in Divide for some handcrafted Texas BBQ. Here, even the smoker itself is built from an original recipe. While the ribs are juicy and pull easily from the bone, go for the brisket: It's a Texas classic, with a thick smoke ring and layers of flavor.

Jake & Telly's

2616 W. Colorado Ave.

633-0406, greekdining.com

Greek, moderately priced

If you hit Jake and Telly's the last Thursday of the month, you'll be treated to a multi-course wine-tasting dinner. Each such dinner features wines from a different locale, and reservations definitely are recommended. If you go any other day of the week, request to be seated on the second-story patio and enjoy people-watching over Colorado Avenue.


November

McCabes asks: Why recycle your newspaper, when you can put fish and chips in it instead? - PETER FECTEAU
  • Peter Fecteau
  • McCabes asks: Why recycle your newspaper, when you can put fish and chips in it instead?

Shinji's

308-M S. Eighth St.

475-0669

Sushi, moderately priced

Sure, the dcor is unremarkable and sometimes the food takes a while, but that's because Shinji preps sushi alone, true to small-town, rural Japanese restaurants. Every bite is worth the wait, and Shinji's unconventional special rolls redefine the genre.

Uwe's

31 Iowa Ave.

475-1611

German, inexpensive

Stuck in an outdated strip mall off the beaten path, you'd never expect the food to be what it is in this classic German restaurant. Alpine booths set the stage for a meal that is as delicious as it is reasonably priced. Two tasty and well-priced choices: rouladen and the pork schnitzel.

Saigon Caf

20 E. Colorado Ave.

633-2888

Vietnamese, inexpensive

Oodles of noodles leave the kitchen of Saigon Caf each day, and patrons twirl vermicelli, various meats, egg rolls, tofu, julienned carrots, mint and peanuts swimming in a fish-sauce dressing (or a veg version, if you wish). Bun is definitely the signature dish, but for a twist on the noodle, try the Vietnamese chicken salad: mounds of cabbage, chicken and peanuts with a similar fish-saucy dressing.

La Carreta

35 Iowa Ave.

477-1157

Mexican, inexpensive

This family-owned establishment serves unique, traditional food and an amazing homemade tomatillo sauce that's delicious on the chile relleno burrito. It also offers an exclusive chocolate sauce to top one of many specialty burritos. The family feeling distracts you from the strip mall location and florescent lighting.

McCabe's

520 S. Tejon St.

633-3300,

mccabestavern.com

Irish/English, inexpensive

Welcome to the Old Country. With a Guinness in hand and a fish and chips plate on the table before you, it's easy to feel transplanted to a different place and time. Just keep the cockney accents to yourself, OK?


December

Brake for shakes  and burgers, and fries  at Cys. - PETER FECTEAU

India Palace

5644 N. Academy Blvd.

535-9196

Indian, inexpensive

The $7.95 all-you-can-eat buffet is one of the best-stocked, -maintained and -tasting in the city. India Palace nails all the standard Indian foods, and the enormous dosas (stuffed crepes) are worth any drive.

Montague's

1019 S. Tejon St.

520-0672

Teahouse, inexpensive

Awesome for soup on a cold day. They always have really good food like the Turkey Orchard sandwich (loaded with cream cheese and dried cranberries) or the pumpkin soup. Plus, they have wonderful teas, coffees and desserts, and comfy couches and chairs to lounge in. The newest addition: a brie tomato pie.

Mona Lisa Fondue

733 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs

685-0277, monalisafondue.com

Fondue, worth the price

Here's a holiday gift that no one with working taste buds could forget. Make reservations, assemble a twosome or foursome, and instruct everyone not to eat until dinner. If your perfect Swiss includes a touch of Mexican, the South of the Border cheese fondue may prove the highlight of an embarrassingly over-the-top four-course meal.

Cy's Drive-In

1833 W. Uintah St.

630-7008

Drive-in burger, inexpensive

What's best about this vintage burger joint is that it serves Ranch Foods meats, so even socially conscious folks can indulge in fries, a shake and a burger without worry. It's inevitable that you'll crave one, so why not make your burger local and healthier?


The following Indy folks contributed to 52 Fridays: Kirsten Akens, Matthew Schniper, Carrie Simison-Bitz, Kathy Conarro, Teri Homick, J. Kelly, Pete Freedman, Lori Green, Kathy MacLeish, Ralph Routon, Jill Thomas, David Torres-Rouff, Kirk Woundy


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