466 N. Murray Blvd., 591-1628, cochinagourmet.com
China Gourmet bills itself as our "No. 1 New York Style Chinese Fast Food" place, which equates to foil and plastic utensils and to-go ware, even for sit-down meals. That's actually handy since my Singapore Mei Fun ($8) rice noodles would provide two more meals (stretched with added veggies at home). Curry powder yellows the dry tangle that's dotted with chicken, beef and shrimp bits, which lands bland, especially considering the menu's chili icon indicating that it's hot.
Our thickly battered sweet & sour shrimp are everything you'd expect (viscous neon red sauce: check), including only costing $5.50 with soup, egg roll and fried rice. Even if the spot oversells itself as "a Chinese blend of traditional culinary art with the modern concept of fine dining in an elegant contemporary atmosphere" (strip mall — ahem), it's fun to hear loud Chinese banter from cooks laboring over two giant woks behind the service counter. — Matthew Schniper
The Golden Bee
The Broadmoor, 1 Lake Ave., 577-5776, broadmoor.com
With pints starting at $7, yards hitting $24, and whiskey offerings ranging from $8.50 to $100, the cocktails start to look pretty attractive from a price standpoint at the Bee. Both a fun build-your-own gin and tonic section, with accents like hibiscus or basil orange, and some house "Bee Stinger" concoctions come in at $11.75 — not much more than other fine bars around town for quality, creative offerings.
From the latter list, the Hornet's Nest mixes Knob Creek bourbon with cayenne-infused honey, muddled cucumber, simple syrup and soda water. The fruit gifts a lightness to balance the syrup and sap's viscosity, and the cayenne does sting a bit on the tail end, making the name apropos. Bourbon aficionados will appreciate its ever-present backbone amid the sweetness ... and hey now, the legendary in-house piano man just covered a Death Cab for Cutie song. Mustache and magic. — Matthew Schniper
122 Tracker Drive, 481-6782, costavida.net
I love when the market responds to consumers. Costa Vida is like the love child of Chipotle and Wahoo's Fish Tacos (minus, you know, the fish tacos), serving what's apparently known as Baja-style cuisine. Think tacos, burritos and the like in a room bearing a surfboard motif. There's lots of teal and orange, including — in a nice touch for Pastafarians everywhere — orange colanders hanging from the ceiling as light coverings.
The ordering process is just like Chipotle's, except that when you get to the front, what you see are balls of dough, made that day, being pressed into tortillas and then cooked on a 450-degree flattop. Now that's fresh. We did tacos: two steak ($8.99) and two shredded beef ($7.49). Both corn and flour tortillas were deliciously crisp at the edges, while the shredded beef offered a more succulent experience. Go with raspberry sauce over a tame "spicy" tomatillo sauce. — Bryce Crawford