Claire's Pub & Grill
3840 N. Nevada Ave., 633-0100
A lunch at Claire's — the former Drake Hill Sports Bar (itself the former Café El Paso) that brands itself both as a British pub and as the home for NASCAR fans — is a mild-mannered affair. It features a cool, darkish room that offers comfort to groups like the foursome of elderly men at the bar chatting about beer, hotwiring '67 Chevys and how hard it is to believe that some people "have their head so far up their asses they put a Muslim in a second term."
A quartered Scotch egg ($1.50) served cool came first, the combination of yolk and mild sausage breading making excellent breakfast finger-food. Following that was a spicy Italian-sausage sandwich ($5.50) unexpectedly shaped into a patty; if hot-dog-tasting, hamburger-shaped meat isn't your thing, I'd avoid it. Excellent creamy, skin-on potato salad, though, with just a hint of sour. — Bryce Crawford
Dry Dock Brewing Co.
15120 E. Hampden Ave., Aurora, drydockbrewing.com
Much respected Dry Dock — i.e. World Beer Cup, GABF and Colorado State Fair award-slayer — began canning many of its beers earlier this year, releasing the new Booty Box (around $18) just last month. As for its branding, think pirate's treasure (and then Beastie Boys), rather than spandex-testing hindquarters.
The 12-pack sampler includes three cans each of Dry Dock's year-round Amber Ale, Hefeweizen, Hop Abomination and Apricot Blonde. Though an awarded label, the amber does absolutely nothing for me. And though many friends have gushed over it, the truly fruity apricot blonde (brewed with puree), which is great for its style, just isn't my bag, either. The three-time-GABF-winning hefeweizen is gorgeous, though, and the Hop Abomination is a tremendous IPA, super citrusy with a relatively low 70 IBUs for mildly bitter effect. — Matthew Schniper
Maria's Taco Shop
2812 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 471-4525, marias-tacoshop.com
Somehow I've always missed the small Mexican restaurant in the mini strip mall at Pikes Peak Avenue and Circle Drive, but the memory of its almost-black red-chili sauce, blazing with nuclear heat, ought to help me remember from now on.
Sitting in a small, colorful space that was quiet but for the Spanish soccer commentary, we ate it on that day's special: a plate of three tacos and a drink for $6.99. On small, grilled, doubled-up tortillas the small bits of charred carne; the earthy and complex adobada; and the juiced, fatty shreds of barbacoa were perfect. Cilantro and snappy, diced white onions topped the meat, with triangles of lime on the side. A plate of tamales ($8.99), with fresh refried beans and fluffy rice offered mouthfuls of soft, tender masa, but came up a little short in the amount of otherwise delicious shredded-pork filling. — Bryce Crawford