Coffee & Tea Zone
12225 Voyager Pkwy. #3, 488-8893, coffeeandteazone.com
When I called Coffee & Tea Zone to find out more on a couple drinks I tried, an employee said they don't give out that information. So all I can tell you about the Almond Joy ($3.50, small) was that it was interesting, in its coconut way, but very sweet; and the frozen, blended, Oreo-filled Cookies and Cream ($4) was watery, artificial-tasting and annoyingly closed across the top with a piece of heat-sealed plastic instead of a lid.
So let's talk about the north-side location itself: Its strip-mall space is a little claustrophobic, with a leather loveseat, tables, a fireplace, some shelves, the counters for drinks and Dreyer's ice cream, and a computer station all crammed into a rectangular space. (Cool hanging lights, though.) And the whole net-cafe thing (costing $1 per 10 minutes) feels not only out of date, but out of place, in a world of smartphones. — Bryce Crawford
7607 N. Union Blvd., 520-9299, vietnamesegarden.net
I'll credit owner Dung My Tram's bold move from the west side into this far-north locale for inspiring us out of our routine. After our requisite yam-carrot fritter starter, we spurn our usual bun and pho for the grilled eggplant in coconut sauce ($11.75). Immediate conversion.
Because of an expensive coconut-cream input, Tram only makes enough sauce (which must sit and set) for five orders daily — but you can call and reserve one. She grills and skins the Asian eggplants (less bitter than our common eggplants) to order, slicing them into nice angled cuts with tofu (which we left out) and mushrooms. The slightly sweet coconut sauce gets a rice-flour binder, granting it almost a potato-soup starchiness, with peppercorn bite and the perfect accompaniment of fresh green onion and basil bits and crunchy fried shallots. It's simply epic, and understandable that one regular customer still drives from Woodland Park just for this. — Matthew Schniper
All American Sports Cafe
12225 Voyager Pkwy. #1, 260-7601, allamericansportscafe.com
The layout of the restaurant is a little weird — square, with the kitchen in the middle and seating arranged around the outside — but it's covered in all the right colors: blue and orange. It's a Broncos bar, baby. And if you think that's a common thing, then you've never suffered, while you searched, under the sound of 10,000 maniacs screaming for the Steelers or Packers or any other team but the home one.
Broncos great and College Football Hall of Famer Randy Gradishar even occasionally stops by, and it's probably for the food. AASC's menu is pretty diverse — baked Brie shares an appetizer spot alongside spring rolls — but it has the staples, like the chili burger ($9.99), down pat. Reminiscent of a better Sloppy Joe, the burger is cooked to a lovely medium-rare, then roundly covered in a thick green chili full of throat-scraping heat, and served with thin, crisp, gravy-covered fries. Bombs away. — Bryce Crawford