Phat Hatties Smokehouse BBQ
1169 N. Circle Drive, 434-5755
"I like pig butts and I cannot lie" reads the Phat Hatties T-shirt. Awesome. The five-year-old business, with a mobile barbecue cart at the intersection of Academy and Union boulevards, expanded to this sit-down spot in mid-2011. Inside, thick reclaimed wood frames large cowboy-themed photos on burgundy walls above corrugated metal half-walls; rich barbecue scent is your oxygen.
Having enjoyed the brisket and pulled pork from the cart a couple years back, I go for three pork baby back ribs as my meat on the customized Lonestar plate ($7.99), choosing sides of crispy, dense hushpuppies, a faintly sweet corn pancake and an extra side ($1) of exemplary meat-stewed collard greens. The ribs are mildly smoky, well barked (no over-charred spots) and plenty tender, with house spicy and sweet sauces delivering pleasant peppery potency, but a little too much of a sticky corn syrup texture for my tastes. — Matthew Schniper
Sancho's Mexican Grub
5046 N. Academy Blvd., 964-3702
Sancho's is a drive-thru at Academy and Union boulevards with a smallish, gut-busting menu that makes eating one burrito plenty, and two a mistake.
Whether you get the pork with avocado, or chile relleno, or chicharrón, they're all five bucks, come with soda and are sunk in a very thick, gravy-like green chile with shredded cheese. That means they all taste pretty similar, though the pork is missing its avocado flavor; the chicharrón — and its stiff bits of chewy, fried pork — stands out as the star. It can get messy, though, and having to eat it in the car (as opposed to a couple side tables out in the cold) doesn't help anything. If mobility's key, the beef or chicken Puffy Tacos ($5) are a nice fried option. Go for the juicy shredded chicken bits over some standard ground beef, covering it in a green, cilantro-flecked sauce. — Bryce Crawford
Taste of India 2
760 Citadel Drive, 591-2105, tasteofindiacoloradosprings.com
Taste of India's flagship restaurant at 4820 Flintridge Drive has been a perennial Indy Best Of winner and though the express location downtown failed years ago, the Citadel mall's foot traffic (plus no Indian competition nearby) should keep this new expansion afloat.
The fastest and cheapest option is the Combination Plate ($5.99, includes two pieces of naan); choose two entrées and a side from the pre-prepared hot line. My side vegetable biryani, essentially a dolled-up basmati rice portion, and a sweetly spiced creamy coconut chicken are both pleasing, but the Mutter Paneer is totally off, with somehow bland peas and house cheese (usually my favorite part) swimming in an out-of-balance (old?) sauce. Paying more for a single, fresh entrée is advisable if the excellent Chana Chicken ($10.95) is any indication, with big flavor, a sharp ginger bite and enough to equal two meals. — Matthew Schniper