Illinois transplant Tom Hwang purchased the former Korean Garden in August and re-opened its doors as Eastern Garden (2750 S. Academy Blvd., #110, easterngardencs.com). Restaurants have been the Hwang family business for some time, he says, and after moving to Colorado Springs, he was looking to get back into the game.
"This place was for sale, and we met [Ramona Burns] who was the previous owner," Hwang explains. "She taught us everything she knows, and we're just trying to refine it a little more." Hwang himself is of Taiwanese heritage. At first, he introduced one or two Taiwanese options to the menu, but he says customers were slow to take to them. That cannot be said for the Korean fusion options he's added, items like bulgogi tacos.
"Customers like them more, so we're going to kinda go down that road," he says. "Our bread and butter is still the bulgogi, and people just love our bibimbap." He's also added a selection of gluten-free and vegetarian items to the menu to meet customer need. And, since he's aware that Korean food can be intimidating for the conservative diner, he's working on a more descriptive menu for 2017.
Lodge sources local
In mid-December, Madison, Wisconsin-based Great Wolf Lodge opened its indoor waterpark in northern Colorado Springs (9494 Federal Drive, greatwolf.com). It's the company's 14th resort in the nation. And, like any resort, there's food involved. The family-centric property hosts six eateries in total, all open to the public.
Perhaps the biggest eye-catcher is Barnwood, a new concept for the company that corporate director of food and beverage Chris Hammond describes as "farm-to-fork." Much of the menu has been sourced locally, with fish from Colorado Catch, honey from Bee Squared Apiaries and cheese from Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy. Barnwood also offers craft beers, wines and cocktails.
Hammond says some of those vendors will also show up at the resort's breakfast and dinner buffet, the Loose Moose Family Kitchen, at the chef's discretion. Head chef Hector Gonzales is a company man, a Puerto Rico native who started at the Charlotte resort. He'll be working with sous chefs Terry Shampoe, formerly of the Antlers Hotel, and Matt Redmond, a Michigan transplant. But they're not the only people making the menus here. The company uses a "chef council" to make decisions, currently consisting of Hammond, corporate director of culinary Russ Meeks and Madison, Wisconsin-based chef Tory Miller, who won the James Beard award in 2012.
"We have plans to add a local chef onto that council as well," Hammond says.
In addition to the two restaurant-typical experiences, the resort offers in-house fast food, Buckets Incredible Craveables, and a pizza/sub shop, Hungry as a Wolf, both corporate standards. There's also a Dunkin' Donuts and the first Ben & Jerry's in Colorado Springs.