Fratelli Ristorante Italiano
124 N. Nevada Ave., 575-9571
Offering Northern and Southern Italian cuisine, Fratelli makes wonderful organic salads and top-notch gnocchi. Traditional entres like veal scallopini and fettuccine Bolognese pair wonderfully with a glass of Chianti. At lunch, a plate of aged Italian meats makes a great starter or entre.
Mollica's Italian Market & Deli
985A Garden of the Gods Road, 598-1088
A family business opened just over 20 years ago, Mollica's is a classic Italian restaurant with a fully stocked deli inside. There's lots of tradition here, including dinner entres of lasagna, ravioli, tortellini and manicotti. Finish off your meal with one of the best cannolis in town.
Paravicini's Italian Bistro
2802 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8200
75 S. Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, 481-2222
Best Of 'o8
Grab a glass of wine, a calamari or artichoke fritti appetizer, and a plate of penne la vodka or the original chicken Carsoni, which brings a roasted garlic pesto cream sauce fit for a finicky mobster. Finish with a tiramisu, if you know what's good for you.
Island Grill Take-out
1107 S. Nevada Ave., #101, 578-1468
When feeling like a pick-me-up lunch, stop in for some jerk chicken. Curried chicken and ackee also stand out among a variety of interesting main and side-dish choices.
3016 S. Academy Blvd., 391-0142
At Jamaican Flavor, the atmosphere is warm and the food is hot but balanced, too, so you can taste the allspice, coconut milk, garlic and whatever else has infused it. The goat curry's an authentic meal, as is the oxtail and ackee, and it all goes down well with a ginger beer.
Halla San Korean BBQ
1231 N. Academy Blvd., 622-9595
Like every Korean restaurant in town, Halla San offers traditional dishes, including bulgogi (tender, marinated thin-sliced beef), rice and noodle dishes. You won't want to put your spoon down while slurping the sinus-clearing kimchi cabbage soup or the rich Korean miso soup.
San Chang House
3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-1707
Best Of 'o8
The menu at San Chang House includes references to vitamin A, iron, fiber and enzymes. In fact, it is so bold as to proclaim, "You can eat as much Korean food as you like without gaining weight." So go ahead, gorge yourself on kimchi and bul go ki.
2036 S. Academy Blvd., 591-8585
Short of boarding a plane and heading for Seoul, Tong Tong is about as authentic as you're gonna get. Korean staples like bulgogi come served on an iron skillet, and each meal includes side dishes like kimchi and bok choy.
Yummy Korean BBQ
4703 N. Academy Blvd., 266-9944
This traditional operation offers an array of soups, fried rice dishes and noodle plates, among other things.
12 S. Tejon St., 471-2444
The Falafel District's newest arrival, Arabica specializes in authentic shawarma, strips of beef, chicken and turkey that are marinated nightly and slow-roasted on a rotating skewer. The pulled chicken pita sandwich is also a highlight. Of course, if you go lighter with, say, a hummus bowl, you can accommodate a mango smoothie dessert ...
4375 Sinton Road, 528-1155
Drawing influence from Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, Greece, Turkey and Spain, Caspian's Mediterranean smattering includes everything from gyros, falafel and kebabs to moussaka, seafood and Middle Eastern salads all well-executed. Finish, please, with the unbelievable orange saffron caramel custard.
4486 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 264-1165
8844 N. Union Blvd., 282-7776
A favorite Mediterranean destination outside of downtown, Greek Grill dishes a solid homemade falafel and all the stand-bys: gyros, hummus, pita, Greek salad.
Heart of Jerusalem Café
15 E. Bijou St., 477-1777
4587 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 685-9554
Best Of 'o8
Chikofel and Beefofel. Made-up words, yes, but also delicious menu items at both quick-stop HOJ locations. Veggie and dolma plates make great options for herbivores, and meatheads can't go wrong with the Heart of Jerusalem Sandwich with mixed beef, lamb and chicken. Deliciously flaky falafel balls, zesty fries and creamy hummus should be followed by the outstanding house-made baklava.
Jake and Telly's
2616 W. Colorado Ave., 633-0406
Best Of 'o8
As at the Caspian Caf, you'll want to relax at Jake and Telly's. Start with a feta-rich Greek salad accompanied by a nice Greek red wine. Move on to anything lamb, or the souvlaki or moussaka. And since you're taking your time, save room for baklava.
118 E. Kiowa St., 633-0115
Best Of 'o8
Daily-prepared sauces and fresh ingredients create outstanding flavors at downtown's original Mediterranean spot, which sees busy daily lunch rushes. A guaranteed winner is the gyro, with seasoned beef and lamb dressed in feta, onion, tomato and yogurt-y tzatziki. But if you're torn, just pick the Greek sampler.
36 E. Bijou St., 635-7749
Persian Grill stands out for two reasons: its late hours and its killer gyros and kebabs. Try the kebabs in a pita sandwich and also the dolmas, elegantly seasoned rice in grape leaves. For dessert, get the havij bastani, a large cup of freshly pulverized carrot juice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, cinnamon and cardamom.
10 Old Man's Trail, Manitou Springs, 685-1119
Great things about this, the city's only Moroccan restaurant: sitting in comfy cushions on the floor and eating with your fingers. Under glamorous drapes and tapestries, the four- and six-course meals begin with soup and homemade honey-wheat bread before moving to lovely Mediterranean-spiced meat and veggie entres. Catch belly dancers on Fridays and Saturdays.
Mexican, Tex-Mex & Southwestern
Just a note here: The Springs hosts more taco stops and salsa spots than one could realistically hope to catalog in anything smaller than a paperback copy of James Joyce's Ulysses. Here are a few standouts.
3625 W. Colorado Ave., 227-1975
Best Of 'o8
With a creekside mountain cabin on the outside and a Mexican fiesta on the inside, atmosphere makes the Amanda's Fonda experience. The food leans more toward traditional than Tex-Mex, with excellent enchiladas, a formidable green chili and menudo (tripe soup) for the brave or hung-over.
El Taco Rey
330 E. Colorado Ave., 475-9722
"El Taco Rey" translates to "The Taco King," and at lunch, this tiny place reigns among Mexican fare. Get the avocado pork burrito, and order it "deluxe," as in smothered in green chili. Just be prepared for a short wait if the small dining room and outdoor picnic table are full. You can wait for a king, can't you?
El Tesoro Restaurant & Gallery
10 N. Sierra Madre St., 471-0106
For a Santa Fe-style meal, this "treasure," tucked into an early 20th-century adobe building downtown, keeps the lights low and the flavors clean, and actually goes the linen-napkin route without being too dressy. Plus, it's a gallery, so there's always local artwork to ogle.
222 N. Tejon St., 636-2311
Best Of 'o8
Jos's is a downtown institution, having served Mexican food and its famous margaritas for more than 30 years. On a warm day, the back patio is transportive. Hit happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays for $2.50 house wines and margaritas, draft beers, sangrias and well drinks.
La'au's Taco Shop
830 N. Tejon St., #110, 578-5228
Best Of 'o8
Though it's tucked into an alley next to Colorado College, this Hawaiian-inspired joint stays busy. That's a testament to just how good the la carte tacos are. Whether mango salsa over mahi mahi, or steak dressed in cilantro, onion and pico de gallo, affordable treats pull CC staff and students plus smart Springs connoisseurs into the chic, colorful space.
35 Iowa Ave., 477-1157
This family-owned establishment serves unique, traditional food and an amazing homemade tomatillo sauce that's delicious on the chile relleno burrito. It also offers an exclusive chocolate sauce to top one of many specialty burritos. The family feeling distracts you from the strip-mall location and florescent lighting.
La Casita Patio Café
360 S. Eighth St., 633-9616
4295 N. Nevada Ave., 599-7829
3725 E. Woodmen Road, 536-0375
Best Of 'o8
La Casita's bright pink paint and multi-colored awnings create a beacon for the hungry. Garnish your own burrito, taco, chile relleno or whatever at the complimentary salsa and condiment bar. FYI: Cilantro makes everything pop. La Casita's hand-made flour tortillas are the best around, perhaps yummiest when loaded with egg and chorizo in the morning.
965 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9344
You'll find the typical Mexican choices here, as well as killer margaritas. Try the much-honored chile verde, a perfect mix of fire and flavor, plus the tilapia tacos and the Baja burritos.
Monica's Taco Shop
30 E. Fillmore St., 473-1996
5829 Palmer Park Blvd., 597-7022
Best Of 'o8
Monica's breakfast burritos loaded with potatoes, egg, cheese and, of course, a little swine send hangovers packing in style, especially if you order the hot salsa. The sparse English spoken by staff members speaks to Monica's authenticity, but it's no hindrance to landing a yummy plate, quick and cheap.
Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill
802 Village Center Drive, 266-9244
9420 Briar Village Point, 955-6650
Best Of 'o8
Daily-made fresh salsas are the highlight here, unless margaritas are your bag. (If the latter's true, hit weekday happy hours from 4 to 7 p.m. for $3.50 drinks.) Blackened mahi mahi tacos, sporting a killer mango salsa, highlight lunch. At dinner, you'll do fine with the enchiladas, fajitas or a specialty plate like ribs and coconut shrimp.
28B S. Tejon St., 471-9222
Sonterra remains a Tejon Street favorite, known for fresh seafood, dry-aged steaks and casually elegant atmosphere. Go for the barbecue ribs and coconut shrimp at lunch or coconut curry halibut at dinner.
Super Carniceria del Norte
3819 Maizeland Road, 573-5993
We tried to send a photographer here, but the folks at Super Carniceria have more important things to do than to engage in self-promotion. For instance: dishing fantastic soft-corn tacos with an array of authentic fillings and accoutrements (for $1.50 each!) from the back of their ethnic market. Try the nopales, strips of cactus with pork and green chili and also fresh ceviche and shrimp cocktail in a fresh pico de gallo sauce and ketchup.
111 S. Corona St., 635-0980
This tucked-away Mexican place seems like a well-kept secret except that people have kept it busy since 1962. The recipes came from original co-owner Paula Vallejo, who immigrated from Mexico in the 1920s. Start with hot chips and salsa, then pick from straightforward enchiladas, tamales, chile rellenos and combinations with a choice of sauces.
4655 Centennial Blvd. 266-5858
A sushi staple on the north end, Ai serves teppanyaki (food cooked on Benihana-style countertops) rice bowls, tempura and noodle dishes and Japanese entres in addition to sushi. But the creative rolls are what draw crowds. Some favorites: the Crazy Horse, E.T. Roll, Ai Roll, Volcano, Bettina and, of course, Monkey Brain. For pyros: the flaming lobster roll.
22 S. Tejon St., 630-1167
The recently (and beautifully) expanded Fujiyama now offers more options: For a show, hit the teppan tables to see knives fly and food sizzle. For more personal service, sit at the sushi bar, where the chefs gauge your tastes. Or enjoy an intimate dinner at one of the many high and low tables. Tackle the Dragon Roll if you haven't eaten in three days.
Jun Japanese Restaurant
1760 Dublin Blvd., 531-9368
3276 Centennial Blvd., 227-8690
Best Of 'o8
Whatever sushi platter you build, make sure to include Jun's Yummy Roll: tempura shrimp folded in with avocado and salmon. Jun offers an extensive Japanese and sushi menu, and serves fresh fish purchased from around the world. At the daily 5 to 6:30 p.m. sushi happy hours, you can maximize your consumptive carnage.
3117 W. Colorado Ave., 632-7866
Sakura has specialty rolls as big as your palm, stuffed with tempera shrimp, soft shell crab, tuna, yellowtail, avocado, salmon, special sauces, cream cheese and eel. But Sakura's simple rolls also set it apart. For instance, the negihama roll nothing but green onions and yellowtail hits the spot.
308-M S. Eighth St., 475-0669
Sure, the dcor is unremarkable and sometimes the food takes a while, but that's because Shinji Shibuya preps sushi alone, true to small-town, rural Japanese restaurants. Every bite is worth the wait, and Shinji's unconventional special rolls redefine the genre.
6552 S. Academy Blvd., 576-8855
Sushi Ai serves a tasty combination of newer sushi dishes and traditional creations. Try the Unagi Dragon, a delightful fusion of avocado, eel and shrimp, or the Smoky Roll, with smoked salmon, seared tuna, crab and shrimp.
975 N. Academy Blvd., 597-2422
(Also Tomo II at 8029 N. Academy Blvd., 277-0200)
Tomo offers highly creative contemporary sushi rolls delicately prepared by a friendly crew of sushi chefs. It also serves teriyaki dishes, yakitori and an array of delicious appetizers, soups and salads, and specialty sakes. Must haves: the Andy roll, Volcano roll and Tijuana Ninja roll.
21 E. Kiowa St., 473-8105
Belly up to the sushi bar and delight in chef JJ's easygoing humor and unique United States-themed rolls and specials. Yoo Mae offers quick and affordable lunches. Case in point is the Bento Box, comprised of salad, tempura, a pair of California roll pieces and beef or teriyaki chicken over rice, for just under $7.
1025 N. Academy Blvd., 574-3401
4431 Centennial Blvd., 266-1309 bhanthai.net
Come for the pad Thai, stay for the large portions and lunchtime prices during dinner hours. All the curries Massamon, Panang, red, green are solid. But the noodle dishes stand out among others in town. Get the black soy or drunken noodles with a coconut juice or Thai iced tea.
NaRai Thai Restaurant
805 Village Center Drive, 531-5175
NaRai sticks largely to the traditional and avoids the pitfalls of Americanized Thai. Start with a sweet Thai ginger or coconut drink and a larb chicken salad or papaya salad. Then go for your favorite curry style, the drunken noodles or pad Thai. For dessert: coconut ice cream or Thai custard.
Tao's Oriental Cuisine
13888 Gleneagle Drive, 481-3418
Dishing up Thai, Chinese and Korean specialties, Tao's overwhelms with an extensive and diverse menu, rich with sweet, savory and spicy plates. Tao's does beautiful things to fresh vegetables with Thai brown sauce, and gives equal treatment to pork, beef, seafood and chicken offerings over rice and noodles.
Taste of Thai Spice
1609 Lashelle Way, 226-1999
Unlike what´s served in most American Thai restaurants, the food here tastes like it does in Thailand. Go for amazing pad Thai and curry dishes, papaya salad and unbelievable homemade coconut ice cream. Never mind the strip-mall setting and the unremarkable south end location; it's all about the food.
3020 W. Colorado Ave., 634-5025
Best Of 'o8
Wild Ginger is the answer to Thai on the west side. Everything's solid as readers have attested by electing it their top Thai restaurant every year since 2000 and best consumed with a sweet Thai iced tea in hand.
Fine Asian Cuisine
4153 Centennial Blvd., 278-9388
This modest restaurant offers a full range of Vietnamese cuisine, from noodle bowls to grilled pork and rice, as well as a long list of Chinese favorites like Mongolian beef, egg rolls and sesame chicken.
6840 N. Academy Blvd., 592-1391
Fresh mint, cilantro and basil give both flavor and fragrance to the light dishes at Lemongrass Bistro. The starters crisp spring rolls and citrus-infused sliced beef among them are excellent. Try a coconut milk-based seafood dish, rich with squid, mussels, scallops and shrimp.
1371 N. Academy Blvd., 380-0000
Branch out with an avocado-flavored bubble tea, then get Pho's Pho, thin-sliced steak, brisket or chicken over rice noodles in clove-enhanced beef broth.
20 E. Colorado Ave., 633-2888
Best Of 'o8
Saigon is downtown's go-to spot for authentic Vietnamese. Dishes are consistently fresh and tasty. Go for a bun (a house noodle specialty) or one of the traditional rice dishes, lo mein, chow mein and creative stir-fry combinations. Jasmine tea pairs perfectly with the light eating.
3119 W. Colorado Ave., 635-0336
The Saigon Grill, a casual west side spot, is a great place to be introduced to the wide variety of Vietnamese food, including roll-your-own spring rolls. The noodle bowls here are big, with lots of rice noodles, seasoned meat, fresh veggies and a lightly sweet sauce.
3043 W. Pikes Peak Ave., 520-9299
This little house has been home to a number of different culinary experiments in recent years. The new-ish Vietnamese Garden deserves to stick around: Everything here is traditional, and from scratch. Start with the beer-battered potato fritters, rolled in fresh herbs and crisp lettuce. Get bun or an order of the fragrant lemongrass chicken. End with the mung bean and tapioca pudding.
Other town staples
Giuseppe's Old Depot Restaurant
10 S. Sierra Madre St., 635-3111
Located in an old train depot, Giuseppe's spans several cuisines with everything from stone-baked pizzas and calzones to thick meat sandwiches and steaks. The pasta offerings also draw patronage, as does a weekday 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. happy hour featuring $2.75 wells, wines or drafts.
730 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9531
There's bar food, good bar food, and then there's the Keg. The steaks come from Ranch Foods Direct, including the filet mignon burger and the juicy buffalo burger. The marinated chicken sandwich is great, but the salads, such as the berry salad, are the favorite of many. On Wednesdays, two dinners go for just $21.95.
604 N. Tejon St., 635-7452
1721 S. Eighth St., 635-1188
Though it offers a menu complete with pizza, pasta and salads, start with the signature sandwich, the panino. It's a tasty concoction of fillings including meats, veggies, cheese and sauces that come wrapped in a crispy, toasted pizza-like crust.
15 S. Tejon St., 635-8484
Categorizing the Ritz depends on when you go. At lunch, it caters to the business crowd, with solid sandwiches and rich entres. At dinner, it bumps up a notch to serve more elegant dishes, like miso-glazed mahi mahi and filet mignon. Then, once the night's band finishes soundcheck, tables disappear and the party crowd pours in for cocktails and dancing.
528 S. Tejon St., 444-8487
SouthSide Johnny's serves everything from soups and salads to burgers and steaks, catering to a wide demographic. Try the 12-ounce Angus ribeye steak with sweet potato fries. And stick around after dinner to catch live music.
702 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9400
Built in 1881, the Stagecoach Inn in Manitou Springs has long thrilled tourists with its Western shtick. But the dependable, hearty country fare beefy chili, chicken-fried steak and traditional turkey dinners make it a local favorite, too. Dine on the covered back porch on a breezy summer afternoon.
To find more restaurants, go to csindy.com and click on the Food/Drink tab.