Happy Time Korean Restaurant
5547 Powers Center Point, 282-2110
Complimentary, lukewarm barley-corn tea lands as you're seated at Happy Time, and a brief look over the menu reveals prices that appear to be several dollars above the going local rate for classic Korean fare. For instance, the Galbi Jeong Shik, the popular sweet-soy short ribs of tenderized beef strips bearing the bone in the center, with a delectable fatty rind, runs $16.99. They're great, though, with rice and banchan bites like kimchi and sesame bean sprouts, or between sips of the included tangy, mildly spicy Korean miso soup.
Even better is the Atka Mackerel ($15.99), butterflied with the spine and head still intact then grilled, salted, frozen and sold in Asian markets as such. Happy Time crisps its back up beautifully with olive oil in a pan so that the wonderful, crunchy char of fish skin kicks off the flesh's oily saltiness. Beware the prolific pin bones while devouring. — Matthew Schniper
Nano 108 Brewing Company
2402 Waynoka Road, 596-2337
Maybe just because it's different, but I love Nano's focus on beer styles versus label names (none have 'em) and the constantly rotating menu (see Side Dish, Nov. 20) that's generous with the details and indicative of longtime brewer Keith Altemose's prowess. On a tour of the swank brewhouse, I learn about decoction mashing for the first time, for better malt extraction and richness; think blood doping for beer.
But back in the taproom, a cold-snap-induced fridge failure has the carbonation slightly off on most of our eight beer samples ($4.50 to $6.50/four, depending on choices). Interesting flavors still come through, most notably on a limoncello-nosed Belgian Wit and tart-yet-sweet, excellent Cherry Weizenbock. Also, the Breckenridge Bourbon Barrel Porter on nitro (aged five weeks) sports awesome vanilla notes on top of a roasty chocolate character. — Matthew Schniper
1485 Jamboree Drive, 264-1512, driftershamburgers.com
I daydream about the presence of a downtown Drifter's the way some people think about the return of Christ. With neither likely anytime soon, I'll have to make do with the relatively new location outside the Chapel Hills Mall in an old El Super Taco and even older Taco Bell (which employed a certain boy at age 15).
This one has all the important hallmarks of the original on Garden of the Gods Road — Drifter's hamburgers, mainly — and proves a lovely place to put down four patties of beef. That's what's in the Big Island Combo ($9.65, with fries and drink), along with half the salty, lava-hot cheese in the world. Getting it "wild style" turns it into something resembling an even messier In-N-Out Burger creation, but you're rewarded with tender ground beef, lightly crisped at the ends, mixed with house sauce, crunchy pickles and lettuce, and soft grilled onions. — Bryce Crawford