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How to dine like a local in the Springs

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To customize your perfect pizza, try Bambino’s. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • To customize your perfect pizza, try Bambino’s.
For all the reviewing the Indy’s food team does, it can be tricky to recommend a restaurant without knowing who’s going. So for this year’s Insider, we mapped out three dining options each for five archetypal locals looking for a full day on the town. Though these aren’t real people, they’re meant to resemble someone you might meet in the Springs. Our ultimate goal is to name-drop a variety of places we and our readers vouch for, as just a sampling of the many fine eateries and cocktail bars out there (for more reader favorites, see p. 66). As part of this exercise, we’ve also included some picks for preferred dessert spots, cocktail lounges and affordable, relaxed places.


Eric, 42, is a Department of Defense contractor. He’s divorced, and while he has his kids for the weekend, he wants to spend some quality time with them. For breakfast, he’ll take them to the Denver Biscuit Co. (denbisco.com), a newish place that’s made its mark on the Springs with biscuit sandwiches, French toast biscuits and massive, bacon-covered cinnamon rolls. It’s an indulgent breakfast, but the kids get their choice between sweet and savory, and dad gets all the coffee he can drink. For lunch, he’ll take the kids somewhere they can have even more choice over what they want to eat. The build-your-own, fixed-price pizzas at Bambino’s Urban Pizzeria (bambinosurbanpizzeria.com) let the kids build whatever pizza or mac-and-cheese creation they want. And if he wants something a little healthier for himself, he can build a veggie-covered pizza or a salad. It’s a great compromise between flexible menu offerings and familiar fare, and for families, it’s a fine choice. For dinner, dad’s chosen to go meaty with Front Range Barbeque (frbbq.com). Choices abound here, too, including pork, beef, chicken and catfish options. Southern-style sides like slaw or red beans and rice make the meal complete, and for adult dessert, there’s a rotating selection of craft beers on tap.

Maya, 22, studies at a local university, and her family is visiting to celebrate her impending graduation. She wants to show off some of the coolest spots in town and score brownie points with judgy Aunt Rita. For breakfast, she’ll guide her family to King’s Chef Diner (cosdiner.com), where she’s had more than a few green chile dishes to perk herself up after late nights studying. Whatever they go for, she knows her family will get a taste of legitimate Southwestern cuisine. For lunch, she just has to introduce them to the Brazilian coconut shrimp soup at Shuga’s (shugas.com), which she knows Aunt Rita will go gaga over. But the whole menu’s full of eats as hip and eclectic as the decor inside this comparatively quaint little spot, and if her folks are feeling in the right mood, cocktails available by pitcher or by glass will surely hit the spot, too. For dinner, she will take the folks to Odyssey Gastropub (odysseygastropub.com) to dine on eclectic yet approachable bites like a chicken and waffles rendition with guajillo chile butter. Her folks can try something a little different without feeling totally out of their depth. The cocktail menu has some fun to offer, and if someone in the family’s a beer aficionado, they’ll find sound 
offerings as well.
Adam’s Mountain: A Manitou go-to for a reason. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Adam’s Mountain: A Manitou go-to for a reason.
DeAndre, 32, is an office worker who recently relocated from Denver due to housing costs. His buddies and former co-workers don’t understand why, and he wants to show them that the Springs is just as hip and cultured as Denver. For brunch, he’ll take them to 503w (503w.co), where he’s been bowled over by dishes like the Lucky Belly Hash, and the plays on chicken and waffles are no slouch either. The cocktails, too, delight, thanks to the award-winning bar team. But the biggest sell: They aren’t stuck waiting for a seat for 45 minutes. For lunch, he’s chosen to blow their minds with Piglatin Cocina (piglatincocina.com) and their affordable offerings. It didn’t take too many island tacos or kimchi quesadillas for him to fall in love with the food here, and he bets it won’t take many for his buddies to do the same. Good, cheap drinks sweeten the deal yet further. To round out the night at dinner, he’ll take them to one of the two Wobbly Olive (wobblyolive.com) locations. Once again, quality craft cocktails will get his guests excited as they debate whether to go for a dinner of appetizers and tapas or to commit to some of the tempting entrées.

Twila, 36, is a yoga instructor who’s toying with the idea of going vegan but wants to know she’ll still be able to go out with friends. For breakfast, she’ll scout out Adam’s Mountain Café (adamsmountaincafe.com), which has a selection of vegetarian and vegan offerings for her to choose from, as the menu is 65 percent vegetarian and 40 percent vegan, so she isn’t confined to the salad section. Her options veer global, too, and she could easily come back for lunch and dinner. But for lunch this time, she’ll head north and sample the new Sprig (sprigeats.com), which offers plant-centric and wellness eating in a familiar fast casual setting, perfect for blitzing her chakras with a smoothie bowl or a brown rice or quinoa bowl topped with a variety of veggies. It also has a drive-thru for when she’s on the go, and the house-made juices make it tempting to stop by for a healthy snack. For dinner, she’ll hit the Springs’ beloved vegan dive bar, Burrowing Owl (burrowingowllounge.com), for bar bites and comfort food that nonetheless lets her avoid animal products. She can choose from tacos, nachos and mac and cheese, or she can plan ahead and sample one of the weekly specials. The Owl also serves cheap, creative cocktails and a jaw-dropping array of canned beers, so she can get her drink on, too.
Fall in love with Piglatin Cocina’s quesadillas. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Fall in love with Piglatin Cocina’s quesadillas.
Mary, 72, is a retiree who lives with her husband, Harold. When they aren’t visiting their grandkids around the country, they like dining out. For Sunday brunch, the couple has found it hard to beat The Margarita at Pine Creek (margaritaatpinecreek.com). They love the cinnamon-pecan coffee cake, and if they aren’t having a tough time choosing between the spot’s beautifully made brunch cocktails, they’re debating between the many egg dishes being offered, knowing that whatever they order, they can’t miss. They’re also fond of the Margarita for lunches and dinners. Similarly, while they could order any meal at The Cliff House in Manitou (thecliffhouse.com), they find the petit plates on the lunch menu an affordable and properly portioned way to enjoy the AAA four diamond-rated spot’s fanciest dishes, like salmon and filet mignon. They’ll frequent The Warehouse (thewarehouserestaurant.com) for lunch or dinner, enjoying gourmet dishes prepared with a decidedly Southwestern twist. While they often enjoy the restaurant’s seasonal menu, it’s always nice to have go-tos like the Quail “Cordon Bleu.” On the occasion they feel like indulging in a cocktail, bartender Andrew Combs has them covered with both classics and creative drinks.

No coat required

Some of the best meals we’ve had have come from simple, unpretentious eateries. Tlaquepaque (restauranttlaquepaque.com) always blows our minds with tortas, birria and other dishes. El Taco Rey (eltacorey.com)’s avocado pork burritos and tacos are an indulgent delight every time. Mediterranean Cafe (medcafe-co.com) has earned our loyalty through affordable quality in all of its dishes. Slice 420 (slice420.com) dishes out New York-sized slices with an array of toppings. And the naked fried chicken at Al’s Chicken & Waffles (facebook.com/alschickenandwaffles) merits a stop whenever we can spare the time. Of the plethora of good Thai spots in town, we’re partial to Thai Mint (thai-mint.com/index) and Arharn Thai (arharnthai.net). In addition to their noodle bowls, Rooster’s House of Ramen (makeamericaslurpagain.com) dishes interesting Banh Mi sandwiches. Speaking of Vietnamese fare, pho places abound, but Saigon Cafe (coloradosaigoncafe.com) and Pho-nomenal (phonomenalrestaurant.com) command a huge local following. And, lastly in this sweeping snapshot, Uchenna (uchennaalive.com) serves lovely 
Ethiopian dishes.
Find authentic desserts at The French Kitchen. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Find authentic desserts at The French Kitchen.

Pour some sugar on me

For most, desserts rule, and the Springs’ eateries can sugar up anyone who’s got a little cash and a little time. Springs ice creamery Josh & John’s Ice Cream (joshandjohns.com) has three locations around town, with signature flavors that should satisfy more conventional palates and seasonal flavors for an offbeat treat. Boonzaaijer’s Dutch Bakery (dutchpastry.com) offers a tantalizing variety of European-style baked goods, from impulse-buy desserts to go with its coffee drinks to special occasion cakes. Visitors to The French Kitchen (tfkcc.com) may favor a pain au chocolat, or they might prefer a piece of opera cake, but they’ll be wowed by the authentic French patisserie whatever they choose. Those looking to avoid gluten have a few options around town, with the most venerated being Coquette’s Bistro (coquettesbistro.com), which built its reputation on a foundation of cupcakes. And those who prefer candy have strong choices in Cacao Chemistry (cacaochemistry.com) or Bonbon Bombardier (bonbonbombardier.com), both sound options.



Shaken, stirred and built

MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
Those who can’t find a special and memorable cocktail in the Springs, at this point, aren’t really trying. Now that Lee Spirits Co.’s entered the whiskey game, Brooklyn’s on Boulder Street (brooklynsonboulder.com) is set to expand its already impressive classic and forward-thinking cocktail offerings. We’re also fans of the drinks at Axe and the Oak Whiskey House (axeandtheoak.com) that use A&O whiskey, rye and moonshine to great effect. It’s located right below the Principal’s Office (principalsoffice.co), where the cocktails are just as forward-thinking as the coffee drinks. Underneath Colorado Craft, The Archives (thearchivescos.com) serves some excellent drinks with bougie bites from the kitchen upstairs. To the north, as much as we love the food at Atmosphere Gastropub (atmospheregastropub.com), we’d be remiss not to laud the spot for its exquisite cocktail program. And while Distillery 291 (distillery291.com) is a tasting room, the drinks designed by Courtney Caldwell blow half the city’s bars out of the water.

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