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Local food and drink highlights from 2018

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MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
Last December, by way of a year-in-review, we introduced a conversational unpacking of our dining and drinking adventures in 2017. We found it effective for giving a lot of shoutouts while reminding our readers of some of the period’s highlights. So, we’re doing it again for 2018, rifling through our notes to send this year out in style and welcome whatever 2019 has on the menu.

Griffin: So Matt, what’s excited you in 2018?

Matt: I was pleased to see eateries from 
different nationalities pop up, plus some spots offering new-to-town items, for example Krabby’s Seafood Joint doing rockin’ seafood boils, and D-Station 
introducing Chinese hot pot service.

Truth. I was super jazzed about Smørbrød being the city’s first Nordic eatery — their seafood soup’s still bangin’. And, though we have other Southern and soul food spots, Al’s Chicken and Waffles stands out, especially for the naked fried chicken.

There was also Monse’s Taste of El Salvador, now a stellar sit-down pupuseria. And Hafa Adai brought us Chamorro (indigenous Guamanian) cuisine — easy, island-invoking eats. My visits to the capable Aroi Thai provided my first sampling of vibrant Northern-style Thai pork sausages.

What else grabbed your attention?

This past month I hit the Pikes Peak Market in its new location, and really dug a plate of empanadas and some truly Legit gelato. Kangaroo Coffee joining up should help anchor the spot, which I hope expands hours and can grow into something more bustling. I was just in Birmingham, Alabama, and hit a place called The Pizitz Food Hall, which gathers over a dozen food entities around a central bar, next to a couple retail spots and co-working space. It made me think: “We need this, the Pikes Peak Market should be this.” … What about you?
Pupusas at Monse’s Taste of El Salvador. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Pupusas at Monse’s Taste of El Salvador.
That reminds me of what Local Relic has tried to do (small-scale) with Immerse Cuisine. I’ve also been spending time around Northgate, Gleneagle and Monument; it’s been a good year for both craftier and grandma-cooking spots up north. Basil & Barley, that True Neapolitan pizzeria, felt like something so conceptually undiluted that I’m shocked (and delighted) it opened here. Atmosphere Gastropub stands out among modern/fusion/hipster eateries in town. Monument’s Jarrito Loco went heavy on homemade, which showed, and that Amandine from Black Forest Foods Café & Deli stands as one of the best cakes I’ve ever had — and I’m by and large a pie guy. What have we missed?

In my recent review for Dos Santos taqueria, I touched again on the Denverization trend you and I have foretold. Atomic Cowboy (i.e., Denver Biscuit Company, Fat Sully’s, Frozen Gold) is just the beginning and I feel it’s a good 
challenge for our culinary community.

You’ve noted consistency as a weakness in the Springs scene before, and it seems like the craft Denver places have it down pat.

Exactly. Not to dog the Springs too hard, but few spots uphold consistency from visit-to-visit — one reason why chain spots have kicked independents in the teeth. Anyhoo, we’ve frequented Piglatin Cocina since its brick-and-mortar opening; I think Havana Grill’s an awesome shot in the arm for the Southeast side; and Chiba bar has been absolutely bully and badass... And so we don’t stiff the drink scene, quick newbie picks in each arena: Blank coffee/food; The Archives for cocktails; Brass Brewing for beers (and FH Beerworks’ colossal Eastside expansion); and Vinum Populi for wine.

I’ll drink to that. Here’s to more good eats and drinks in 2019!

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