Lush Wine Studio and Taphouse
121 W. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, 322-7720
Most bizarre dining/drinking experience, ever. Andrea Lowe, an aircraft engineer by day, says she opens Lush "when I feel like it." (Call ahead.) She only takes cash, dishes us a complimentary pumpkin-banana bread with pumpkin butter, and says stuff like, "Try my Panty Raid" ($5; a nice, 9-percent ABV raspberry wheat brewed for her by Rocky Mountain Brewing Co.), and, "Honey I don't know" when prompted for details on the sourcing of a chocolate and fruit platter ($10) that contains an amazing basil-raisin garlic pesto.
She does, however, pour three wine glasses rather generously on a Jelly Bean Wine Shooters ($12) taste experiment, wherein you receive three test tubes full of different beans meant to "make up one varietal." (Chardonnay = vanilla, butter and mango beans.) Chew to see what "the wine should taste like," then sip. Then shake the unsettling sensation that you just ate a scented candle. I'm not a fan. — Matthew Schniper
611 N. Wilcox St., Castle Rock, 303/660-2005, uniscali.com
Operated by the same folks as nearby Union American Bistro, Uniscali provides dinner-only Italian in a small dining room with a community table and kitchen-side counter seating. Meals begin with delightful, dense house bread doused in balsamic, and end with a free pour of 100-proof house limoncello. But you'd be wise to order an affogato ($5) for dessert, too, with salt from hazelnut brittle crumbles setting off a scoop of chocolate gelato "drowned" in an espresso shot.
Requesting homemade pasta, we're guided to the saltimbocca ($18.50), which replaces the classic marinated veal with crisp-skinned citrus-brined chicken. Thin, crunchy prosciutto slivers heighten saltiness under an arugula tangle for pepper punch, while the sage element's mostly muted under a watery lemon butter sauce and mild melted Fontina. The pasta feels mushy, falling apart between fork tines. Better execution, and it'd be excellent. — Matthew Schniper
27 S. Tejon St., #110, 632-6403, togos.com
Buttercup's Frozen Yogurt couldn't cut it in the downtown USOC building, so now comes a chain to fill your belly with bread. Sure, there's Jimmy John's across the street, and Subway down the way, but this is Togo's, one of those things Californians are annoyingly crazy about. (I see you, In-N-Out.) Well, for two sandwich combos on a recent afternoon, it was pretty damn good, if pretty damn expensive.
We did the Pepper Jack Pastrami ($9.95/nine inches) and the regional nod, a Pikes Peak Club ($6.95/six inches). Both the white and whole wheat breads were soft and chewy, with the latter sporting whole oats and a honeyed kiss. Meats, like the three inches of pastrami in the Pepper Jack, are shaved in-house and taste clean and moist. That meat's paired with whole pepperoncinis, Thousand Island and some kicking Jack. No complains about the club, either, with lots of fresh avocado and thick bacon. — Bryce Crawford