Sunbird Mountain Grill & Tavern
1230 Point of the Pines Drive, 598-8990, thesunbird.com
It's been roughly two years since the California company that owns the Sunbird rebooted the fine-dining staple into a Western-themed bar and grill. Now you get boots and plaid, pool tables, and beer pong with your weddings and vistas. (For the change-averse, the champagne brunch remains a staple.)
The bar now hosts a Fireball Cinnamon Whisky machine to accompany the expansive views. During a recent visit, personable service also stood out. Fantastic margaritas, too, with the Margarita Fresh ($6 at happy hour) offering 160 calories of Cazadores Blanco, organic agave nectar and lime juice. A tougher sell was the Smoke House Trio ($17), which lacked the promised smoked pork, but included some of the best barbecue sauce around over some of the driest brisket and chicken I've eaten. The Chicken Pueblo ($16) was likewise cooked to death, its mild green chile and a shallow cheddar sauce in need of bolstering. — Bryce Crawford
Blank Canvas Cafe
103 S. Wahsatch Ave., #106, 505-5476, dreamcatcherscos.com
The honey-sweetened lemon-ginger popsicles ($3) sting with zest and zing, while Charley's Cookies (two for $1.50) strike a perfect moist-chewy pose, bearing chocolate, coconut and almonds. SwitchBack Coffee-roasted espresso drinks can be potently sweet, like the iced white mocha ($4/12-ounce), or rounded and smooth liked the iced latte ($3.50). Davinci's Breakfast ($7) places a nicely fried egg with capicola, Provolone and pesto on focaccia, although I crave a pinch of sea salt and olive oil for finishing flavor and moisture. And the prosciutto and fig panini ($11) lands pleasantly salty as the cured ham meets the sweet fig jam and date paste, with sharp brie and asiago providing a pungent counter.
Bear in mind, Blank Canvas is the cafe arm of Dream Catchers, which offers developmentally disabled adults vocational training. For student fare (under the guidance of trainers), it's quite a gourmet achievement, down to the artsy interior overhaul. — Matthew Schniper
Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.
2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800, phantomcanyon.com
A lot has changed in 20 years for Phantom Canyon. Most recently, a 2013 brewery expansion gave rise to the cool upstairs patio, and a need for an expanded kitchen brought a $1 million renovation earlier this year. Phantom closed for six weeks after the new year, reopening in mid-February and releasing a new menu shortly thereafter.
Gone are some of the stodgier pub-fare plates. In their place — matching the new modern decor, complete with giant overhead lanterns in various geometric shapes — you'll find snappier selections with creative accents. The bright summer squash salad ($10) features pistachio goat cheese, figs and a blood-orange vinaigrette. Large Shishito peppers ($9) dipped in zesty chipotle aioli or chili-sesame oil are enjoyable enough. But the completely surrendered (as in soft , fatty, oily) lamb belly tacos ($12) are best, taking on an island-like vibe, finishing sweetly gamey with accompanying grilled banana mash. I like the way this new Phantom talks to me. — Matthew Schniper