Bara Sushi & Grill
Sushi/Japanese ~ $$
1645 Briargate Pkwy., #245, 599-7330, sushibara.com
Bara has a sister operation in Denver; both are sleek and modern with gorgeous plate presentations. Lunch boxes, complete with soup, salad, rice and items like teriyaki chicken, beef or salmon, are a great deal. Tempura and noodle entrées are available, but the sushi stars, with fresh nigiri and quality specialty rolls like the unique Bara Roll of salmon, asparagus and bacon.
Bird Dog BBQ
Barbecue ~ $
1645 Briargate Pkwy., #243, 599-4655, birddogbbq.com
Bird Dog smokes with oak — milder than hickory or mesquite, allowing the meat's natural flavors to emerge. On the same tip: Your house-made sauces will come on the side. The Smokehouse — brisket topped with a hot link — has been known to make tails wag. Also look for the Powers Boulevard location and a new location in Fountain this spring.
American ~ $
4475 Northpark Drive, 203-3100
After a decade on Academy Boulevard, Broadway opened this larger spot in December, then closed the original location in March. The breakfast and lunch menus remain but a new, extensive dinner menu has been created, featuring pizzas, pastas, steaks, seafood and much more. We like the chicken Parmigiana at dinner, Reuben at lunch and cheesecake anytime.
City of Philly Cheese Steaks
American ~ $
4747 Flintridge Drive,265-5770
In the corner of a strip mall at Academy Boulevard and Flintridge Drive, father and son Tim and Chris Cotrinaz dish steaming steak sandwiches on chewy bread from Philly-based Amoroso's Baking Co. Hoagies, hamburgers and a bevy of side options prevail, but the namesake is all the reason to visit you'll need.
Colorado Mountain Brewery
Brewpub ~ $$
11202 Rampart Hills View, 434-5750, cmbrew.com
Led by former Phantom Canyon brewer Andrew Bradley, CMB offers six signature beers — which Bradley assures us are "dialed in" after a hit-and-miss opening — as well as rotating specialty batches. A full and largely delicious menu accompanies the booze. We recommend the venison spring rolls, full of venison sausage, black beans, bell peppers, cheese, onions and mustard with a sweet chili sauce.
Indian ~ $
5644 N. Academy Blvd., 535-9196
India Palace has long been a Springs favorite for Indian standards. The outfit came under new ownership in early 2010, and again this past February, so expect minor changes. Co-owner Rag Kumar says his mother does the cooking for the family business. The new menu features more of a Northern Indian style with additional meat dishes, says Rag, though vegetarian options still abound. Hours, including the buffet, run seven days a week.
Pizza ~ $$
1829 Briargate Blvd., 265-6922, myspace.com/joeysnypizza
Joey Stasolla might still be in his 20s, but the Long Island-born pizza slinger certainly knows his craft well, having been at it since he was 14. He's fanatic about his daily-made dough and sauces, and loves to introduce diners to "real" New York-style pizza with quality toppings. If not in for a pie, get the knockout Rocky Balboa hoagie.
Jun Japanese Restaurant
Sushi/Japanese ~ $$
1760 Dublin Blvd., 531-9368, junjapanese.com
All that you really need to know about Jun is that the outfit, operated by owner Jun Aizu, has won our readers' vote for Best Japanese/Sushi for the past 15 years. Some employees have been with the meticulous operation for more than 20 years. Where many sushi outfits get wacky with odd roll fillings, Jun and his talented team tend to focus on tight execution and overall quality.
Kura Japanese Restaurant
Sushi/Japanese ~ $$
3478B Research Pkwy., 282-8238
Four-year-old Kura, run by former Jun server Song Brinck, tends to surprise at every turn, offering more than 100 traditional types of sushi, sashimi, Japanese tapas and tempura items. A popular Wednesday ladies' night out continues indefinitely with great specials, wine tastings and more. And even those with man bags will find delight in well-executed creations like the Research Roll.
Thai ~ $
8810 N. Union Blvd., 282-0474
Lanna Thai is named after owner Varanya Meyer's daughter, and Meyer appears to show her menu equal love. The food is largely tremendous, laced with floral notes of sweet basil, lemongrass, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves and, thankfully, no MSG. Start with the excellent tom yum goong soup and a papaya salad, then grab either the Pad Thai or pa-nang talay, which features buttery scallops, calamari, shrimp and white fish in a basil-rich coconut milk bath.
Chinese ~ $
9475 Briar Village Point, #150, 266-8351
Lanshing Café is the passion of longtime owners Cheau and Simpson Jiang. Their Chinese standards are uniformly fresh and delicious, as evidenced by standouts like the pork egg fu young. Portions are generous, and super-affordable deals include a $6.75 lunch special in which your main course comes with soup, rice and an egg roll.
Vietnamese ~ $
6840 N. Academy Blvd., 592-1391, restauranteur.com/lemongrassbistro
Owner Dang Truong and Lemongrass Bistro serve superior Vietnamese renditions that exude freshness with bright herbs like cilantro, mint and basil. Grab a combination bun, pho, fried rice platter or curry dish, or get one of the specialties like grilled pork and shrimp paste on sugarcanes.
The Margarita at PineCreek
Gourmet ~ $$$
7350 Pine Creek Road, 598-8667, margaritaatpinecreek.com
Chef Eric Viedt and Cathy Werle's three-, five- and six-course, wine-paired prix fixe dinners ($34 to $75) change daily, incorporating cuisines from around the world. They're awesome, but for a more affordable meal, we love the downstairs lounge menu that ranges from about $4 to $15 and currently features killer plates like scallops bouillabaisse, braised oxtail and Peking duck confit. Brunch and lunch are also great, as are a dinner-and-a-movie night and the seasonal, Saturday morning Colorado Farm and Art Market.
Marigold Café and Bakery
4605 Centennial Blvd., 599-4776, marigoldcoloradosprings.com
Marigold is nearing the 20-year mark, and it has once again earned our readers' votes for Best Bakery/Patisserie and Best Dessert Destination. The cake and pastry cases are simply gorgeous, and flavors match the presentation. In the savory department, look for a diverse, contemporary French bistro-inspired selection of gourmet items ranging from salmon roulade and lamb chops to mussel and clam linguini and pizzas.
Mediterranean ~ $
3578 Hartsel Drive, Unit F, 599-0400, pitabella.com
Jordan native Rami Jdour and his wife Manal opened their north side Pita Bella in early November 2009 and their south location just a couple months later, showing ambition from the get-go. Good thing their Greek, Turkish, Moroccan, Georgian and Yemeni dishes back it up. Go for salads, pitas or platters filled with excellently spiced shawarma and kafta or a curry- and cumin-rich falafel. The hummus and baba ghanoush sides are better than most, and a great homemade baklava delivers a perfectly sweet finish.
Pizza/Italian ~ $
8794 N. Union Blvd., 282-4177, pizzatimecolorado.com
Family-friendly Pizza Time offers a solid mix of pizzas, subs, salads and pastas with gluten-free options among its pies, noodles, sandwiches and even beer. Start with some garlic breadsticks or the awesome antipasto salad, and then try the Philly Cheesesteak if not making your own custom pie or calzone. But leave room, because you'll want to finish with a Hawaiian shaved ice.
R&R Coffee Café
Café/Coffeehouse ~ $
11425 Black Forest Road, Black Forest, 494-8300, rnrcoffeecafe.com
Not merely a coffee shop with delicious, scratch-made baked goods, R&R is an earnest breakfast, lunch and dinner spot that enjoys the gourmet touch of chef Carla Erick. Ryan Wanner is a medium-profile roaster who doesn't dig sugar-bomb-style drinks. His are well-balanced, letting the coffee and espresso speak for themselves. Look for the addition of specialty coffee-tasting menus soon. (Think: the coffee equivalent of a wine flight.)
Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill
Mexican/Southwestern ~ $$
802 Village Center Drive, 266-9244; 9420 Briar Village Point, #100, 955-6650, rockymtnrg.com/salsabrava
Sure, you can find killer chips and salsa — made daily — not to mention all the hallmarks of solid Mexican food, but we know why you really Brava up: the running and cycling clubs. Apparently, running on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in Briargate, and biking on Saturdays at 10 a.m. in Rockrimmon, you really get your gears grinding for great guacamole. Margaritas in hand, we salute you for it.
San Chang House
Korean ~ $
3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-1707
Besides winning our award for Best Korean, San Chang stands out for its great service. It's not uncommon to have the server help you on heat amounts, or to walk you through vegetarian suggestions. If you're the meat-eating type, however, you can't go wrong with the bulgogi or the tasty squid stir-fry.
Senor Manuel's Mexican Cuisine
Mexican ~ $
4660 N. Nevada Ave., 598-3033, senormanuel.com
While the neighborhood around it changes, Senor Manuel's clings tight to its 40-year-old tradition of serving affordable, family-made, stick-to-your-ribs Mexican food. The chile rellenos are the epitome of comfort food (assuming you're comfortable with green chile and a ton of wonderful melted cheese), but the real attraction here is the no-frills, down-home feel.
Silver Pond Chinese Gourmet
Chinese ~ $$
5670 N. Academy Blvd., 594-9343, bestsilverpondchinese.com
Silver Pond's large, lively and affordable menu boasts unique plates like the strawberry or mango chicken and shrimp entrées. Lots of spicy options, including the triple kung pao, are happy to deliver an afterburn. Dinner tops out in the $18 range, with delicious plates like crispy duck and honey walnut poultry or prawns.
South Jersey Subs
American ~ $
1726 Brookwood Drive, 531-5100, southjerseysubs.com
South Jersey Subs nails the East Coast vibe with a combination of attitude, quality ingredients and deftly prepared sandwiches. From the hot sub list, go for the zesty ground Italian sausage sub or cheese steak. Off the grill, there's the ample Genoa salami, capicola and provolone sub, full of veggies of your choice. Don't leave without eating a Tastykake or knocking back a birch beer.
Squeak Soda Shop
Dessert ~ $
812 Village Center Drive, 265-4677, squeaksodashop.com
Think of Squeak as a culinary ride through childhood for nostalgic, but sophisticated, adults. That may look like a grilled cheese sandwich next to a glass of grape soda, but it's more likely to be an oven-roasted turkey Dijon panini with a glass of custom-blended fizz flavored like an Anjou pear or graham cracker. By the time you're done eating, your inner child will probably be ready to tackle the in-house Wii or collection of classic board games.
American ~ $$$
230 Point of the Pines Drive, 598-8990, thesunbird.com
A Mother's Day institution, thanks to its expert rendering of brunch classics (and perhaps thanks to the bottomless Champagne as well), the Sunbird boasts gorgeous views and food that satisfies at any time of day. Go for the Sunset Dinner menu, or browse and pick a few offerings from among the lounge nibbles — blue cheese kettle chips with scallions are a highlight. Either way, consider making a reservation at thesunbird.com.
Taste of India
Indian ~ $
4820 Flintridge Drive, 598-3428, tasteofindiasprings.com
Taste of India won your vote for Best Indian/Curry in 2010, and it's no stranger to accolades. The family-run outfit is beloved within the local Indian community, much of which is also known to shop at the grocery store next door. The menu is huge, so whatever it is you're after — tandoori plates, lamb curry, shrimp masala, saag paneer, aloo gobi — it's here, and often wonderful.
Trinity Brewing Co.
Brewpub ~ $
1466 Garden of the Gods Road, 634-0029, trinitybrew.com
At Trinity, the excitement employees bring to the business of drinking is palpable. New, house-made draft releases happen more or less weekly, with creative brews like the recent Farmhouse Nocturnum, a super saison brewed with sarsaparilla, sassafras, rosemary, coriander and cumin. The joy in the obscure continues with a menu that boasts Belgian-style fries, portobello sliders, and a godlike concoction known as the Bacon Cone.