Culpepper's Cajun Kitchen
Cajun/Southern ~ $
6502 S. Academy Blvd., 282-8479, culpeppers.net
Owners Martin and Kathy Anderson moved Culpepper's from the north side to South Academy Boulevard a couple years back and reworked the menu for a more casual, less expensive dining experience. That experience remains satisfying with the fantastic flavors of Louisiana and the Gulf: shrimp, gumbo, crawfish etouffée, gator bites, Po-boys, blackened catfish, maque choux, jambalaya and more. Finish with house-made beignets and look out for boiled crawfish specials from April to July.
Dad's Kwik Inn Diner
Diner ~ $
385 Main St., Security, 392-5063, dadskwikinn.com
When all you want is comfort and calories, Dad's has you covered. Larry Neuhalfen and his son Larry Jr. used to dish barbecue from Dad's Smokewagon until the restaurant's current space came open, which mandated an expansion into breakfast and diner staples like the solid chicken-fried steak. Grab the Front Range Mountain Man to taste hamburger excess, or the three-meat, two-side option to sample good pulled pork or chopped brisket.
Flatiron's American Bar & Grill
American ~ $$
2540 Tenderfoot Hill St., 576-2540, flatirons.biz
Launched in the shell of a former Bennigan's, this fifth Concept Restaurants spawn serves a family-friendly menu with something for everyone — truly. The awesome $8 Monte Cristo Sliders star alongside a $26 filet mignon and even a menu-topping $125 bottle of Napa Cab. Complimentary hot kettle chips hit the table before menus, and the flatbread pizzas, hot and cold sandwiches, burgers and salads are interesting enough to have garnered our readers' vote for Best New Restaurant in 2010.
The Hatch Cover
Pub Food ~ $
252 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 576-5223, hatchcover.biz
The Hatch Cover tied SouthSide Johnny's in 2010's Best Of issue for south-end Neighborhood Bar. The live music and karaoke and expansive bar selections are partly to credit, but 50-cent wings, all day, every day, in a variety of sauces such as sweet Thai chile probably swayed some voters. The full menu of burgers, steaks, seafood plates, pastas and starters recently saw new additions, like chicken sandwiches.
It's All Good Soul Food Restaurant
Cajun/Southern ~ $
3117 S. Academy Blvd., 393-0677, itsallgoodsoulfood.com
Look for grease-borne, lethargy-inducing comfort food and all its much-loved hallmarks: salt, sauce and a Southern-hospitality-sized dose of sweetness. Not everything measures up: Stay away from the gizzard basket and the fried chicken. But note that owner Sheryl Burns makes most of her ingredients from scratch, including her barbecue sauce, rubs and gravies.
Lake Terrace Dining Room at The Broadmoor
Gourmet/breakfast ~ $$$
1 Lake Ave., 577-5771, broadmoor.com/lake-terrace.php
Lake Terrace routinely wins our Best Sunday Brunch award by making a routine of excellence. Chef Siegfried Eisenberger's opulent spread ($39) contains more than 100 options underneath beautiful ice carvings, and each week brings a new focus on a different international cuisine. Catch lavish breakfast plates like Trout Oscar or Belgian waffles through the rest of the week, for anywhere between $7 and $20.
Maxi's Restaurant and Lounge at the DoubleTree Hotel - World Arena
Gourmet ~ $$
1775 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 576-8900, coloradospringsworldarena.doubletree.com
The feather in Maxi's cap is talented chef Jay Gust, of longtime Ritz Grill repute. Charged with the task of reviving a once-hoppin' spot, Gust has created a satisfying bar menu with items like mahi mahi tacos, Kobe sliders and seared ahi hovering in the $10 range. His overhauled and similarly priced lunch menu includes signature VooDoo Chicken Tenders and solid sandwiches such as pastrami and Swiss on rye. At dinner, which sports items like a $23 New York strip, look for more gourmet touches like truffle cream sauce and Merlot demi-glace.
Gourmet ~ $$$
1 Lake Ave., 577-5773, broadmoor.com/penrose-room.php
The Penrose Room is the Springs' pinnacle dining spot. It's one of 15 eateries in the nation to hold both AAA's Five Diamond rating and Forbes Travel Guide's Five Star rating. The food is stunning, and the service truly impeccable. Three-course tasting menus run $72 a head; four courses, $78; and the full chef's tasting menu paired with wine tops out at $158 per person. Good news: You may eat à la carte and spend as little as $30 on a bottle of wine to savor the surprisingly comfortable atmosphere.
Sabores del Peru
Peruvian ~ $$
2356 S. Academy Blvd., 447-9646
It's the Springs' only Peruvian outfit, presenting a few Puerto Rican dishes as well. Expect interesting accents like cinnamon and cumin creeping into the chicken fried rice, and cloves appearing in a sweet Peruvian iced-tea-like corn drink called chichi morada. The carne frita con mofongo, fried pork hunks with mashed plantains in a garlic sauce, is a go-for item, as is the papa rellena: ground beef, raisins, chunks of hard-boiled eggs and spices wrapped with fluffy mashed potatoes, dusted with flour and fried into a ball of something like shepherd's pie.
The Summit at The Broadmoor
Gourmet ~ $$$
1 Lake Ave., 577-5896, broadmoor.com/summit.php
Characterized as an "American brasserie," the Summit emphasizes high design and graceful approaches to classic fare. The ingredients are top-notch and constantly in flux, in order to take advantage of the best of the given season. The atmosphere is more playful and relaxed, but it's still The Broadmoor — if nothing else, the towering glass-enclosed wine rack, home to an imaginative collection of vintages, should make that clear.
Sushi/Japanese ~ $$
1861 S. Nevada Ave., 635-5550, sushiring.com
Sushi Ring resembles more of an American lunch counter than a Japanese concept in design, and a small shrine to Elvis confuses at first. Then you learn that owner Takashi Kishimoto is a former Elvis impersonator who still delights customers with quick hip shimmies. Though there is an à la carte option, the real gig here is all-you-can-eat: $19.95 for lunch or $24.95 for dinner. (No cheating — finish your rice.) It's quality fish served fast at a good price, considering most eaters can easily take in about $30 to $40 worth of offerings at other sushi joints.
Taste of Thai Spice
Thai ~ $
1609 Lashelle Way, 226-1999
Located just outside Fort Carson, Taste of Thai Spice is a destination drive for many — but it's well worth it. The Thai plates are super-authentic, which means delicious and often hot. Go for the green curry or excellent pad Thai, and always request a coconut ice cream when you sit down; sometimes they sell out right under your nose.
TK's Mongolian Grill
Greater Asia/Mongolia ~ $
1817 S. Nevada Ave., 328-1000
TK's is a local counterpart to the HuHot Mongolian Grill chain that recently hit town. The concept is basically identical: load up a small bowl with meat, veggies and other fixins, including mixtures of several sauce options, then hand it over a counter to have it cooked for you. Here, there's no teppan table or showmanship (spatula tricks, etc.); items are stir-fried in a large wok. Everything is serviceable and affordable, and MSG-free.
Gourmet ~ $$$
146 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 630-0201, waltersbistrocs.com
With a relaxed yet genteel ambience, the dining room at Walter's glows. Given the extensive wine list, the diners themselves might feel a certain glow as well — at least after finding pairings for such diverse menu items as pan-fried duck and ginger pot stickers, potato-crusted Alaskan halibut with orange butter sauce, and (steady, there) Maine lobster bisque with Cognac-scented crème fraîche. You might feel a little woozy, but hang on long enough to sample the caramel mousse cheesecake before you slide under the table.