Adam's Mountain Café
Café/Vegetarian ~ $$
934 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1430, adamsmountain.com
Adam's Mountain Café, one of our perennial Best Of winners, executes a beautiful menu with slow food principles and an eye toward local and organic ingredients. Regulars all have a breakfast favorite: huevos rancheros, orange almond French toast, whole grain pancakes — what's yours? Lunch ushers in stand-bys like the nut- and rice-based Planet Burger, and dinner brings amazing dishes like the Brazilian-style barramundi in a coconut milk sauce and the Malibari Curry: organic turkey meatballs in a traditional Indian sauce. Call ahead, or enjoy the art of Manitou legend Charles Rockey while you wait.
Mexican/Southwestern ~ $
3625 W. Colorado Ave., 227-1975
Our readers have voted Amanda's Fonda the Best Mexican food around for 11 of the past 12 years: They love the hefty portions of Tex-Mex standards, made from treasured family recipes. Go for a margarita and some chile rellenos, and in summer make sure to dine on the relaxing creekside patio.
Brewpub ~ $
121 E. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, 686-8100, bierwerks.com
A relative newcomer to the local craft brew scene, BierWerks offers traditional German lagers, and complements them with cold eats from the Mucky Duck in Green Mountain Falls. All are found either within a darkly lit converted service station, or the fire pit outside. The Wee Heavy Scotch Ale and the brewery's helles are standout examples of the craft.
Billy's Old World Pizza
Pizza ~ $$
308 S. Eighth St., Suite E, 630-3400, billyspizza.net
Billy's is a taste of Chicago, located in a small strip mall on South Eighth Street. Look for "old world-style" deep-dish pizza "worthy of Chicago's heritage and reflecting the discerning tastes of the owner's passion for great food," as it's put on Billy's website. In addition to pastas and sandwiches, look for thick pizzas featuring homemade Italian sausage, beef and meatballs as well as the traditional assortment of veggies and cheese.
The Black Bear
Gourmet ~ $$$
10375 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls, 684-9648, blackbearrestaurant.com
Victor Matthews and his Paragon Culinary School students offer a unique and ever-changing menu inside this cozy Green Mountain Falls relic. The concept honors Thomas Keller by being built around "small elite courses," meaning pricey, customized chef's tasting menus of five, seven or 12 courses. You can also go à la carte and get modestly priced comfort food, like a chicken fried steak or a burger.
Bona Dea Teahouse & Emporium
Tea/Café ~ $
1824 W. Colorado Ave., 473-8322
Bona Dea is located inside a charming Victorian, and each spot in the dining room represents a stop in owner Lari Trogani's travels. Alongside internationally sourced teas of every variety imaginable, you'll find delicious puff pastries filled with items like chicken, crab or salmon salad. Finish with a lavish cake or a sipping chocolate.
Briarhurst Manor Estate
Gourmet ~ $$$
404 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1864, briarhurst.com
Young and talented chef Tyler Peoples has designed a colorful, creative and very gourmet menu built around four-course dinners that include an amuse bouche, salad and intermezzo in addition to your entrée. Mains include rabbit, elk, duck, bison, lamb and, of course, decadent beef steaks. Apps include foie gras and escargot, and dessert tempts with plates like the Oaxacan dark chocolate torte with espresso reduction. Did we mention you're dining inside a gorgeous "haunted" castle?
Gourmet ~ $$$
1025 S. 21st St., 471-2905
Peruvian native and owner Carlos Echeandia is so hands-on with his outfit that he can often be found greeting you in the parking lot. That attention to detail continues with excellent martinis and delightful appetizers, as well as standout surf-and-turf entrée selections. Since 2004, his superb plates have attracted the Broadmoor crowd as well as special-occasion diners. You'll pay, but you'll smile.
Mexican/Southwestern ~ $$
730 E. U.S. Hwy. 24, Woodland Park, 687-7150, carlosmiguels.net
With a second Springs location on Cheyenne Mountain Road and several other locations in the state, Carlos Miguel's is a tight-run, small family chain with identical menus and surprisingly gourmet renditions of standard Tex-Mex plates. Get the tableside guacamole with the Grande Traditional Margarita and the Chimichanga Ranchera.
The Cliff House at Pikes Peak
Gourmet ~ $$$
306 Cañon Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-3000, thecliffhouse.com
How serious is the Cliff House? Let's just say that chef Scott Savage has his own Internet cooking show — comedic and instructional video segments posted on the website. The historic hotel's seasonal wicker-chair-filled veranda rivals the most comfortable dining anywhere in the city, and the newer Red Mountain Bar & Grill offers fantastic patio views with modestly priced appetizers. The main dining room's menu is also priced under most fine dining places — a welcome reprieve, considering the excellent eats. Get the Colorado lamb T-bone.
Coquette's Bistro and Bakery
Creperie ~ $$
915 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-2420, coquettecreperie.com
As Manitou's answer to Shuga's, Coquette continues to convert hippies to hipsters. With the recent acquisition of Ceres' Kitchen, the name changed from Coquette Creperie to Coquette's Bistro and Bakery, but the outfit is on a gluten-free mission to delight. To the existing list of sassy savory and sweet crêpes you'll see an expanded menu of goodies like French toast as well as more of a retail focus on gluten-free goods like pizza dough, breads and muffins. On the drink side, look for GF beers, wines, martinis and fancy coffee drinks.
Gourmet ~ $$$
404 El Paso Blvd., Manitou Springs, 685-9000, craftwood.com
Though boasting nearly 100 years of history, the Craftwood is anything but staid under young, talented chef Ben Hoffer. Look for classic plates like the Colorado elk in red wine hunter's sauce and creative, contemporary takes on everything from local lamb to antelope and ostrich on the game-dominant menu. Oh — and pumpkin butter foie gras, anyone? The best way to sample the soaring selection is by printing a $50, four-course, dinner-for-two coupon off Craftwood's website.
The Dutch Kitchen
Café ~ $
1025 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9962
When you've been around since 1959, you can afford to close down in winter and make people wait until March to get another slice of locally famous buttermilk pie. Though the Flynn family is best known for that and other pies, the Dutch Kitchen also serves standout sandwiches like the cabbage and corned beef, as well as burgers and the like.
Estela's Mexican Restaurant
Mexican/Southwestern ~ $
925 S. Eighth St., 575-0244
Originally open from 1993 to 2000, then closed due to an illness in the Mares family, Estela's made an unlikely comeback in mid-2009, reopening in its original location. The family also runs Pueblo's nearly three-decade-old Mill Stop Café, also popular for the family's daily-made, from-scratch green and red chiles. Those sauces smother most menu items delightfully; the chile relleno plate is a highlight. The best part to a meal: outstanding, authentic sopapillas served with honey and cinnamon sugar at meal's end, for no charge.
Café ~ $
935A Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-3556
Chef and owner Bozena Jakubczyk runs this popular Manitou breakfast spot, known for its delightful sweet cheese crepes, omelets and the like. But drop in for lunch sometime, too: The generously portioned Reuben shines, and locals love the French Dip and burgers. Special orders of Polish favorites can be arranged.
Firehouse Southern Style BBQ
Barbecue ~ $
817 W. Colorado Ave., 447-8829, thefirehousebbq.com
Winner of our July 2010 barbecue "food fight" for its superior ribs, Firehouse describes its meat preparation as a Texas-Oklahoma hybrid style, which equates to gorgeously charred meats served with four house sauce options. The menu also offers apps, sandwiches, burgers and great sides like fried okra. End with one of Kari Tresner's awesome homemade pies.
Front Range Barbeque
Barbecue ~ $
2330 W. Colorado Ave., 632-2596, frontrangebbq.com
Award-winning Front Range is the child of Alabama native Brian Fortinberry, who has converted many a Colorado Springs local with his family's favorite Southern recipes. Catch live music at the west location and from the extensive menu, enjoy a heaping plate of ribs, brisket or a pulled pork sandwich. Or go for an elk, buffalo or veggie burger and spicy cole slaw next to a local microbrew. FRB's second location on 4935 Templeton Gap Road recently turned into a catering kitchen, solely.
Jake & Telly's Greek Taverna
Greek ~ $$
2616 W. Colorado Ave., 633-0406, greekdining.com
Jake & Telly's is operated by the Topakas brothers (can you guess their names?), who continue to reshape and re-create their menu in creative ways. Catch a wallet-friendly, three-course, $10 lunch from 11 to 3, Monday through Friday, and great happy hour specials from 3 to 6. Rather than try to outline the exhaustive options, let's let one starter speak to the gourmet excellence: the Saganaki of sheep's milk Kasseri cheese grilled and then flambéed with lemon and served with grilled pita. Yum.
Pizza/Italian ~ $$
751 Gold Hill Place, Woodland Park, 687-8786, jo-mamas-pizza.com
While some of the snarkily named restaurant's menu items are hit and miss, the hits are home runs. The pepperoni pizza is greasy and good, while the Ultimate Italiano is perfect: a toasted sub loaded with mortadella, capicola, pepperoni, ham, salami and veggies. And the Sloppy Bird of smoked turkey and provolone topped in cole slaw proves as tasty as it is wet.
Joseph's Fine Dining
Gourmet ~ $$$
1606 S. Eighth St., 630-3631, josephsdining.com
Owner Joseph Freyre boasts of more than 25 years in the fine dining industry, and it shows when he greets you tableside to prepare your lovely Hot Spinach Pernod salad or Cherries Jubilee Flambé dessert. In between those courses, find delicious starters like the escargots en croute and lavishly dressed entrées like lamb, scallops, veal, trout and filet mignon.
Pub Food ~ $
730 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9531
The Keg is a Manitou icon that's less dive than it is delicious. The food surpasses mere bar eats with items like the locally famous buffalo cheeseburger and other meaty delights like a flatiron steak, all sourced from Ranch Foods Direct. On the lighter side, the popular berry salad delivers fresh fruit mixed with bleu cheese and chicken teriyaki.
La Perla Tapatía Mexican Taqueria
Mexican/Southwestern ~ $
511 N. 30th St., 228-6006
La Perla Tapatía, run by Guadalajara, Mexico native Sergio Lauriano, serves fantastic tacos al pastor: pineapple-juice-tenderized pork in soft corn tacos. It also serves the Springs' only torta ahogada, or drowned sandwich — a baguette filled with pulled pork and tomato sauce. Even if you opt for a standard burrito instead, finish with a delicious, flan-like jericallas.
Greater Asia/Indian/Tibetan/Nepalese ~ $$
1747 S. Eighth St., 477-6997, lnepal.com
With a large, varied menu, Little Nepal is the type of place where you could eat for more than a month without duplicating dishes. Good thing they offer a $9.99 lunch buffet where you can sample widely in one sitting. Dishes are uniformly piquant, from tandoori oven-cooked masalas to traditional Indian curries, basmati rice biryanis, potato vindaloos and meat kormas cooked with whipped cream, coconut milk and nuts.
Mexican/Southwestern ~ $$
965 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9344, theloopatmanitou.com
The Loop, which recently renovated its bar area, seldom fails to claim Best Bar for a Margarita from our readers, thanks to 16 lively specialty offerings that include top-shelf tequilas and sweet fruit liqueurs. Beyond that, a border-sized menu draws large tourist crowds and Manitou locals. It's all here in Mexi-color (it's like technicolor, but makes you salivate): enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos, tacos, seafood plates, mole and more.
The Mason Jar
American ~ $
2925 W. Colorado Ave., 632-4820, masonjarcolorado.com
The Mason Jar has been kickin' it comfort-food style since 1982, and its chicken-fried steak has become locally famous. But that's just the beginning of your happy, food-induced lethargy. Biscuits and gravy, anyone? How 'bout mozzarella cheese sticks, a three-cheese burger, prime rib or pork chops? Oh, no — you didn't say buttermilk-crusted fruit cobbler ...
Mollica's Italian Market & Deli
Italian ~ $
985A Garden of the Gods Road, 598-1088, mollicas.com
This past November, Mollica's closed its newbie satellite location in Southgate, placing all its resources back into its 23-year-old market on Garden of the Gods Road. That retreat speaks more to the tough economy than Mollica's products, which generally shine. The Italian sandwiches range from $7.25 to $8.95 and feature goodies like the hot pastrami, Italian hero and homemade Italian sausage grinder.
The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant
Fondue ~ $$$
733 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-0277, monalisafondue.com
Enjoy a wine flight with cheese or chocolate fondue in Mona's Wine Cellar, or splurge for the four-course fondue dinner for two ($40 to $49 a head) upstairs in the charming restaurant. Start with a choice of two salads, then three cheese fondues. Next it's either a wild game, seafood or traditional entrée platter, and then your choice of decadent chocolate fondues. À la carte options are also available.
Gourmet ~ $$
2432 Cucharras St., 635-5635, motifwest.com
Motif is the hippest spot west of the Blue Star, and in fact rivals the chic of that iconic restaurant. The walls are covered in warm hues, the bar changes colors, the room resonates with the sounds of live jazz, and the food more than holds its own. Amazing Kobe beef sliders took a Writer's Pick in our 2010 Best Of issues, and quality cocktails alongside your tapas make every visit (open Fridays and Saturdays only) an experience.
Café/Bistro ~ $$
Green Mountain Falls: 10530 Ute Pass Ave., 684-2008, muckyduckco.com
Finally — a website! After years of drawing Sunday brunch crowds for its lovely, Hollandaise-rich eggs Benedict plates and dinner crowds for its mix of gourmet steak and seafood plates, the Mucky Duck was sold this past October, and the new owners have ushered it into the digital era. But wisely, they haven't tinkered with the popular menu. Lunch offers great, affordable sandwiches, and dinner includes items like a buffalo tenderloin with blueberry Merlot sauce.
Diner ~ $
1616 S. Eighth St., 634-7321, omeletsetc.com
A generic name belies the surprising quality to be found at Robin Turner and Juan Gonzalez's breakfast spot. The Philly Griller of roast beef, sautéed onions and mushrooms and Swiss cheese is cheap, good and greasy, while the pork chops are pleasantly salty and tender. Stopping in for pastries and coffee alone is also a wise idea.
American ~ $
6980 Lake St., Green Mountain Falls, 684-9018
The Pantry is Green Mountain Falls' other wildly popular breakfast spot (along with the Mucky Duck) with more than a half-century of history, where everything is currently made from scratch, including the wonderful breads and pastries. The cinnamon raisin bread is locally famous, as is a French toast plate made with a cinnamon roll. Also look for custom omelettes, great eggs Benedict plates and giant burgers.
Paravicini's Italian Bistro
Italian ~ $$
2802 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8200, paravicinis.com
A regular winner for Best Italian in the city, seven-year-old Paravicini's offers a sizeable menu designed by chef and co-owner Franco Pisani and overseen in the dining room by co-owner Ted Sexton. The traditional, rich plates became so popular that the duo opened a sister outfit in Palmer Lake called La Zingara a couple years back. But spread too thin between the two, they sold it on craigslist this past April. That kind of focus on quality is likely why they've earned your vote, and why that gnocchi bolognese tastes so good.
The Pepper Tree
Gourmet ~ $$$
888 W. Moreno Ave., 471-4888, peppertreecs.com
Sister restaurant to Woodland Park's Swiss Chalet, the Pepper Tree is a regular contender in our Best Of poll's Fine Dining category. Open for dinner only and boasting a great view of the city skyline, it offers lavish seafood entrées, rich steak courses prepared or finished tableside, and classic flavors like Colorado rack of lamb with a mint rosemary demi-glace. Call this our favorite tree to climb.
Pizza/Italian ~ $$
2527 W. Colorado Ave., 632-8121, pizzeriarustica.com
Before Dave Brackett opened TAPAteria this past fall, he launched Pizzeria Rustica. With an eye toward sustainability, he quickly racked up a rare and respectable three stars from the Green Restaurant Association. But what you really care about are the fantastic wood-oven pizzas like the perfectly simple Margherita with San Marzano tomatoes, basil and house-made mozzarella. Appetizers like the caprese salad and desserts like the pistachio gelato or limoncello sorbetto are equally memorable.
Rudy's Little Hideaway
Mexican/Southwestern - $
945 S. Eighth St., 632-9527
After calling South Nevada Avenue home for 16 years, Rudy's picked up and moved last year to South Eighth Street, right next door to Estela's Mexican Restaurant. A "rising tide" mentality has allowed Rudy Escobedo and Co. to blend in comfortably, while dishes like the pork con chile verde make their food stand out.
Ruffrano's Hell's Kitchen Pizza
Pizza - $$
9 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-4355, hellskitchenmanitou.com
Say what you want about owner Nelson Rufran's claim that his pizza is the best his customers have ever tried — it's damned good. A smattering of house pies, side salads and mini-pizzas are available, as are offerings with gluten-free crusts. Grab the Hellfire Pie: Italian garlic sausage strips, onions, mozzarella and a spicy special sauce give enough burn to back up the restaurant's name.
The Silver Tongue Devil Saloon
Pub Food ~ $$
10530 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls, 684-2555, thesilvertonguedevil.com
Formerly the Pine Gables Stray Dog Saloon, the reshaped Silver Tongue Devil far surpasses bar-food expectations. After all, it is a bar, with big-screen TVs, a jukebox, arcade games and doodled-on dollar bills stapled about. But then you eat the finest jalapeño poppers ever to be stuffed into an egg-roll wrapper, and you realize the kitchen ain't playin' around. The buffalo and barbecue wings are also excellent, and the pizzas are totally solid. Also, you can order from the neighboring Mucky Duck's menu during lunch hours. Here, the details are in the Devil.
Gourmet ~ $$$
19263 E. U.S. Hwy. 24, Woodland Park, 687-2001, swisschaletofwoodlandpark.com
Neil and Paula Levy's second fine dining spot, sister to the Pepper Tree, resembles an actual Swiss chalet. But there's no neutrality to be had on these premises, with the flavor assault from the classy menu. At lunch, take in the view of Pikes Peak over sandwiches and entrées like a Jaegerschnitzel around $13; at dinner, mains run in the $20 to $30 range, not bad for Swiss cheese fondue, Zurich-style veal and Colorado lamb.
Steakhouse ~ $$$
407 E. U.S. Hwy. 24, Woodland Park, 687-8536, tabeguachesteakhouse.com
The Tabeguache is Woody P's answer to Outback, but it's got a conscience, sourcing all of its steaks locally through Ranch Foods Direct and serving some nice Colorado wines on the side. After the Strawberry Fields salad, topped with the fruit, bleu cheese and glazed walnuts, go for your steak cut and size of choice, then the flambéed bananas Foster.
Gourmet ~ $$
2607 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8272, tapateria.com
Dave Brackett's latest restaurant venture — he also owns and operates Pizzeria Rustica — offers small glasses of European wines and Barcelona-inspired tapas at small plate prices in a hip setting. The charcuterie plate of peppers, olives, smoky stuffed red pepper, marinated apricots and cheese and meat selections is incredible, while his wild salmon tartare was recently chosen as one of the Indy's 10 favorite dishes of 2010.
Ethiopian ~ $$
2501 W. Colorado Ave., #108, 634-5070, uchennalive.com
It's our city's first authentic Ethiopian eatery, and it's simply a gem. Ethiopia native Maya Hetman prepares her family recipes from scratch using roughly 70 percent organic ingredients and 100 percent intoxicating spices. Eat with your hands and scoop delicious items like lentils and chickpeas, or beef and lamb with teff-flour injera bread. The star item is the doro wat, a mole-esque chicken dish with a sauce so lovely that songs should be composed about it. House-made Mediterranean pastries like baklava complete the euphoric experience.
Vietnamese ~ $
3043 W. Pikes Peak Ave., 520-9299, vietnamesegarden.net
Owner and sole cook Dung My Tram runs this noodle and rice spot, making traditional dishes the way her mother taught her. Her potato fritters starter is fabulous: shredded yam and carrot, battered in rice flour and Vietnamese beer, which you wrap in a lettuce leaf with fresh cilantro, mint and basil and dunk in a sweet dipping sauce. Tram makes the sauces daily and marinates meats overnight, which explains the vibrancy of her dishes. Whatever bun you get, end with the superb mung bean cake served in a tiny pool of coconut milk.
Wild Ginger Thai Restaurant
Thai ~ $
27 Manitou Ave., 634-5025, Manitou Springs, wildgingerthai.com
With a new space and 10 years of Best Of plaques gracing the walls, Wild Ginger continues to please the crowds with competent versions of Thai staples and a few Isaan specialties. Go for the laarb; stay for a chat with perpetually friendly owner Khon Onexayvieng, who's happy to make menu recommendations when she's not passing the time with regulars. As she'll warn you, "Thai hot" is not for the faint of heart. We'd also counsel visitors to request no MSG.
The Wines of Colorado
American ~ $$
8045 W. U.S. Hwy. 24, Cascade, 684-0900, winesofcolorado.com
Colorado continues to battle to be respected for its wines, but the cuisine and cellars of Wines of Colorado give the industry a healthy (OK, more like hedonistic) boost. With items like portobello ravioli and a buffalo wine burger that comes topped with green chiles, the menu seems calculated to reflect all that's delicious in the Mile High State, including vintages from more than 40 Colorado wineries. Get your introduction with a complimentary tasting session before dining creekside.
Other restaurants with West locations:
Bhan Thai, 4431 Centennial Blvd.
Borriello Brothers, 229 S. Eighth St.; 3240 Centennial Blvd.
Heart of Jerusalem Café, 718 Manitou Ave.
Jun Japanese Restaurant, 3276 Centennial Blvd.
La Baguette, 2417 W. Colorado Ave.
La Baguette French Bistro, 4440 N. Chestnut St.
La Casita Mexican Grill, 306 S. Eighth St.
Panino's Restaurant, 1721 S. Eighth St., 635-1188